As I have mentioned a few times on my blog before, I have taught lots of beginners in my many years as a guitar teacher. In fact, a large portion of my students are complete beginners, and have been taking lessons with me since the very first time they picked up a guitar. This means that I have built up a vast experience in teaching beginning guitar students both in person and online, including guiding them through learning their first chords on the instrument. As learning guitar can be a daunting task, I have found that it is useful to learn the following 9 basic open chords to begin with, and if anyone reading this article is also a beginner, I recommend this as a good place to start with on the guitar:
There a few reasons I recommend learning these chords first, mainly:
- You can play a large number of songs with a combination of these 9 chords in the open position on the guitar.
- You can play an even larger number of songs with a combination of these 9 chords if you use a capo.
- They are easier to learn than barre chords, which I would personally save until you have been playing for a couple of months.
- Learning a number of songs with these chords in them will give you the confidence to learn more advanced material.
How To Learn Your First 9 Guitar Chords
One of the hardest things about learning guitar is the first few chords. Not only is it difficult to fret the chords properly and get them sounding good, but it is also tough to memorise the shapes, and change between them in time to a song. Personally, I recommend you start by working your way through each chord on the above list, trying your best to memorise the shapes and finger position for each one. You will also want to try strumming each chord, before picking the notes individually in order to check that you haven’t accidentally muted any strings with your fingers on your left hand. Keep in mind that the toughest chord on the above list is the F chord, which you may want to save for a later date if it proves to be too difficult. Once you have successfully fretted each chord enough times, the best way to commit each shape to muscle memory is to learn as many different songs that feature these chords as possible. I have put together a list of suggestions below in order of difficulty:
“Best Day Of My Life” – American Authors
I have featured this song in my beginner guitar series before. The verse section starts with 2 bars of D followed by 2 bars of G and repeats until the pre chorus. The chorus is also just 2 bars of D followed by 2 bars of G.
“Chasing Cars” – Snow Patrol
Also featured in my beginner guitar series. This song follows a basic progression of 2 bars of A, 2 bars of D, 2 bars of E and 2 bars of A throughout. The E is actually an E/G# but when you are first starting out you can easily get away with a normal E chord.
“Perfect” – Ed Sheeran
I have written a full article on this song before, and it is a great choice for introducing the Em and C chords to your repertoire.
“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers
A classic tune from the late soul legend and one that introduces Am and Dm into your playing. The main progression to this piece is Am, Em and G repeated, before it switches to Em and then Dm.
“Let It Be” – The Beatles
Another 4 chord song consisting of C, G Am and the dreaded F chord, saving the toughest one until last. Practice makes perfect with changing to each chord in this sequence.
The above songs are great choices for your first guitar chords, and ones that I have taught to lots of beginners over the years. Once you have learned those 5 songs, I recommend learning as many more as you can. If you need help with any of the above, or if you would like some more suggestions for songs that feature the 9 basic open chords listed above, then please get in touch with me to arrange a lesson, either in person or online using Skype or Zoom. Have fun, and I’ll see you next time.