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How To Read Guitar Chords Like A Pro! Follow Our (2023) Easy Guide.

Learn how to read guitar chords to play your favorite songs. Our easy-to-follow guide is ideal for beginners to quickly get started.
how to read guitar chords

Learning how to read guitar chords is an essential skill for anyone who wants to play the guitar. Guitar chords are the foundation of most music, and being able to read them will allow you to play a wide variety of songs.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced guitarist, understanding how to read guitar chords is crucial for advancing your skills and developing your own unique playing style.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of guitar chord reading and provide you with the knowledge you need to start playing your favorite songs.

Let’s get into it!

How to read guitar chords

How would you describe yourself? Are you a musician, or a music lover?

If you answered yes to both questions, then you should definitely consider learning how to play the guitar. The guitar has become a symbol of freedom, creativity, and self-expression.

Guitar playing is a great way to express yourself through music.

Related Article: Guitar learning skills

Whether you want to sing along to your favorite songs, jam with friends, or even write your own tunes, learning how to play the instrument is a great way to start.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get started. In fact, you can pick up a cheap acoustic guitar at Walmart for less than $100.

Once you master the basics, you can move on to electric guitars.

The first thing you will need to learn about chords is what they are, and how they work. 

In this article, we will go over all the different types of chords, their uses, and how to read them on the fretboard.

We will also talk about some basic chord progressions, and give you tips on how to practice these so that you can improve your skills as a guitarist.

What Is A Chord?

A chord is simply three or more notes played simultaneously. Each note in the chord represents one of the three primary parts of music: melody, harmony, and rhythm.

The most common type of chord used in pop music is the major chord.

It consists of three notes: the root (the lowest-sounding note), the third (the next highest-sounding note), and the fifth (the highest-sounding note).

This chord is often referred to as the “power chord.”

Other popular chords include minor chords, which consist of two notes: the root and the seventh (or octave) note; augmented chords, which have an extra sharp added to the root note; diminished chords, which have a flat added to the root note, etc.

Chords are versatile because they allow musicians to create melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.

For example, if you were writing a song, you could use any combination of chords to make it sound good.

Related Article: Top 8 Easy Beatle Songs For Beginners

How To Read Guitar Chord Charts

When reading guitar charts, you must be able to identify each chord by its name, its position on the neck, and the number of strings being played.

Let’s take a look at an example.

G major chord

Let’s say that you wanted to play a G major chord.

As you can see in the diagram above, the chord chart is showing a diagram of a fretboard.

You can see the six strings, and the numbers on each ‘string’ represent which finger should be placed on each string.

To play the G major chord, you will need to place your second finger on the second string, your third finger on the first string, and your fourth finger on the sixth string. 

You may notice that the chart is sideways, and this is for a good reason: when you are playing guitar, you will be looking at the chart from top to bottom.

However, when you are reading the chart, you will be looking from left to right.

When playing the guitar, you will be looking at the strings sideways as you turn your head to view them. This allows you to easily follow the pattern of the chord progression.

When you’re ready to find chords for your favorite songs, a great website containing over 1 million songs with chords is Ultimate Guitar.

Finger Numbers In Guitar Chord Charts

So, as we mentioned, the numbers in the circles in chord charts represent the numbers of your fingers. This is very simple to remember! 

Your index finger is ‘1’, your middle finger is ‘2’, your ring finger is ‘3’, and your pinky finger is ‘4’. If the chord requires you to use your thumb, it would be labeled as ‘T’. 

An example of a chord that would require you to use your thumb would be D/F#, although you can play this chord without using your thumb.

Some people use their thumb on the first string (E) to create a smoother sound while strumming.

So, this is easy to remember: you have four fingers, and each of these is labeled in order. Then, your thumb is labeled ‘T’ for ‘thumb’, which is also easy to remember.

Sometimes, the finger numbers will be written at the top or bottom of the chord chart: the numbers will tell you which finger should be placed on which string. 

c major guitar chord chart

In the above example, you can see that the circles on the strings are black, but the numbers are written beneath. 

The strings that are labeled ‘X’ and ‘0’ do not need to be held down, so you can ignore them.

However, you will need to use your third finger (ring finger) to hold down the second string, your second finger (middle) to hold down the third string, and your first finger (index) to hold down the fifth.

By doing this, and following the chord chart, you will be able to play the C major chord.

The Strings Of A Guitar (Standard Tuning)

As a beginner, you should learn to play guitar in standard tuning.

tuning guitar

Standard tuning is commonly used for most songs and is the best tuning to use when learning how to play the guitar.

Related Article: How to change guitar strings

Standard tuning is as follows: E, A, D, G, B, e.

Related Article: How often should guitar strings be changed?

To make it easier to remember, you may want to use an acronym. A commonly used acronym that musicians use to remember the string notes of standard tuning includes:

  • Elephants And Dog Got Big Ears
  • Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually
  • Eddie Ate Dynamite – Good Bye Eddie

On a chord chart, the strings read sideways: so, E is the string furthest to the left, then A, then D, G, B, and finally, E again, on the very right of the chart.

Once you become a little more advanced, you may decide to re-tune your guitar to use other tunings, such as open guitar tunings, and drop guitar tunings.

However, as a beginner, you should get used to standard tuning before attempting anything more difficult.

Practice: Using An Example

Time to practice!

Below, we have added a chord chart for the D major chord. Can you work out how to play this, following our previous instructions?

d major guitar chord

As you can see, the numbers are placed above the chart. This means you will need to work out which fingers need to be placed on which string.

To play D major, you need to place your:

  • index finger on the G-string
  • ring finger on the B string
  • middle finger on the lower E string

This is one of the easiest chords to play, as all the fingers are close together. The further away the fingers are placed, the more difficult it will be to strum the chord. 

Some chords will require you to barre a string: in simple terms, this means you will need to use a whole finger to hold down all the strings at once, or more than one string.

You can see an example of this on the B major chord chart below:

b major guitar chord

To play B major, you will need to use your index finger to barre five of the strings, and then you’ll use your middle, ring, and little finger to hold down the third, fourth, and fifth strings. 

Final Thoughts

Learning to read guitar chords is a great way to start playing guitar.

It’s important to understand what each note represents, and where they are located on the fretboard.

Once you know these things, you can start playing simple chords, and eventually move on to more complex ones.

We hope you enjoyed learning how to read guitar chords.

Happy Playing!

Passionately invested in the music world for over 20 years, Jake studied music for 14 years at the Royal Conservatory Of Toronto. He has a degree from Champlain College & Bishop’s University in Business & Music. He is the owner of Fly Away Music & Media Studio in Montreal since 2014, with over 500 happy artists recorded, mixed and mastered.

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