Chords are groups of notes that, when played together, make a pleasant sound.
Chords are used to accompany melodies. Each chord is named for its bass note, and
is made up of the first (bass note), third, and fifth notes in a scale. The first
thing most people want to learn to do on the guitar is to play simple chords.
The first chord we learn is known as the C chord, since it is built on the bass
Fingering the C chord
Try placing the fingers as in the illustration, keeping the following points
- Press just behind the fret. If you are too far back the string will buzz
against the fret.
- Keep a slight curve on the fingers—don’t let the joints straighten out or
- Keep the thumb behind the neck, slightly forward of the first fret. Don’t
bend this joint— keep it back.
- Don’t press too hard. Accuracy is more important than force.
- When you are ready, sound the chord by sweeping your thumb across the upper
There is a great pleasure in hearing your first chord when the guitar is in tune
and resonant. When you have it right, take the hand away and do it again from scratch.
Continue until you can find the chord quite easily.
There is a fair amount of detail involved in the correct placement of the left
hand, and good habits formed at this stage will pay off tremendously as you continue.
The chord can be shown graphically in various ways. Perhaps the easiest to recognize
is the chord block showing part of the guitar fingerboard with round dots representing
A chord block showing the C chord
Notice that the fingering is shown by the numbers at the top of the strings.
Number 1 represents the index finger, 2 the middle finger, 3 the ring finger, and
4 the little finger. Strings not to be played are marked with an X. The O note denotes
an open (unfingered) string. A wide variety of popular music is published with the
appropriate chord blocks printed right above the melodies, making this a great and
easy way to learn chords. The finger numbers shown here are for the initial learning
of chords—sheet music that includes chord blocks will normally show only the dot
positions, and the X and 0 markings. This is partially because chords may have different
fingerings according to the situation.