There are few greater pleasures than picking up a musical instrument and playing one of your favourite tunes. But when you’re just starting out, the beginner ‘stuff’ you have to go through before you can do this is rather frustrating. This is especially true of the guitar, as it’s an instrument people tend to take up with particular songs in mind that they want to play.
Thankfully, even in those very early days of learning the guitar, there are a few basic chords that shouldn’t take long to get the hang of, which will enable you to play most of the songs you can think of. I always tell my pupils these chords could be used for about 90% of songs, and though I’ve made that up, I reckon it’s probably not far off.
- E minor
- A minor
- D minor
- E major
- A major
- D major
- C major
- G major
- F major
- G dominant 7 (G7)
All these chords are in open-position, which means they include open strings as well as fretted notes, so you can get a good, full-sounding chord without having any complex fingerwork.
I’ve put together a PDF showing which fingers to place where for each of these chords, which you can download free here: First 10 Guitar Chords PDF
NB – The numbers in the circles relate to your fingers (1, 2, 3 or 4) not to the fret number. Right to left, the strings are Low E, A, D, G, B, High E. “X” means “don’t play this string”.
I’d recommend tackling one line (3 chords) at a time, e.g. E major, A major and D major. First, play the E major chord a few times, dropping your hand down by your side in between each. Then do the same with A major and D major. Finally, strum the E major four times, followed by A major, followed by D major, repeating this a few times to get the transitions smoother and quicker. The tips of your left hand fingers will start to get sore – this is perfectly normal and your fingertips will adapt to this mistreatment by replacing that soft skin with toughened, guitarist skin!
Once you’ve got these chords under your belt, go somewhere like Ultimate Guitar and look up some of those songs you want to play and click on the highest rated (out of 5 stars) chord version. If any of the chords don’t match those on the PDF, don’t worry, click the up or down transpose arrows until they do (as I said, most will… maybe even 90%).
For example, I did a search for “Stand by Me” by Oasis. There was a chord version with 5 stars (242 votes). Some of the chords weren’t in the ten first chords PDF, but when I transposed it down to -7 (in C major) they all matched.
Any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them. And if you’re interested in guitar lessons in Alton, Hampshire or online, please contact me here. All the best!