Instructor: Dwight H.
From big bands to rock ensembles, and even R&B groups, Dwight has played with them all. He's been teaching guitar for over 10 years. When teaching, he draws from his experience on stage, injecting the knowledge of what it takes to be a gigging musician into every lesson.

How To Play Guitar Chords (Examples for Beginners)


One of the most useful learning tricks for guitar newcomers is to learn chords in chunks. You can find many common chord progressions throughout popular music. Focusing on these chords as smaller units will help you in several ways:

  • You'll break the task of memorizing chords into manageable, bite-sized portions.
  • You'll build muscle memory, improving your ability to switch between chords.
  • You'll be able to recognize the chord sounds by ear, helpful when learning music without a chart.

Learn Guitar Chords for Beginners

Think you're ready to work on some simple chord progressions? Let's start by mastering the A minor 7 (Am7) and C major (C) chords.

You'll find these two peppered through songs like "Day After Day" by the Alan Parsons Project and "Knocking on Heaven's Door," by Bob Dylan.

They're easy to learn, and close enough to one another that switching between them should be a breeze.

Guitar Playing Techniques

First, though, a few notes on technique before diving into the chords themselves:

  • Your goal should be to master perfect finger placement and play a clean sounding chord.
  • To achieve this goal, you'll need to concentrate on using the tips of your fingers to fret the strings.
  • Keep your fingers curved, push down hard, but don't leave your hand so stiff you can't transition.
  • To prepare your "hand shape," try pretend you're holding a baseball -- this is the way you want your fingers to curve.
  • Keep that fretting hand thumb behind the guitar neck.
  • If you're using an electric guitar, be sure to start with a clean tone so you can hear the chord with no distortion.

How To Play Your First Guitar Chord

Now, let's move onto those chords, shall we?

On the guitar, there are tons of fingering combinations that will give you the notes you need. Today, we're going to concentrate on the four you can play near the top of the guitar neck. These are open-position chords, and, in a few cases, might involve a bit more stretching than you're used to.

Above all else, remember to relax while you're playing -- it's just practice!

The A Minor 7 Chord

This chord consists of four notes: A, C, E, and G.

Am7 Configuration 1

Am7 Configuration 1 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 6th string/5th fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 3rd string/5th fret
  • Place finger 4 on the 2nd string/5th fret
  • Mute strings 1 and 5
Not sure where to start? Learn How To Read Guitar Chords.

Am7 Configuration 2

Am7 Configuration 2 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 5th string/3rd fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 6th string/5th fret
  • Place finger 4 on the 2nd string/4th fret
  • Mute string 1

Am7 Configuration 3

Am7 Configuration 3 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 3rd string/5th fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 2nd string/5th fret
  • Play string 5 open
  • Mute strings 1 and 6
If your chord sounds muddy at first, play it broken (note by note). This will allow you to identify which of the strings is giving you trouble.

Am7 Configuration 4

Am7 Configuration 4 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 2nd string/1st fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place finger 4 on the 1st string/3rd fret (or leave string 1 open)
  • Play string 5 open
  • Mute string 6
Learn all the ways to play the A Guitar Chord.

The C Major Guitar Chord

Arguably the easier of these two chords, C Major consists of three notes: C, E, and G.

There's one classic configuration that most beginners go to, which is the first one we'll cover here. There are also two other variants that you can play at the top of the guitar neck:

C Configuration 1

C Configuration 1 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 2nd string/1st fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 5th string/3rd fret
  • Place finger 4 on the 1st string/3rd fret (or leave string 1 open)
  • Play string 3 open
  • Mute string 6

C Configuration 2

C Configuration 2 Guitar Chord

  • Use finger 1 to cover strings 1 and 5 on the 3rd fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 4th string/5th fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 3rd string/5th fret
  • Place finger 4 on the 2nd string/5th fret
  • Mute string 6

C Configuration 3

C Configuration 3 Guitar Chord

  • Place finger 1 on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place finger 2 on the 5th string/3rd fret
  • Place finger 3 on the 1st string/3rd fret
  • Mute strings 2, 3, and 6
Learn all the ways to play the C Guitar Chord.

Memorizing Guitar Chords

Now that you know the chord shapes, it's time to get serious about committing them to memory. There are many ways to practice new chords, but, when starting out, try working on making the shapes before strumming.

Make the shape you're trying to learn, then take your fingers off the fretboard. Wait twenty to thirty seconds, then see if you can make the shape again. While you're doing this, visualize the chord's shape and how it feels when your fingers make it. This will help you memorize the chord faster.

Strumming Guitar Chords

With the chord shapes memorized you can get to work on strumming one after the other. This is where your metronome will lend a hand. Start practicing slow, in 4/4 time, switching between chords at low BPMs. Once you can switch at a reduced pace, start cranking up the speed. You don't need to rush; increase by 5-10 BPMs at a time.

Once you've mastered simple strumming at higher speeds, you can start experimenting with advanced patterns. Try something funky. Try something rock-n-roll. Try as many styles as you can until you've mastered these chords. With the chords securely "under your belt," move on, and start using them in a song or two.

Need more strumming tips? Learn How To Strum a Guitar

Practice Playing Guitar Chords

What you should notice, if you've practiced right, is that playing these chords within a song is now automatic. You don't need to think, search, or "fret" about getting them right. The chords have become part of your guitar vocabulary, and you can summon them on command in any situation.

Happy practicing. With time and dedication, these (and many other) chords will serve you well as you continue your journey to guitar-playing perfection!

Next Lesson:

Basic Guitar Chords

41 Guitar Instructors online
Ashburn, VA

26 Guitar Instructors found near you!

Learn to play the guitar fast with an expert guitar instructor. You can take lessons locally or online. Want to see the instructors near you?

Recommended Courses

guitar lessons for beginners
Want to learn how to play the guitar? Go from knowing nothing about the guitar and learn to play songs everbody loves with this free course.
12 lessons 1.5 hours All levels English