Start with Open Chords.
⬇︎ Download a quick exercise at the bottom go the page to help you memorize the shapes and move to the next stage of transitioning between each chord.
Chords containing open strings are called “Open Chords”. They are the important building blocks that make up thousands of easy guitar songs.
The important things to remember about these chords are that they tend to sustain and ring out better than movable barre chords because of the open strings resonating, and unlike barre chords, they are not movable across the fretboard.
That said, a handful of open chords – C, A, G, E and D – are often grouped together into a category called CAGED. Using a capo, or barring, allows you to visualize these common open shapes, across the fretboard and all keys, to come up with familiar moveable shapes.
Chords with a major quality generally have a “happy” sound, where as chords with a minor quality generally have a “sad” sound.
Scroll down to learn more about each chord shape. Try fretting each shape and strumming to hear the sound.
The open A chord has its root on the open 5th (A) string, and leaves out the 6th string. You can try barring across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings with a single finger, or you can fret each with an individual finger, which often makes it easier to arch over the 1st string to let it ring open.
The root of the B7 chord sits on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and forms a kind of triangular zig-zag shape, leaving open the 2nd string. It’s important to arch the fingers of your fretting hand to allow all 5 string to ring out together. Again, don’t play the 6th string. For now, don’t worry about the “7”. We won’t learn a B major chord until we get into “Barre” chord shapes. This will due as a substitute for now.
The root of the C chord also sits on the 5th string. From the 3rd fret, you form a diagonal shape that extends to the first fret of the 2nd string, arching over the 3rd string, and leaving open the 1st string. Exclude the 6th string.
The D chord forms a memorable triangle shape, the points towards the body of the guitar. This chord only uses 4 strings, so don’t play the 5th or 6th strings.
The E chord utilizes all 6 strings, with its root being the open 6th string, and forms what will become the most important element of barre chord shapes.
The F chord often gives beginners a bit of trouble, and is the gateway to barre chords. At first, focus on getting 3 fingers in line across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. Then try to add the barre across the 2nd and 1st strings. Finally, see if you can add swap the pinky finger on to the 3rd fret of the 4th string, and move the ring finger to the 3rd fret of the 4th string.
The open G chord covers all 6 strings, with its root on the 6th string, leaving open the 3rd and 4th strings in the middle. Optionally, you can leave open the 2nd string, or add the ring finger at the 3rd fret.
Download: Open Chord Transition Exercise
Now move on to Minor Open Chords ➤