Basic Guitar Chords

By Wayne Erbsen

If you’re wanting to learn the basic guitar chords, you’ve come to the right place. Although there are thousands of chord positions, I’m only going to show you the basic chords you need to start with. In certain kinds of music, such as as bluegrass, Appalachian, folk, gospel, country and blues, these chords are pretty much all you’ll ever need.

Important Tip: When you’re making your chords, it’s ESSENTIAL that you go to the chord all at once, not one finger at a time. Landing on the chord all at once will guarantee that you’ll be able to make your chords quickly and efficiently.

Here’s how you learn to play your guitar chords all at once. Go to a chord (like a D, for example) any way you can. Pick up all of your fingers off the chord about a half an inch, while still keeping your fingers in the shape of the chord. Then POUNCE on the D chord all-at-once. Do this excercise every day on all the chords, and you’ll soon have it nailed.

Here is a chart of basic guitar chords. The numbers underneath each chord are the bass notes you hit before you strum the entire chord.



Allow me to toot my own horn for a moment. After teaching guitar for 50 years, I’ve published three books for beginning guitar. Here’s more about them.

Easy 2-Chord Songs for Guitar, coverThe most recent is Easy Two-Chord Songs for Guitar. If you want to play the guitar, but don’t want to play a zillion chords, this is the book for you! The book includes helpful illustrations plus music, tab, and lyrics to 33 familiar bluegrass, old-time, folk and gospel songs, each with only TWO CHORDS. The book’s spiral binding allows it to lay flat while you play. It comes with an audio CD and a link to download or stream mp3s.

Painless Guitar – A Fun & Easy Guide for the Complete Beginner is for the total and absolute beginner. My co-author Ted Parrish and I call it “painless” because we have simplified learning the guitar down to its most basic level. Frankly, it doesn’t get much simpler than this. You’ll learn how to play the melody and chords to 31 folk, bluegrass, old time and gospel songs. You’ll have access to online audio files so you can hear how things are supposed to sound.

Book cover

If you’re a little further along than a complete novice, I suggest Flatpicking Guitar for the Complete Ignoramus. This 80-page book takes the beginner on a musical adventure that includes more than 40 well-known flatpicking guitar tunes including Arkansas Traveler, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, House of the Rising Sun, In the Pines, Man of Constant Sorrow, Red River Valley, Wildwood Flower, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The book has a spiral binding and comes with an audio CD and a link to download or stream mp3s.

Wayne Erbsen has been teaching banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin since dinosaurs roamed the earth (really, about 50 years). Originally from California, he now makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He has written 30 songbooks and instruction books for banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.

3 thoughts on “Basic Guitar Chords

  1. Much thanks for the post. I’m just starting to learn to play guitar and your advice is truly helpful! Maybe I’ll check out your book! Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much. We’re working on a new guitar book, so check back on our web site in the spring or summer for an update on that. Keep in touch.

  2. Great Chords and advice. Just started playing, Ive seen so many ways they are so confusing. Im going to stick with yours. Much easier to play.

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