Open Chords (basic)

If you want to be able to play simple songs on the guitar the best place to start is to learn a few open chords. A chord is a group of notes that creates a pleasant sounding harmony. In contrast the word discord or “dis-chord” is the opposite which means unpleasant sounding group of notes often said to be out of key. This brings me to the subject of being in key which means that the musical notes are arranged to be in a mathematical relationship that sounds good or pleasing to the ear. This mathematical relationship is called a musical scale. The main and most used musical scale in western music is called the Major Scale and is the basis for all music theory.

Now back to the basics. A Chord has a root or a base note that will govern the name of the chord. If the root is the G-note then the chord is going to be called G-something.

Most pop-rock songs only have  few chords strung together. This is called a chord progression. There are often only three to four chords in the song that are played in a structured sequence. This is called Time Signature. Take a look at these guys demonstrating what I mean by using the same 4 chords to play many different songs. In reality they could continue on, endlessly, because so many songs are based on the same simple chord progression or mathematical relationship.

If you’ve read the “About”  section of the site you know what I mean by repeating patterns.

Guitar chord diagrams

Basic Guitar Chord diagrams

How do we learn to play (finger) Chords? 

First you need to be able to read & understand Chord Charts and Diagrams. Here is my version of a basic chord chart. It has all the basic chords and some more advanced as well such as Barre Chords. Click the link for more on Barre Chords.

An Open chord is the opposite of barre chord.  More accurately A chord that has un-fretted strings that are left open with out any fingering.

When a chord is called A,B,C.. etc. it’s a Major Chord.  When it has a small behind the letter like this: Am, Bm, Cm etc. it’s a Minor Chord. The “m” is used to differentiate between Major and Minor Chords. The simple explanation for the difference sound-wise is that the Major Chords (A, B, C… etc.) are happy sounding :) but the Minor Chords (Am,Bm,Cm.. etc.) are sad :( sounding.

I put smiley faces in the Open Chords Overview video further down on the page to underline the sound-difference between Minor and Major Chords.  Don’t like the video-format? Check out these stills.


Click Chord Name to jump to select chord in video

A   –   A7   –   Am   –   E   –   Em   –   E7   –   D   –   D7   –   Dm   –   B7   –   G   –  G7  –  C  –  C7

Here is a Chord Overview video showing all the Basic chords on the chord chart above except for Am7, no special reason just forgot that particular chord when I was recording the video.