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Your First Guitar Chords

In this lesson you are going to learn your first two guitar chords. Those two chords are 'A minor 7' and 'C major'. These two chords are going to be really useful for you. You’re going to be using them a lot throughout your guitar career. The A minor 7 is great to start with because it’s pretty easy. The C major chord is really great for helping you learn the basics of how to make really clean sounding chords.

Now both of these chords, and all of the other chords we’re going to learn in this series, are called open chords. Open chords generally have two requirements. They usually occur on the first three frets of the guitar and they use at least one open string.

Throughout this lesson I’m going to be giving you some tips that are going to help keep your chords clean and buzz free. I’m also going to be giving you some technique tips that are a little bit subjective, but they can pretty much apply to everyone.

Before we learn these two chords you need to know how to read chord diagrams.If you look at a chord diagram you’re going to see six vertical lines. Those vertical lines represent the strings of the guitar. The one to the far left represents the low E string, and the one to the far right represents the high E string. The horizontal lines on a chord diagram represent the frets of the guitar. If you look at the chord diagrams that we’re going to be using in this lesson you’re going to see a rectangle or a block at the top of the chord diagram. That represents the nut of the guitar. That’s just for reference to help you kind of keep track of where you are.

The dots you’re going to see on chord diagrams are there to tell you where to put your fingers. You’re going to see two types of dots. You’re going to see filled in ones, or black ones, and then you’re going to see hollow ones. The filled in black ones represent the root note of the chord. The numbers in the circles tell you which fingers to use. So for example, on our A minor 7th chord, if you look at the chord diagram you’re going to see a circle with a “1” in it on the first fret of the B string. That’s telling you to use your first finger to play the first fret of the B string.

Another part of chord diagrams that you’re going to want to be aware of are “Xs” that occur above the nut. If you see an “X” above a string that’s telling you that you shouldn’t play that string at all. In the case of our A minor 7th chord you’re going to leave the low E string out.

To get started just stick your fretting hand out in front of you and pretend like you’re holding an apple or a baseball. That’s a great posture to keep in mind when you’re thinking about fretting hand technique. Bring that hand up and put your thumb on the back of the neck. That’s the perfect starting position to keep in mind as you learn these chords.

The next thing I want to talk about is kinking your wrist. A lot of players tend to kink their wrist really far one way or the other when make chord. This way can really hurt after a while and really stress out your wrist. You want your wrist to be more or less straight. That’s generally a good posture to have when you’re making these chords.

As far as technique goes I’m going to cover two more things as we make this A minor 7th chord The first thing is fret placement and the second thing is finger posture. Let’s get our first note on. Put your first finger on the first fret of the B string. You’re going to want to come down right behind the fret. You want to be right behind that fret. The farther back I go the more buzzy that note gets, so you want to be right behind that fret.

The second tip that I want to give you is finger posture, and by that I mean you want to come right down on the very tip of your finger. The reason for this is if you don’t come right down on the very tip of your finger, you index finger is going to brush up against this high E string and it’s going to mute that string. You don’t want that. You want to come right down on the very tip of your finger so it doesn’t mute any of the surrounding strings.

Let’s get the second note that we need for this A minor 7th chord in place. Take your second finger, put it on the second fret of the D string. Make sure you’re coming right down on the very tip of your finger, and make sure you’re coming right behind the fret there. Once you have those two notes in place you can strum the top five strings. Leave the low E string out.

Listen to the chord you just made. Was it clean and clean, or did it sound buzzy? Double check yourself. Make sure you’re coming right behind the frets and make sure you’re coming right down on the very tips of your fingers. This may take a while for you to build up the coordination and the muscle control, but if you follow those two rules you’re chords will get clean.

When you’re learning chords like this, get it on there and leave it there for a while. Thirty seconds or so Then take it off, shake your hand completely out, and the put it back on. It may take you a while to get it on. That’s fine. You’re working on your muscle memory here. Taking it off and putting it on like this is a great way to firm up that chord in your memory.

The next chord we’re going to learn is an open C major chord. This is a great chord for letting you know if you’re coming down on the very tips of your fingers really well or not. Just getting a little lazy with your finger posture can really make your chords sound buzzy, but the little extra effort for good finger posture can make all the difference in the world.

If you have your A minor 7th chord in place, all you have to do to make a C major chord is stretch your third finger out to grab the third fret of the fifth string. If you’ll notice on the chord diagram, that’s a black note. That means that this note is a root note of the C major chord which means that this is a C note. Do the same thing you did with your A minor 7th chord. Put that chord on, hold it there, take it off, and shake your hand out out. Remember the tips I gave you. Come down right behind the frets and right down on the very tips of your fingers. This may take a while. You’ll get better at it with time and eventually you’ll be able to go right to that chord.

The more ways you can kind of attack something to memorize it, the better chance you’re going to have of remembering it. When you’re making chords, look at the chord and try to visualize or memorize what that chord actually looks like. Also, try to not even look at the chord. Once you have it on there close your eyes or look away, and just try to concentrate on what that chord actually feels like too.

Practicing things chords several times a day can really help you memorize these shapes faster too. If you can, practice these new chords four or five times a day. You don’t have to do it for very long. Five or ten minutes is great. The more times in a day you can practice these chords the faster you’re going to learn them.

Your fingers might be pretty sore, but that’s going to pass in maybe four, six weeks. One thing I want to warn you about is this. Don’t try to start switching between chords before you have the chord shapes down very well. May guitarists get frustrated because the can’t switch between smoothly. If you don’t have the chord shapes down properly, then switching between chords is just going to compound the challenge that you are working on. Get the chord shapes down by themselves first and then start working on switching between the chords.