How To Read A Chord Diagram

Below is a blank chord diagram. Think of it as a picture of your guitar
sitting in front of you
.

The 6 vertical lines represent the 6 strings on a guitar (low E on left
side, high E on right). The horizontal lines represent frets except for
the top line which is the nut of the guitar.


Black dots on the diagram tell you what fret and string
to place your fingers. Numbers inside the dots tell you
which finger to use.

White dots
mean to play the string open.

Here’s how the fingerings are mapped out on your hand:

=second
finger

Try it!

To play the chord on this chart, place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret
of the 5th string and strum all six strings.

You just played an E minor 7th chord!

Important:

If you see an “X” on a chord chart that simply means that you
do not strum that string, otherwise all strings are played. In the example
A chord below you’ll see an “X” over the 6th string. This means
that the string is not used in the chord, so you will not strum it when
playing the chord.

To play this chord, you place your 2nd finger on the D string (4th) at
the second fret, your 3rd finger on the B string (2nd string) at the second
fret, and your 1st finger on the G (3rd) string second fret. The A string
(5th) and High E string (1st) will be played open (“open” means
that the string is not fretted, but strummed in the chord pattern).

Playing Chords

When you’re first learning to play chords, it can be very difficult
to get your fingers to cooperate. After a few days of practice your fingers
will start remembering where to go. It’s important to spend a little time
everyday with problem chords until you are comfortable with playing them.

Your fingertips on your fret hand will become sore and tender to the
touch. If it becomes too painful, by all means stop practicing for the
day and try again the next day. With steady practice you will develop
callouses on your fingertips and this won’t be any more problem.

If you’re hearing a buzzing sound or the sound of the notes being played
sound dull, then your not pressing hard enough on the strings, or one
or more of your fingers is catching a nearby string. When you strum the
chord each not should ring out clearly. You may find it hard at first
to press all of the strings down firmly against the frets. Don’t worry,
your hands will build up the strength in no time with practice.

Some Random Tips:

  • Don’t let your fingernails get too long! They will prevent you from
    fingering the fretboard correctly.
  • Make sure your fingers are standing straight up and down. Otherwise
    they may mute other strings.
  • When playing chords your fingers should be arched at the joints so
    that your fingertips come in contact with the strings and not the flat
    fingerprint part of your finger.
  • Your fingers should make contact with the strings slightly behind
    the frets if at all possible. The further your finger is from the fret
    the harder it is to apply the proper amount of pressure, hence the more
    likelihood that you’ll get a “buzzing” sound.
  • The size of your hand and the width of your instrument’s neck can
    significantly affect which fingers you use to play the chords. All of
    the chord charts on this site use the most commonly used chord fingerings.
    These fingerings will work for 95% of all guitarists.
  • You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot
    contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate
    fingerings.

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