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Learning Chords (Guitar Lesson)

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David Wallimann

Learning Chords

David Wallimann provides an introduction to chords. In this lesson, you will learn how to read chord charts. David also explains how to play your first eight chords.

Taught by David Wallimann in Basic Electric Guitar with David Wallimann seriesLength: 17:03Difficulty: 2.0 of 5

Scene 1: Learning Chords What Is a Chord?

Chords are groups of notes with at least 2 different pitches played together. Even if the notes don’t sound good together, the combination of pitches are still considered to be a chord. There are certain ways to play notes together to make nice chords that will be discussed in this lesson.


Triads are the most common kind of chord. It is simply a three note chord, usually composed of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a scale.


This note tells you the key of the chord. Any chord is named after the root note. For example, all the following chords: D major, Dm7, and Dmaj7(#11) have the same root note, D.


The 3rd note of a scale can be major or minor. When played in a chord it determines whether the chord is major or minor.

Scene 2: Reading Chord Charts

Though tablature can be used to notate chords, another common way of writing chords for guitar is with a chord chart. A chord chart is a grid of 6 lines in each direction. Vertical lines represent strings, the left line is the 6th string. The horizontal lines correspond to frets. At the top you may see an "x" or an "o" above a vertical line. "o" means play the open string and "x" means do not play that string.

Each finger is assigned a number: index finger is 1, middle finger is 2, ring finger is 3, and the pinky is 4. Occasionally, the thumb may be used to fret a note. In this case, the thumb is usually labeled "T". There will be circles over the vertical lines and between the horizontal lines. There will either be numbers in the circle or above/below the vertical line. The circle shows you where on your guitar to play the note, and the number tells you which finger to use.

Scene 3: Em and E

Now you will start learning to play some chords. At this point, these are just some easy chords for you to memorize. Make sure when you are playing chords that each finger is only touching the string(s) that it is supposed to. If a finger touches extra strings, you will end up muting strings that should ring. Also, note that all the chords you will be learning are triads. If more than 3 notes are being played, it is because there are repeating notes in different octaves.

E minor

To play this chord, put your middle finger on string 5 fret 2 and put your ring finger on string 4 fret 2. Leave the other strings open and play every string.

E Minor Chord

E Major

This chord starts with the same shape as the E minor. The only difference is that you need to put the index finger on string 3 fret 1. Play every string.

E Major

Scene 4: Am and A A minor

Take the same finger shape you used for the E major chord and move it up one string. Leave the 5th and 1st string open, and do not play the 6th string.

A Minor

A Major

There are a few ways to play the A major chord. One way is to use a barre chord - that is when you lay a finger flat over several strings to play many notes with one finger. It can be difficult at first to make barre chords sound good, but you will get it with practice. To play the A major chord, lay your index finger across the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings at the 2nd fret. Leave the 5th string open and do not play the 6th or 1st string.

A Major

Here is another way to play the A major chord if the barre chord is too difficult for you. Use the index finger on string 4 fret 2, middle finger on string 3 fret 2, and ring finger on string 2 fret 2. Leave the 5th string and the 1st string open and do not play the 6th string.

Alternate A Major

Scene 5: Dm and D D Major

This chord makes a triangle shape on your fretboard. Put your index finger on string 3 fret 2, middle finger on string 1 fret 2, and ring finger on string 2 fret 3. Leave the 4th string open and do not play the 6th or 5th string.

D Major

D minor

Make the shape for the D major chord with your hand. Put the middle finger in place of your index finger (string 3 fret 2), leave the ring finger in place, and put the index finger on string 1 fret 1. Leave the 4th string open and do not play the 6th or 5th string.


Scene 6: C and G

The minor version of the C and G chords are a little bit more complex, so they will be covered later. For now, you will just learn the major chords.

C Major

Use the ring finger on string 5 fret 3, middle finger on string 4 fret 2, and index finger on string 2 fret 1. Leave the 3rd and 1st string open and do not play the 6th string.

C Major Chord

G Major

Take the C major chord shape and move your ring and middle finger down one string. You should have your ring finger on string 6 fret 3 and your middle finger on string 5 fret 2. Then put your pinky on string 1 fret 3. Play all the strings.

G Major

If it is difficult for you play the G major chord in this position, it may be easier to do it this way: middle finger on string 6 fret 3, index finger on string 5 fret 2, ring finger on string 1 fret 3.

Alternate G Major

Scene 7: Final Thoughts

This is a very important lesson, and you will need to spend some time practicing these chords. Some things to really focus on are remembering the names of the chords, making sure you do not play strings that are not supposed to be played, and making sure that your fingers only cover the strings they are supposed to. If a chord was presented to you with different fingerings, practice it both ways. Keep practicing until you can play all these chords so that they sound good and clean.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

rogerfunkrogerfunk replied

the g chord with the pinky is hard to do when you been using index middle and ring daaaaaaaa is what l feel like replied

I really love how this course is filling in all the blanks from my self-taught chords from the break room at my former job :) I thought x's and o's were only for playbooks and texts from flirties

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Amaj is difficult for big fingers. the barre chord helped me.[email protected] replied

Does David or another instructor replies to our questions?[email protected] replied

I understand a chords is composed of a "Root" a "Third" and a "Fifth" but how do I know what makes it a Major Third or a Minor Third? Which determines whether a chord is Major or Minor

AaronMillerAaronMiller replied

Hi, As David mentions in the lesson, a Major 3rd makes a major chord and a minor 3rd makes a minor chord. These are intervals which are related to the scale and key you happen to be playing in. I think as you go on with the lessons intervals will become clearer to you. Hope that helps.

tricky1812tricky1812 replied

Great lesson, although, more of a refresher course for me, David has an excellent style of teaching and explaining chords, nice and easy to follow, shame us lefties aren't better represented though.

delaforcerjdelaforcerj replied

Man I watched this lesson thinking pfft...I know this already! Sorely mistaken!! Never even thought of going from Dmaj to Db in that way, and had absolutely no idea about the second way to play Gmaj! Good lesson!!

cayoungcayoung replied

David great lessons. You might want to note that you are using your thumb to deaden the E and A strings depending on the chord shape.

imtravbimtravb replied

after this lesson, should we only be working on mastering the technique of each chord, or also be working on seamless transition between all the cords?

timeouttimeout replied

Hi David i have to say thanks you very much, your teaching methods are easy to follow and understand for a complete beginner like myself. You make it easy to follow and not complicated like i have always thought it was. I have got this far so no holding back cant wait for next lesson,

BuffyLOLBuffyLOL replied

I do not manage to play G with the 234 fingers, won´t give up, but my pinky does not want to cooperate. Great lesson, thanks David

bigfrobigfro replied

hey David, one question. what Hz do you use on your guitar? I just can't seem to find which Hz to tune my guitar to. I'd really be thankful if you could help me out with this. also, do I have to use the guitar amp for these lessons?

bigfrobigfro replied

hey David, one question. what Hz do you use on your guitar? I just can't seem to find which Hz to tune my guitar to. I'd really be thankful if you could help me out with this. also, do I have to use the guitar amp for these lessons?

tritone30tritone30 replied

Hi David, the lessons are going really well, I have got this far and it is developing well. Everything understood. At last i understand the difference between Am and E major!

hojocathojocat replied

I've always played G with fingers 123. It's always been comfortable and easy to get to. Why use 234 when it is more difficult and awkward?

brandonl15brandonl15 replied

because when you get into more complicated music you will use your first finger to hammer-on a different string.

harryharry replied

I really did not understand about the 3rd and 5th. Is it important I know what this is now or will it be elaborated on later?

gekisai29gekisai29 replied

nice lesson. for the i finger A do you play it with 4 strings as on the video or 3 strings as on the chart?

metalmoogmetalmoog replied

Hey David I wish you had more video lessons on Jamplay. Your instruction is excellent and I really enjoy your enthusiasm and teaching methods.

bigred42bigred42 replied

video not found????

jboothjbooth replied

What quality setting and scene are you having issues with? I am unable to replicate problems with the video. Are you still having problems?

gcumbergcumber replied

Is it a good use of time to also learn the "pinky" finger positions for other chords other than G-major, or is there a better use of practice time?

royreddyroyreddy replied

I have been playing D and Dm for a while but often forgot the Dm fingering. This video changed that. ``The minor drops the 3rd one step`` and so I will now remember the shape. Thnx

jayanthjayanth replied

Hi David Sir I heard your lesson 5: i.e Cm7 root C and Db and this lesson is definitely useful to me . thank you Sir.

jdorsmanjdorsman replied

Very nice lesson David. I'm still struggling with chord names and variations, but this lesson is definitely very useful!

Basic Electric Guitar with David Wallimann

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

David Wallimann will start you on your electric guitar playing journey in this Phase 1 series.

Series IntroductionLesson 1

Series Introduction

David Wallimann introduces himself, talks about his background, and offers advice to new players.

Length: 4:28 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Knowing Your GuitarLesson 2

Knowing Your Guitar

David introduces you to all the parts of your new instrument in this lesson.

Length: 11:18 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Reading TablatureLesson 3

Reading Tablature

This is a crucial lesson that explains tablature, how to read it, and why it's important.

Length: 7:03 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Callus DevelopmentLesson 4

Callus Development

David introduces some great exercises for callus development and finger independence.

Length: 10:54 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Learning ChordsLesson 5

Learning Chords

David Wallimann provides an introduction to chords. In this lesson, you will learn how to read chord charts. David also explains how to play your first eight chords.

Length: 17:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Barre ChordsLesson 6

Barre Chords

David Wallimann teaches six barre chords in this lesson beginning with F major. Get ready for a hand workout!

Length: 10:26 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Making MusicLesson 7

Making Music

David walks you through some easy chord progressions and encourages you to make up some of your own.

Length: 8:17 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Rhythm & TimingLesson 8

Rhythm & Timing

David Wallimann talks about the importance of rhythm and timing. You will learn the basics of notes, time signatures and measures in this lesson.

Length: 14:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Rock TechniqueLesson 9

Rock Technique

David Wallimann goes over some basic rock techniques in this lesson.

Length: 16:45 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Playing TechniqueLesson 10

Playing Technique

David Wallimann provides some tips that will improve both your right and left hand technique.

Length: 13:45 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Blues ScaleLesson 11

The Blues Scale

David Wallimann shows how adding one note to the minor pentatonic scale creates the minor blues scale.

Length: 10:54 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
David Wallimann

About David Wallimann View Full Biography David was born in Aix-en-Provence, South France in 1977. At the age of 15, he picked up the guitar and started developing a true love for instrumental music and composition.

In 1999 he was recognized by Ibanez for his promising musical achievements and received an artist endorsement. That early recognition in David's musical career encouraged him to consecrate more time on crafting his musical art and apply to the school of modern music Artist' in Cavaillon, France. He received a full scholarship there where he graduated with honors.

In 2001, David won first place for the Tal Farlow French national jazz contest which gave him a full paid scholarship to the CMA school of modern music in Valenciennes, France. He graduated specializing in advance guitar with honors.

Following his school years, David spent the next 5 years working with several bands recording, writing and playing shows in France and Belgium. It's during that time that Wallimann was exposed to the world of progressive rock which opened new doors to his musical creativity.

Deep inside the Mind is his first release as a solo artist in which he exposes his Christian faith. The album was well received in the specialized press and was compared several times to some of Frank Zappa's approach to music adding an element of humor to deep subjects.

In 2005 he joined the internationally renown progressive band Glass Hammer based in Chattanooga, TN. He released several studio albums and live DVDs with the band.

David is today working on his next upcoming solo release and is also spending quite a bit of time teaching guitar in his studio and online at JamPlay.

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