Chords are vital to playing guitar, and they can be a bit of a struggle learning at first. No need to worry though, it'll get super easy with time, all it takes is practice.

Of course, practicing the right way is key in shortening the learning curve, so here are some chord learning tips to help you teach yourself any given guitar chord you're having trouble with. Also, watch this video lesson on chords, and read this article on the most important beginner chords.

So here we go, this is a proven process tried and tested with many of my live students. Grab your guitar, and let's do it!

  1. Django ReinhardtKeep your fingers close to that metal fret which is closer to the body of the guitar, and push down hard on the string with just the tip of your finger.
  2. Hold down a chord, and at first just pluck one string at a time (arpeggio). Listen to the tone of each string.
  3. If any string is not ringing clearly or is rattling, you are either not holding it down hard enough, or one of your fingers is touching a string it's not supposed to be touching. Check your fingers. Your fingers should be arched over the other strings, so you are not unintentionally touching any strings.
  4. When you play chords that use all 6 strings, your thumb should be pressing against the back of the guitar, so you can hold down the strings harder. When you fret a chord where the low E string (thickest string) is not used (C major, A minor for example), move your thumb over and slightly touch the low E string to mute it (very useful for strumming, to keep the string silent even if you strum it by accident).
  5. Be sure not to bend any of the strings out of place, as it will alter the pitch of the string, and your guitar will sound out of tune.
  6. Once you can fret a chord with all of the strings ringing true, release the chord, shake your fingers, and try to place them back into the same position. Again, make sure all strings are ringing clearly. This will develop your hands muscle memory, and in time, your fingers will naturally form the shape of the chord.
  7. Do the fret, shake-off, fret, shake-off technique 10 times per day with each chord you want to learn. You'll see that in a couple of weeks, you'll have the chord sounding perfectly all the time, with minimal effort.

Keep at it, don't get discouraged if you have a hard time with a chord. Remember that even the best guitarists were beginners at one time, everyone went through the same learning process you are going through right now. It all gets easier and easier with every minute of practice you put into learning the chords.

These chord learning tips will get you on the right track, but it's ultimately up to you to keep at it, practice, and become the guitarist you always wanted to be!

5 replies
  1. Harvey
    Harvey says:

    Hi, thank you for these very helpful tips! I’m a total beginner and I’ve bookmarked your article so I could review it regularly as I start to learn. Regarding tip #1, I’m not sure what you mean… is it the same as the tip mentioned here https://guitarunited.com/basic-guitar-chords-beginners-how-to/ with the barre chords where your index finger should be close to the fret? And when I do tip #2 there’s always strings that don’t sound no matter how hard I press it. It’s getting frustrating. Do you have any tips for this? I’ve been stuck at this part for days 🙁

    Reply
    • Tom - TheGuitarLesson.com
      Tom - TheGuitarLesson.com says:

      Hi there,
      #1. Sort of, just not with barre chords, rather normal open chords. Each finger has to be as close to the metal fret as possible.
      #2. Put each finger on the required string one by one, and pluck them. They should ring out. Check my hand position as well in one of the basic lessons on chords: https://www.theguitarlesson.com/lesson-type/basic-lessons/

      Mind the angle of your hand, your wrist position, and make sure your fingers are arched above the strings.

      Reply
      • Harvey
        Harvey says:

        Ahh I see… checked out your link and I bookmarked that as well – I applied your tips there regarding hand positions and I immediately saw improvement. Arching my fingers helped so much. Thanks so much!

        Reply
  2. DaveJK
    DaveJK says:

    Well I have heard of a Metal Guitar Sound but never Wood. (just kidding!)
    I will make the assumption that your technique is fine. And I’ll blame it all on the guitar.
    What kind of guitar do you have? Maybe an old acoustic? Maybe one of the Bracing Sticks inside has come loose? If it’s a rattle. or there is a crack somewhere?
    A ‘wooden sound’ is hard to understand or even imagine. What about other chords? What happens if your Slide the Chord up a few frets? Can you try it on a different guitar? Like at a music store? Or bring it to the store with you have someone there play it.
    The issue is this “Just Starting out, Playing the first chord, Very Annoying. That’s gonna kill off your interest.This is not good. You should Not be getting ‘annoyed’. right? So where did you get this guitar from? If you are starting out on a Piece of junk that no one could play, then you need to know that first of all. If the guitar Checks out…
    then you simply need to go back through your lessons on Chords. But My guess is there is something out of whack with the guitar your working with. That Would Be… ANNOYING!

    Reply
  3. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    I’m starting out on guitar, and I know how to finger the G chord but it’s making a wooden like sound. Very annoying.

    Reply

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