Beginners Lesson 5

In this lesson we will talk about the very basics of chords before you learn your first chords.
This lesson covers the physical aspects of using your fingers on the guitar fretboard to create chords, often referred to as "fingering". It's important to position your hand and fingers correctly so the chords sound clean and vibrant. Unfortunately, too many beginners struggle with chords simply because they're not positioning their fingers correctly. That won't be you!

Note: Please ensure you've gone through my previous lessons first!

Let's first talk about note. What is a note-
A note is any sound frequency your ears can listen. You can relate note to the word "sur" in hindi. There are 12 standardized notes in western music.   

Guitar chord basics - What is a chord?

A chord is 3 or more notes played together and, on the guitar, each string adds a new note to the chord.

Your fingers apply (or "press") strings at particular frets to create the notes needed for the chord you're playing. Guitarists often think of this formation of fingers on the fretboard as chord shapes. Soon, you'll know several chord shapes and the type of sound they create.

...And that's really all there is to it! Of course, you can create both simple or complex chords on the fretboard. Some chords use just 3 strings, others use all 6 strings. As time goes on, you'll learn which chords suit the emotion you're trying to get across in your music.

For now though, let's learn how to apply our fingers to the fretboard correctly.

Fingering guitar chord basics

As we're learning how to apply our fingers on the fretboard correctly, I'll show you two simple chords to start with, but bear in mind there's a separate, later series of lessons where you can learn many more chords.
So, assuming you've been over the fretboard basics lesson, and are sitting comfortably with your guitar, take a look at this first chord...

E Major

The E major chord uses 3 of your fingers, but uses all 6 strings. The strings that aren't fingered are played as they are - open.

Let's take a closer look at how the fingers are positioned here...

Some key points to note:
  • Use the finger tips to apply the strings
  • Position the finger tips snug against the fret wire (or as close as you can), but not actually on the fret wire itself.
  • Ensure your finger tips are angled vertically down (again, as much as you can) onto the strings. This ensures you don't accidentally touch any adjacent strings.
  • Don't press the strings too hard! The lower (fatter) strings will need a little more pressure than the higher (thinner) strings.
Once you're comfortable, try picking each string from low to high E. Does each string sound cleanly? Is there any buzzing or obstruction in the sound? It's likely there will be at first, so all you need to do is adjust and try again until every string sounds cleanly.

This requires some patience at first, but stick with it, you will get there!

Muscle Memory

Muscle memory is when your fingers get used to being in a certain position. The idea is, if you practice the E major chord above enough, the muscle memory will set in and you'll be able to apply your fingers to that shape almost instantly, without thinking or adjusting. In the later chord lessons, there'll be jam tracks to help you practice changing between chords, which really helps this muscle memory set in.

Ok, let's just try one more chord for now...

G Major

G major is another chord which uses all 6 strings, but only 3 of your fingers are needed on the fretboard.

So, same points as before - Finger tips angled vertically down (rather than collapsing back too much), positioned towards the fret wire. Make sure all strings/notes ring out cleanly without any obstructions.

Lets start with E major chord. Put your finger in shape to form E major chord shape. Now strum 4 times across all strings. Now form the shape of an G major chord with your fingers and strum 4 times across all strings. Repeat this exercise until you get comfortable in easily changing between E major to G major chords on a moderate speed.

At first, fingering chords may be painful, as you're exerting pressure on your finger tips. After a short time, you'll develop a hard skin on your finger tips known as calluses which is your body's natural way of dealing with this consistent pressure. Just be patient and keep practicing the chords you learn in the coming lessons. Any pain will vanish!