Learning your first 3 chords: G, C and D

Beginning to learn the acoustic guitar can be both very challenging and very fun. The first several weeks to few months can be a solid hurdle that prevents many beginner acoustic guitar players from every becoming good players. Many hurdles that have to be overcome in the first few months include (but are not limited to):

  • Sore fingertips on the chording hand
  • Awkward feeling of holding and strumming the guitar
  • Building strength in the chording hand while dealing with cramps and pain
  • building up callouses on the fingertips
  • coordinating the right and left hand movements
  • developing speed and accuracy while switching between chords
  • finding the motivation and quiet place to consistently practice
  • and much more

In order to become skilled at anything, for most people, time, persistence and coaching or teaching is required. Even the most gifted virtuosos playing any instrument today or throughout history had to deal with some kind of learning curve. Additionally, although you may not have dreams of becoming the next Andrés Segovia, Les Paul, or Phil Keaggy, you may have the motivation to enjoy being a great amateur player for life, and the foundation or first few months of work often projects what the rest of your acoustic guitar career will resemble. In order to gain the best long term benefits of acoustic guitar playing, be sure to persist, practice consistently and accurately, while also seeking the mentoring of someone better than yourself to ensure a good foundation as well as becoming the best beginner acoustic guitar player you can be.

Let's get started with your first 3 chords!

This is the exciting part if you are a beginner, yet it can be equally frustrating as well. If you are left handed player, just figure these lessons in reverse. If you are right-handed, these will apply directly. For the right handed player, the left hand and fingertips create the chording, while the left hand does the strumming, flat-picking and finger-picking. As a general reference on all chording charts, your fingers are numbered and referenced by numbered circles starting with the index finger of the left hand being finger #1, the middle finger being # 2, the ring finger being #3 and the pinky finger being #4. Additionally, any time you see an “x” above a string, it simply means “do not strum” or “this string is not a part of the chord”. Likewise, when you see an “o” above a string on a chord chart, it means “open” or “strum this string. Generally, if a chord chart is done correctly, and there are no “x” or “o” strings marked, then you can assume to strum all 6 strings. Many chord charts you may find online might not have these marks and could be incorrect for certain chords. With experience, you will come to quickly recognize the right fingers and strings to strum or pick, and which ones to leave alone.

Getting started with G. We will learn forms of G, C and D that keep a few fingers planted, so that they are easier to learn. There are several alternate forms of G, C, and D, that work better with other songs and chord progressions, but those are for later lessons. In order to learn your first G, we will start with a form of G that works well with chord progressions using G, C and D.

For the G chord: see the diagram for “G Major” and place your fingers on the guitar at the correct frets and strings. Remember that the frets are numbered from the nut to the body, starting with # 1 at the nut, and the strings are numbered from 1-6, starting with the thinnest, highest “E” string. For all open chord forms (C-A-G-E-D – or non- bar chords), be sure you are using your fingertips and that your fingertips are only touching and pressing the string they are supposed to touch. Touching alternative strings will cause incorrect chording or unwanted string buss or muting of strings – all undesirable results. Place the fingertip # 3 on the 3rd fret, 6th string. Place the fingertip # 2 on the second fret, 5th string. Finally, place the fingertip # 4 on the 3rd fret 1st string. Now, press them firmly into the fretboard and strum all 6 strings. If you have chorded them correctly, you should hear a G Major chord.

Now, to jump to the C Major chord, keep the relative positions of the 2nd finger and 3rd finger, and simply jump them down 1 string each (in number). Do not change their respective frets. So now, the 3rd finger should be on the 5th string, 3rd fret, and the 2nd finger should be on the 4th string 2nd fret (see diagram for C Major). Next, place your index finger on the 1st fret, second string, and lift your finger #4 (the “pinky”). You should now have 3 strings fingered. Strum strings 5-4-3-2-1 (leaving out string # 6 as that is an open “E” and does not belong as the root of this C Major chord).

Finally, keep the relative positions of fingers 2 and 3 again, and jump them all the way to the 1st and second string, but keep them on the same frets. You will have to most likely lift your index finger and pinky fingers to do this (#1 and #4), so that your second finger is on string 1, fret 2, and your 3rd finger is on string 2 fret 3. Now, place finger #1 (the index finger) on string 3, fret 2. Be sure only to strum strings 4-3-2-1, as strings 5 and 6 will give turn the D major chord into a D chord with a different root.

Congratulations, you have just learned how to play open chords, G, C and D on the acoustic guitar. Be sure to practice daily, if possible, and begin to practice switching between chords until it becomes second nature, and you no longer have to refer to chord charts.

This beginner acoustic guitar chord lesson was brought to you by Aaron Schulman, developer of the acoustic guitar reviews website at StrumViews.com. At his website, you can learn how to appraise a guitar for quality, budget, tonewoods, brand, and proper size before you make a purchase. You can also read more there to learn how to buy an acoustic guitar before making your first or next guitar investment.

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