Guitar Lesson 2

Open Chords


Open chords are formed by playing several notes together using finger patterns at the end of the neck.  They are called open chords because they are made up of at least one open (unfretted) string. Learning the different finger shapes for each of the chords and how to change between them takes a lot of practice. Because some of the chords use the same notes, or the same finger patterns it is easier to change between these chords than others.

After a while you should notice that some fingers can stay in position whilst you change, which makes it easier and faster to switch between the two chords. (Have a look at the position of the first finger in a minor and C). Other chord changes require you to move every finger to a different position and these are much harder to do and so will take more practice to master.

Start off by learning to play each chord separately, making sure there is no buzzing sound or muted notes. The best way to do this is to carefully position each finger and pluck the string until you can get a clear tone, then move on to the next finger. It can be quite tricky not to mute open strings with your fingers, and they  may take some stretching before you can play the chord successfully.

Once you can play two chords, practice changing between them thinking about where each finger must move to and which can stay in the same place. If two chords are the same shape but on different strings then try to keep your fingers in the same position and move them all at the same time. By keeping your finger shape the same you won’t have to position each separately and the chord change will be faster. By taking time to think about the movement slowly your technique will improve a lot better than if you play the changes fast and sloppy! By playing each note in a chord separately (called an arpeggio) you can detect and dud notes that need some attention.

 Here are a few simple open chords to practice changing between








Notice how the chords have either major or minor qualities. They are each named after a root note, which is usually the lowest open string that is played in each chord. After the open string, your fingers play other notes, all taken from the same scale that each chord is based on. There is a difference of only one note between a major chord and its corresponding minor chord (explained in Later lessons!). It is important to start learning both major and minor chords because they are often used together in the same song.



As well as major and minor chords there are also “7th” chords. (So named because they contain the 7th note in the scale of the chord you are playing). The C7 chord is just a bit different from Cmajor – with your little finger on the G string. Seventh chords are less common than major and minor chords and have their own distinctive sound. They are used heavily in blues and jazz styles.

Try playing the following song which a selection of major, minor and 7th chords. It will also help you to practice alternate strumming. These chords are based on the intro of Karma Police by Radiohead.


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