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Lesson 8: Your first chord

Please purchase the course before starting the lesson.

Finally we get to play something that sounds like actual music 🙂

Chord Diagram

Before we play our first chord, we need to learn how to read a chord diagram. Here is an example of a chord diagram grid, without the actual chord displayed:

chord diagram

You can see the diagram makes up a grid.

  • The vertical lines running up and down represent the strings, and I’ve notated them on this graphic (E, A, D, G, B, and E).
  • The horizontal lines represent the frets. Typically the top line is a bit thicker in the diagram, and it represents the nut. Then the next line is the 1st fret, then the 2nd, and so on.


Download a full-page version of this chord

You can download a full-page (8.5×11) version of the chord diagram above. You may need to right-click and choose ‘save as’. Feel free to create a binder of chords for future reference as we learn more and more chords.

Here is an actual chord diagram (and the chord we are learning today. Now you’ll see a few more symbols:

  • The large dots represent where to place your fingers
  • The numbers in the dots represent what fingers to use (see the finger numbers and string names lesson)
  • The small ‘o’ symbol means let the string ring out
  • The small ‘x’ symbol means don’t play the string, or mute the string

A final note about this chord diagram is that the open D string is the ‘Root note’ of the chord. Sometimes you’ll see D chords with the A string x’d out. Technically, this is correct, but I actually like to let the A string ring open when I play a D chord. It’s totally up to you.

Playing the D chord

Before playing the chord, refer to the posture video and make sure you are holding the guitar properly and that your arms and hands, especially your fretting hand, is positioned properly.

I like to place my 1st finger first, then my 3rd finger, then my 2nd. Make sure your fingers only touch the string they are supposed to. This will be difficult at first but will get easier with time. If your fingers touch other strings, it will cause them to buzz or not ring out.

Finally, I like to mute the low E string with my thumb. To mute the string, just touch it – don’t press down. This will cause the string to sound dead and not ring out when you strum across it.

Finally, strum across the strings with either a pick or with your finger. All the strings should ring out clearly. Don’t be discouraged if your chord does not sound very clear – with practice it will get better.

Now what?

Practice playing the chord until you can get all the strings to ring out clearly. This will be the most difficult thing at first – your fingers will tend to touch other strings and cause them to buzz or not ring out. With time this will get better.

You’ll want to memorize this chord. Once you’ve practiced it enough, this should come naturally. When you get this chord down, you’ll be ready for the next lesson where we’ll learn a few more chords that are found in the key of G

Back to: Learn How To Play Guitar – Beginner Course > Learning Chords