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Guitar Lesson 01: How To Play Your First Chord

View all my basic guitar lessons here

Just starting out on Guitar? You’ve come to the right place. In this video lesson, you’ll learn:

  • How to hold a guitar
  • The names of the strings
  • How your fingers are numbered (for chord diagrams)
  • How to read a chord diagram
  • How to play a D chord

How to hold a guitar

If you’re sitting, make sure to sit up straight. You want the guitar to sit straight up and down – you don’t want the guitar to tilt back toward you (lots of beginners will do this, probably to be able to see the fretboard better). Make sure you are comfortable. Your arm closest to the fret-board should be bent at about 90 degrees, and your elbow should not rest on your leg.

Names of the strings

(click the image for a larger view)

How your fingers are numbered

We number our fingers so it’s easy to communicate which finger to put on which string

  • Index finger: 1
  • Middle finger: 2
  • Ring finger: 3
  • Pinky finger: 4
  • Thumb: not numbered

How to read a chord diagram:

(click image to for a bigger view)

The vertical lines are the strings. The far left string is the low E. The horizontal lines are the frets. The thick line is the nut of the guitar, and the first fret is the next horizontal line down. When you read a chord diagram, you’ll see dots with a number in them. The dot is where you put your finger, and the number is what finger you’ll use. Speaking of…

Your first chord: D

To play your first chord, the D major chord, place your index (1) finger on the 2nd fret G string, your ring (3) finger on the 3rd fret of the B string, and middle (2 finger) on the 2nd fret of the high E string.

You don’t want to play the low E string, so you can either make sure and not strum that string, or you can wrap your thumb around a bit and touch the low E with your thumb (just touch it – don’t press it against the fret). This will mute the string and you won’t hear it when you strum the chord.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • You want your fingers to come straight down on top of the strings – make sure that your finger touches only the string it is supposed to be on without touching other strings.
  • Strum the chord, and then pluck each string individually. Eventually you want ever string to ring out, but at first there will be a good bit of buzzing or dead strings. No worries – this will improve over time with practice.

So there you go – your first chord.

84 Responses to Guitar Lesson 01: How To Play Your First Chord

  1. Albert Leo Vella Jul 24, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Amazing just learning guitar at 55yrs. Well done.

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

      Thanks Albert – keep up the good work!

  2. Rahul Pardeshi Aug 6, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    hello.. i am a beginner in learning guitar…can u pls suggest me which guitar should i buy..???

  3. Suraj bhandari Sep 6, 2016 at 2:05 am #

    This is best tutorial so far for beginner who want to learn guitar. I was totally in dilemma how to start playing guitar. Thanks @Brian for this awesome video.

  4. Mary Sep 19, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi, so glad I stumbled across this. I’ve tried off and on for more years than I care to say, to teach myself guitar. Now I’m motivated by the fact that I help with a kid’s club and the really little kids (“cubbies”) don’t respond much to recorded music, they just sit and watch the videos. I’d like to get them more into the songs so here I am taking another stab at learning some basic songs. I’ve already seen tips in the first lesson that I never heard before! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Naveen Soni Oct 23, 2016 at 12:25 am #

    Pls send me lessons, today I take my guitar

  6. jlpanzu32 Nov 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    thank you so much for this, i bet that this will be a very big help. my dream is to worship God with this acoustic, that i got

  7. Harsh Jan 16, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    Hey Brian!
    your tutorials are very good but can you please upload a video for left handers ??

    • Brian Mar 15, 2017 at 1:53 am #

      Hi Harsh – I can’t really play left handed, but everything is basically the same, just a mirror image. I actually learned from a left handed player.

  8. Joshua Elliott Feb 22, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    Praise the Lord. I am humbled and privilenged to be one in millions to learn aguita. thanx guys and may god bless u

  9. Ashley Feb 23, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    Thank you so much for taking time to encourage and share your gift ! I’ve been looking for helpful videos to as I learn and this is what I was looking for. I look forward to more vids!! A

  10. Alecia Feb 26, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

    Just started playing. Your tutorials were very helpful! Thanks! 🙂

  11. curtis Jul 12, 2017 at 1:57 pm #


    • curtis Jul 12, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

      i love you.

  12. Karsisha Forsman Dec 1, 2017 at 12:48 am #

    This is very helpful tips on how to play guitar chord for the first time.. Thanks for sharing this is very important as a guitar player.

  13. 🃏JkR🃏 Apr 11, 2018 at 10:19 pm #

    How much time would you suggest we spend practicing this lesson before moving on to the next. Thank you for all your time and effort to help people learn what will prove to be a very rewarding skill.

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