Home Tabs and Chords How to play basic guitar chords? A beginner guitar lesson.

How to play basic guitar chords? A beginner guitar lesson.

How to play basic guitar chords? A beginner guitar lesson.

Welcome new readers! Today’s post is about the absolute fundamentals of guitar learning. In this first lesson, we are going to learn how to read tabs, where to find them, a couple of chord diagrams and a few very simple exercises. Here’s an outline of today’s lesson:

  1. How to read guitar tabs.
  2. How to read chord diagrams.
  3. Getting the picking hand in motion.
  4. Grabbing hold of your basic chords.
how to play guitar tabs

How to read guitar tabs?

Okay, so tabs are the most common and easiest way to learn your favourite songs. They are found all over the internet and are free of cost (in most cases). The best sites for guitar tabs are Ultimate-guitar and Songsterr.

Ultimate-guitar is the biggest online library of guitar tabs and chords. Period. Almost any song can be found on this site. It also allows you to play the song in real-time and adjust the speed of the song while practising. 

And it allows you to download the sheet music file for “Guitar Pro” software as well. Thousands of contributors publish different versions of a song, so you are free to choose the best tabs for yourself.

Similar goes for Songsterr as well. The only difference is that the UI is much more sophisticated and no sheet music file for guitar pro.

Both sites offer premium plan for extra features, so choose whichever fits your budget the best.

Below is an example of a common guitar tab:

e|——————————————| 4x






The above tab is for the intro of “The Unforgiven” by Metallica.  E A D G B e stands for the following:

E – 6th string

A – 5th string

D – 4th string

G – 3rd string

B – 2nd string

e – 1st string

The numbers shown represent your fret number. 0 stands for open string, in this case, “A” and “B” string are played in an open manner using only your picking hand. Number 2 stand for the 2nd fret corresponding to the “G” and “D” string. Similarly, 1 stands for the first fret on the “B” string.

In order to play any tab you have to read it from left to right and play the fret and string which comes first in the given sequence.

Therefore, in the above example, you are first playing “0” or open “B” and “A” strings at the same time. Followed by 2nd fret on the “G” string and again 2nd fret on the “D” string.

Notice that after each 0 2 2 sequence there’s a space. That space is for a “pause” for timing. So here, you are playing 0 0 at the same time and 2 2 in a sequence. Then, take a pause and repeat with 0 2 2. 

At the end you will be playing 1 2 2 instead of 0 2 2. This completes one “bar” or portion of the tab. The “4x” written is for the number of times you are playing the entire “bar”, in this case, 4 times.

How to read chord diagrams?

Here’s a diagram of the Am ( A minor) chord used to play the above tab.

Am or A minor chord diagram
A minor Chord (open position)

As you can see, the frets are numbered as 1 2 3 & 4. Here, the horizontal line represents the strings. So from left to right these lines represent E A D G B e string. “X” says that E string is not played. “O” represents the open strings: “A” and “e”.

The circled numbers represent your fingers. Here’s what they stand for:

1 – Index finger

2 – Middle finger

3 – Ring finger

4 – Pinky finger

Therefore, if you want to play the Am or A minor chord. You have to place your index finger on the 1st fret of B string, middle finger on 2nd fret of D string and ring finger on the 2nd fret of G string as well. Holding them all and giving it a strum will give you the sound of the A minor chord.

Getting the picking hand in motion.

Before we actually begin to play anything on guitar let’s try to get accustomed to the strings with our picking hand. In this exercise there’s no need for your left or playing hand. Just pick the strings in the given way shown below:

e|-0—–0–^v———————————| 5x






In the above tab “^” represents an up-stroke and “v” represents a down-stroke. Since all frets are marked “0” there’s no need to place your finger on the fret-board. All you need to do is pick each string with an up-stroke and down-stroke and move to the next one and so on. Do this exercise 5 times and you will get the hang of it. Watch the video version of this lesson here.

How to hold of basic chords properly?

Am or A minor chord diagram
A minor chord (open)
E or E major chord diagram
E major chord (open)

The figures shown above are your basic chords while starting out. Just remember the following while holding them:

  1. The E maj/E/E major chord is exactly the same as Am/A minor. Only the strings are different.
  2. Always use ONLY your fingertips for playing them.
  3. DO NOT let your fingers lie down on the fret-board, this enables muting of strings and buzzing sounds.
  4. DO NOT play your note by placing your fingertips away from the fret or right in the middle of two frets. Place them as close to the fret-board.
  5. Use your thumb holding the back of the fret-board and flex your wrist to adjust your fingertips correctly.

Example image:

How to play Am or A minor chord diagram
A minor (Am)
How to play E or E major chord diagram
Emaj or E

Practice holding the above chords and give them a strum till all strings ring out as clear as possible.

I hope this post will help you out in getting hold of the fundamentals of guitar. Practice the exercise and chords regularly until you get really comfortable. In upcoming posts, we will learn more chords and will get introduced to picking individual notes. Happy learning!


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