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Music

How to Play Open Chords on the Guitar: 8 Basic Open Chords

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jun 15, 2020 • 2 min read

There are many open chords you can play on the guitar, but chances are you'll only come across a handful in popular songs. You can write entire songs with open chords.

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What Are Open Chords?

Open chords, or open position chords, are guitar chords that include at least one unfretted open string. Open chords are also called “cowboy chords” because they’re among the simplest chords to play, making them easy to learn for beginners.

8 Most Common Open Chords

There are five common open chords in the major scale and three common minor open chords. (If you are right-handed, your fretting or fingering hand is your left hand.)

  1. E major chord: Place your index finger on the third string, first fret; middle finger on the fifth string, second fret; and ring finger on the fifth string, second fret.
  2. A major chord: Place your index finger on the fourth string, second fret; middle finger on the third string, second fret; and ring finger on the second string, second fret.
  3. D major chord: Place your index finger on the third string, second fret; middle finger on the first string, second fret; and ring finger on the second string, third fret.
  4. G major chord: Place your index finger on the fifth string, second fret; middle finger on the sixth string, third fret; ring finger on the second string, third fret; and pinky finger on the first string, third fret.
  5. C major chord: Place your index finger on the fourth string, second fret; middle finger on the fifth string, third fret; ring finger on the second string, third fret; and pinky finger on the first string, third fret.
  6. E minor chord: Place the middle finger on the fifth string, second fret; and ring finger on the fourth string, second fret.
  7. A minor chord: Place the index finger on the second string, first fret; middle finger on the fourth string, second fret; and ring finger on the second string, second fret.
  8. D minor chord: Place the index finger on the first string, first fret; middle finger on the third string, second fret; and ring finger on second string, third fret.
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3 Tips for Mastering Guitar Chords

If you’re a beginner on the guitar, there are many resources to get your playing up to speed.

  1. Learn basic techniques. Remember it’s not just about chord shapes but also mastering strumming patterns. Once you get the basics down, start practicing chord changes and chord progressions. Learn more about chords in our comprehensive guide here.
  2. Practice daily and study music theory. When you practice guitar techniques, you develop muscle memory and familiarity with the fretboard, becoming increasingly proficient over time. Learning music theory allows you to understand how chords work together within a song.
  3. Stay committed. As with learning any other craft, you may progress slowly at first. Be patient, stick with it, and realize that the learning curve levels out over time.

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