3 Essential Chord Forms For Beginning Guitarists


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2 Essential Chord Forms For Beginning Guitarists

Many people begin electric guitar lessons with the impression that it's going to be easy to become a guitar player--unfortunately, for most of us it's not. We all know a bunch of people who play guitar so I suspect it's not unrealistic to think that becoming a guitar god is simple; but I also suspect that if I had a dime for every guitar that sat in a closet unplayed and unlearned I could buy my own private island in the Caribbean!

Playing guitar is tough enough for a neophyte that I think it doesn't make sense to learn something one way only to have to unlearn it as you improve. I've had the privilege over the years of teaching a number of friends who wanted to learn how to play guitar each of them thanked me later in the learning curve for teaching them the chord forms I'm going to outline for you here. Learning them "my way" is no tougher than learning them the standard way, and I think you'll agree that "my way" makes total sense.

The "E" Chord

The "E" chord is taught using the index, middle and ring finger:

Standard fingering:         "My way":
-----2--  middle              ring
-----2--  ring                 pinky
-----1--  index               middle

You can see from the diagram above that "my way" frees up the index finger. One of these days you'll want to play barre chords where the index finger is laid across the fretboard, acting like a moveable nut. The "E" chord form is probably the most common form in barre chords; the second most common is the "A" chord form.

The "A" Chord:

Standard fingering:          "My way":
-----2--  ring                   ring
-----2--  index                 ring
-----2--  middle                ring

Standard fingering is asking you to fit the tips of three fingers into a space about  1"x2". Unless your hands stopped growing when you were six it's likely that you'll feel awkward and crowded. But more to the point, you'll want to play "double barre" chords which require the "A" form to be played two frets below the barre created by the index finger. For example, here is how a double-barred "D" chord looks:


The "5"s represent the index finger creating a barre across the 5th fret, and the "7"s are the "A" form two frets below. Yes, you could form that "A" chord using 3 fingers but hey, why not take the easy road from the beginning.

If you end up taking electric guitar lessons from a teacher my bet is that not only will they teach you the "standard" fingering, but they will likely find a reason to discourage you from learning to play these chords "my way". Be prepared; fire up your i-Phone and show them a video of Clapton playing "Crossroads" live. Watching the master play barre chords should be sufficient evidence that you know what you're talking about.


January 27, 2010, 1:46 pm
Nicely done! I wish I\'d have read this 10 years ago!
March 17, 2010, 10:41 pm
I teach guitar and it is interesting that you teach that way. I teach both ways of doing E or A to prepare students for the barre chords.
March 18, 2010, 8:55 am
Thanks for your comments! Admin.
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