Hey there you Rock God, are you ready to learn how to read chord charts? Hopefully you read through our “How To Read Tablature” tutorial by now and have a good understanding of that form of music notation works. Next we’ll just need to know how to read chord charts and you’ll be all set to start your musical journey. Chords are simply a way of playing guitar where we strum multiple strings at once. There are many different chords and chord shapes but you’ll really need to know about 10 basic chords to play most songs. Chord charts are different than tablature in that with a chord chart, we’re only learning how to finger a specific chord, and we’re not learning how to play a song. You’ll learn how to play basic chord shapes with these charts, and then we’ll put your knowledge of those chord shapes to work when we actually strum through a song with several chord changes. In contrast, with tablature, often times you’ll be reading through how to play a full song. Tabs can even have chords written within them or they can just be telling you play singe notes, one string at a time. You’ll see more examples as we embark on our course, but for now, let’s take a look at some chord charts!
Below you’ll see a depiction of a blank chord chart. You’ll notice now that each of our vertical lines represents one of the six strings on your guitar. They are labeled again with our open string names at the top (E, A, D, G, B, e). What you’ll need to know is that our far left line represents our low E string or the thickest string on your guitar, and the far right line represents our high e string, or the thinnest string on your guitar. Hold your guitar out in front of you and face it directly at you. That is the orientation we want to think of when we visualize these diagrams. Next, you’ll need to know that the horizontal lines represent our frets. You’ll see they are labeled in this diagram on the left hand side from your first fret out to the fifth fret of your guitar.
Now let’s take a look at a diagram that represents an actual chord. Below you’ll see a depiction of the chord E minor.
In this case we have our two black dots representing where you’ll put your fingers on the guitar. You’ll see that both fingers are on the second fret, one is on the A string, and one is on the D string. The numbers 2 and 3 that you see below are telling you what fingers you should use to play this chord. You should use your 2nd finger on the A-string, and your 3rd finger on the D-string. The circles above the strings are letting you know that you can play these strings “open” or without any fingers. In some cases you might see and “x” above one or more strings, indicating that you should not strum that particular string. See if you can get your fingers in place and strum an Em chord! We’ll be doing plenty of work with chords over the course of our 90-Day program and beyond so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect yet. The important part now is that you understand how to read these diagrams and where to place your fingers. Check out a few more examples below!