How to Learn Basic Guitar Chords Online? (our top pick)
Guitar Tricks online lesson platform
For learning in the proper topical order and getting through the basic guitar chords (so you can move onto things more interesting), Guitar Tricks, particularly their Fundamentals I and II courses taught by Anders Mouridsen, is our top recommendation.
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There are plenty of resources that show you how to learn basic guitar chords online. We'll cover a few of both the free and paid options, so you can decide what works best for you.
One of the benefits of paid programs like Guitar Tricks, that I mentioned above, is that they're usually structured really well with a lot of care given to how they introduce and arrange topics. It's very much like having a teacher in the room guiding you through the material.
Free resources tend to be a little more hit or miss. But there are plenty that have value and can help you in bits and pieces.
If you get everything you need from the free stuff, you can keep practicing on your own and not worry about the paid lessons.
It's up to you.
Here we'll cover how to learn basic guitar chords online using these resources.
Do I need paid lessons to learn basic guitar chords?
Even paid, membership-based online guitar lessons are ultimately a tool for those who are self-taught. There's no one making you go to your lesson or forcing you to sit down and go through the material.
So whether or not you need to pay is a matter of preference.
Typically, people who opt for the online option would be described as follows:
- Want to learn more efficiently
- Want to learn what to practice before sitting down to practice
- Want to absorb material in an optimized order
- Want something professionally produced
- Function as a self-starter and are self motivated
So while you don't need to pay for lessons, they can be extremely helpful. But so can the free material. Let's dig in.
Read more: Best online guitar lessons overall
Best Ways to Learn Basic Guitar Chords Online
Guitar Tricks Fundamentals I and II Courses
Guitar Tricks has a lot of solid beginner material that addresses chords, as well as the underlying concepts that give you a foundational understanding of chords. Their material is also very well organized within each course, and then again within each module.
This is a good fit if you're looking to learn basic guitar chords in the context of a course and if you want to continue expanding your knowledge.
To learn basic guitar chords with Guitar Tricks, there are multiple options:
- Use the chord diagrams resource (this is free)
- Use the Fundamentals 1 and 2 courses for beginners
- Use the Chords lessons section where you have all lessons related to learning guitar chords
You'll need to decide whether the paid program and membership format is right for you. It's also important to figure out whether you want to focus only on basic chords, or if you want to branch out into a more thorough study.
Guitar Tricks will definitely get you the chords and the correct approach. But you'll have to take advantage of a lot more to justify the membership.
You can checkout more about Guitar Tricks here:
Read the full review: Guitar Tricks
IDEAL FOR: Beginners, course learning, organized topics, self-starters
Our Chord Generator (powered by GuitarApp)
We got together with a great company called GuitarApp to offer the following resources:
The chord diagram shows you whatever chord you want to see, making it really easy to grab charts for basic chords. You can also cycle through a bunch of different voicings for each chord. If you need help working with chord charts or you're not sure how to read them, follow these steps to get going with the diagrams quickly:
- Vertical lines represent each guitar string.
- Horizontal lines represent each fret.
- Each dot represents a note that should be pressed on the fretboard.
- The right-most vertical line of the diagram represents the high E (the thinnest string).
- The left-most vertical line of the diagram represents the low E (the thickest string).
- An empty circle - an "o" - over top of a particular string, above the entire diagram, means you should play that string open.
- An "x" over top of a particular string, above the entire diagram, means you should not play that string at all.
Once you're familiar with the diagrams, you can work on training your hands to get through the basic chord shapes. If you have questions, you can always ask in the comments section. Bobby and Chris keep up with those regularly.
Justinguitar and other YouTube resources
All of the Justinguitar content is free, and he covers all of the basic guitar chords (among many others). He's also a great example of the wide range of YouTube content that addresses chords and provides simple lessons for this type of learning. The only downside tends to be organization, since YouTube is better at providing specific answers for more specific questions.
For example, you might use free resources to find a particular chord lesson, but then it's on you to plot out where you go from that point.
Though on Justin Sandercoe's website, which embeds all of the YouTube videos, the content is organized quite well.
You can cover a lot of ground on Justinguitar.
I often recommend it as a good place to start. You can move on to paid options later, if needed.
Read the full review: Justinguitar
IDEAL FOR: Budgets, beginners, narrow scope questions, songs
Which chords should I tackle first?
Here's a quick list of chords that I'd recommend focusing on first: G, C, D, E, Em, A, Am, and Bm.
Of course minor versions exist for all chords, but the ones we've selected here are the ones you'll use most often. All of these are open chords, meaning you'll leave at least one string open to play them, and are near the bottom (close to the headstock) of the fretboard.
Start with getting these chords down, then you can work on something more challenging.
How do I form the chords on the fretboard?
To form each guitar chord you'll go through the following steps:
- Choose a chord and figure out which finger is going to play the lowest note. This will usually be on one of the two thickest strings.
- Determine how it's most comfortable for you to fret each note. You should usually start with the lower notes.
- Place your fingers on each note.
- Strum through the chord one string at a time, and see if you hear any muted notes or mistakes.
- If needed, adjust by applying more pressure to the strings or shifting your hands.
- Once you get comfortable, you can start transitioning between chords.
How do I practice changing between chords smoothly?
Guitar Tricks has some really good material on this, but I can give you a general overview and a couple of tips.
The best way to get a handle on changing chords, is to change the lowest note first. For example, if you're fretting the lowest note, which might also be the root note, with your pointer finger, lay that finger down first.
From there, the rest of your fingers can fall into place:
- Lowest or root note finger gets placed first
- Rest of the fingers follow in order
When you go to change the chord, repeat the process. The foundational finger anchoring the chord can go down first while all the other fingers follow behind it.
For example, if you're going G to C, your second finger comes down first for the G, and your third finger comes down first for the C.
Songs that can help you learn chords
Any songs with really simple chord progressions that are changed slowly can be helpful. Here are a few that you could try:
- Stay with Me by Sam Smith
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton
Those are just a few ideas. Rock Guitar Universe has a bunch more here:
Read more: 40 Slow and Easy Guitar Songs
How do I play barre chords?
To get started with barre chords, you actually need to start with something called a power chord, which isn't technically a barre chord, but will get you used to the barre chord shape.
A barre chord is when you lay a single finger down and play multiple strings with one finger. This usually means you have your pointer finger on, say, the 6th string and 5th fret, while your ring and pinky finger are two frets up on the fifth and fourth string.
You've probably seen the shape before. It looks like this:
And a barre chord looks essentially the same, but with the added difficulty of playing multiple strings with one finger. Instead of starting with that, you need to get used to the position of having your third and fourth fingers two frets above your first finger.
To do that, you can start with one of the following two power chord arrangements:
Two Finger Power Chord
Once you get the hang of this, an actual barre chord is more like the following:
This is an F sharp minor barre chord, where you can see that four notes on the second fret are being pressed down by what would have to be the first finger. That means this finger is laying flat across the fretboard to grab all four of those notes.
Master power chords before you try to get into true barre chords.
How long does it typically take for a beginner to learn basic guitar chords?
There are a lot of factors that go into how long it might take you to learn something on the guitar. Though I would say that generally, learning basic guitar chords, especially the first few open chords, does not take a long time. If you're practicing each day, you should be pretty comfortable within a month or so, then you can move onto something else.
With help from a program like Guitar Tricks, that will speed up the process and help you get used to the chord patterns even sooner.
Try it out: Guitar Tricks Free Trial (14 days)
But in either case, it won't take long.
Check out some of the lesson resources we recommended to help get you going on basic guitar chords. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to get some of these chords in your vocabulary so you can start playing songs.
If you have questions about how to learn basic guitar chords, or about the recommendations we've made here, feel free to reach out via the comments section below.
I'll be sure and help out. I try to answer the comments regularly.
We'll see you there.