How to Read and Play Guitar Chord Charts

Learn how to read guitar chord charts for chord shapes, and practice all the open chords! Remember to play on your fingertips, respect the specified fingering, and you will see that discipline pays off!

How to Read Chord Charts

First of all, if you are a beginner, you need to understand how to read guitar chord charts in order to play the chords correctly. A guitar chord chart allows you to easily read chord shapes. Many guitar chord chart illustrations vary, but for our example, let’s go over the following:

how to read a guitar chord chart
Chord Chart

The red/green dot represents the root of the chord; the note that we build the chord upon. Essentially, it’s the note that the rest of the chord is based on (i.e. “D”, “D-“, “D7” chords would all have different “fingerings”, but would all have the same root, D.) Often times, the root is the lowest sounding note in the chord.

The number within the green circle represents the fretting hand finger that should be pressed down on that particular place on the neck. Whenever you see an “O”, this means open, or play that string without a finger on it. This number represents the finger you should play with: Index=1, Middle=2, Ring=3, Pinky=4.

The semi-circle arc located above the three 1’s on the chord represents a bar. A bar is when you lay your finger across several strings – like a bar. This can be tricky in the beginning, but don’t over-think the process!

The “X” means “don’t play that string”, or “mute that string”. It should not vibrate or make any sound when you play the chord. The “(X)” means that you can play the note, but you usually would not. In other words, this means that this particular note could be played in the chord without any “dissonance” (disagreeable notes/sound). If you do choose to play it, the chord will still sound “harmonic” (agreeable notes/sound).

9 Essential Guitar Chords for Beginners

Here are some chord diagrams for the most often used open chords:

guitar Open chord charts
guitar Open chord charts 2
Open chord charts 3

Open Chord Variations

Open chord variation 1
Open chord variation 2
Open chord variation 3
Open chord variation 4
Open chord variation 5
Open chord variation 6

PS: You can find all the guitar chord charts here

Remember, practice makes perfect! Science tells us that whatever we do in repetition, will build neural paths to further support or do that thing better, faster, and more efficiently.

My advice for you is to break things down in the beginning. The easiest way is to do that is to slow things down. Another way is to break something down into its individual assets. For example, if you have a song where you want to be singing and playing at the same time, maybe you should learn each of these parts individually before putting them all together:

• Check the guitar chord chart – what chords are being played, and can I play them?
• Learn the progression of chords as they appear in the song
• Practice the strum
• Play the strum with the progression at tempo
• Memorize the song lyrics
• Get used to the song melody
• Perform them with a track
• Sing the lyrics with the chord progression(slow it down if necessary)


Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

Leave a Reply