Got a guitar now where do I start?

So you’ve picked up the guitar that your aunt had in the corner of the back room or your girlfriend gave one to you for your birthday. Now’s the hard part…learning how to play the thing.

It’s not as hard as you think because there’s thousands of songs that you can play with just the 8 basic open chords such as Knockin’ On Heavens Door, Stand By Me, Riptide, etc… The four chord song done by Axis of Awesome is a great example of how many songs can be played with just one open chord progression.

So having taught hundreds if not thousands of first lessons over the years the 8 basic open chords (see below) is what I get everyone to start with. A few pointers without someone sitting in front of me are:

  • Say the name of the chord then play it. It sounds silly to say something out aloud to yourself but you only need to do it about 10 times for the name to stick together with the shape of the chord.
  • Play one chord eg “E” then play another chord eg “A”. Return to the “E” chord followed by another chord eg “D” & return again to the “E” chord. Go through all of the open  chords (& “F” barre chord) always returning to the “E” chord. This helps with being able to form the “E” chord shape from any other open chord position. Repeat this process but use a different starting chord.
  • Once you’re getting comfortable with the shapes & names try not looking at the fret board whilst changing chords & remembering where the chord is by memory & feel. This is really helpful for getting the chords under your fingers quickly & automatically without having to think of them.

The open chords ring true for all students except the younger kids under the age of 10 as chords tend to be too much of a hurdle to jump first up. Bass lines, fun melody lines like Star Wars, Harry Potter & very simple chords are the way to go for them but that’s another story.

That’s a great start for anyone without having a lesson as it’s always great having a student be able to play a few chords in their first guitar lesson.

The 8 Basic Open Chords & 1 Barre Chord


To print the open chord page download it from here:The 8 Basic Open Chords & 1 Barre Chord

Till next time Jam Studio…get strumming & catch you for a first lesson soon.

Cheers Marty