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Guitar Lessons • The Fifteen Essential Open Chords For Guitar • Common Fingering • Common Form.

As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.

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15 Open Chords For Guitar

These are the 15 essential Open Chords. The name is derived from the fact that the chords contain open strings and, for the most part are immovable. Sometimes called 'Cowboy chords', knowing these shapes are a must for every player, and usually where people start.

I have substituted the FMaj7 for the F chord. I have found that the normal F Major shape, with the first finger barre across the E and B strings is very hard for beginners. The FMaj7 works as a substitution for the harder F Major chord in many songs.

Normal fingering is in blue on the top of the chord grid and alternate fingering for the chords is in red on the bottom. It is an excellent practice to use the alternate fingering when needed.


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This is the normal F Major shape. The first finger barres the E and B strings. You may have to curve your finger slightly or even fret the two strings with the tip of your index finger.

This is the normal F Major shape. The first finger barres the E and B strings. You may have to curve your finger slightly or even fret the two strings with the tip of your index finger.

This is another way to get the F Major sound. Lay your first finger across the high E (first string), but do not push down. The string is being muted, you should hear a non-pitched sound, more of a scraping sound on the note

This is another way to get the F Major sound. Lay your first finger across the high E (first string), but do not push down. The string is being muted, you should hear a non-pitched sound, more of a scraping sound on the note

Common Fingering

Many open chord movements involve holding common fingers when moving from one chord to the next. This will allow you to change chords smoother, with very little break in between. Work slowly and make sure you hold the fingers indicated.

When moving from Am to B7, hold the third finger, move the first and second finger and place the fourth. The B7 is a difficult chord to form and any finger that can be held is a bonus.

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When using the normal fingering for Em (second finger, fifth string on the second fret and third finger, fourth string on the second fret) and moving to B7, hold the second finger, move the third and place the first and fourth finger.

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When moving between Em and G7, hold the second finger, pivot your hand and move the first and third fingers into place.

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Using the alternate fingering for the Em chord (first finger, fifth string on the second fret and second finger, fourth string on the second fret), many common fingering shortcuts can be formed.

In progression 1, move from Em to G by holding the first finger and moving the second and third finger into place.

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In progression 2, move from Em to C by holding the second finger, release the first and pivot your hand around to move the first and third finger into place.

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Progression 3 is similar to number 2. Hold the second finger and pivot the hand to place the first and third finger.

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Progression 4 is one of the easiest transitions. When moving from C to Am, hold the first and second finger and move the third into place. In progression 5, follow the movements from the previous examples when changing the chords. All of these techniques are outlined in the sheet music.

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When you feel confident with the quater note rhythm slashes and downstrokes, try this basic strumming pattern with the common fingering indicated. The pattern is comprised of quarter and eighth note rhythm slashes. Slash notation corresponds to normal notation, but is non-pitched and does not move down and up on the staff. The strumming pattern is defined in the first bar with down and up strokes. The count is written in the second measure (bar). As a guide, strum down on the number and up on the and.

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Common Form

Common form is the concept of fingers of a certain shape, forming another chord on another set of strings, while maintaining the same shape. Strongest example of this is E Major to A minor:

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C Major

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C7

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FMaj7

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G Major

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A Major

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A7

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Am

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E Major

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E7

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Em

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D Major

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D7

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Dm

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G7

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B7

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Comments

Gary Talley on October 27, 2011:

As far as the F chord goes, which is hard for beginners:

If you just use three fingers on the D, G, and B strings (as you show) and do not even hit the E string at all , that chord (an f major triad) WILL fit in blues/rock songs where the Fma7 would not sound right.

Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Oshawa on July 14, 2011:

Sorry........Chasemillis.

Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Oshawa on July 14, 2011:

@ chasemills. Thanks so much!!!

chasemillis on July 12, 2011:

These visuals are awesome!

Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Oshawa on July 12, 2011:

brsmusic....thanks very much! This is where I start them.

brsmusic from Northwest Ohio on July 12, 2011:

Nice sequencing of material! I have taught beginning guitar students (including my son and daughter) over the years and use a very similar approach. Nice job on the presentation!