Finding the Notes Scales & Chords

Guitar Chords & chord charts

This article is for the beginner guitarist who wants to learn how to read chord charts.

At the very early stages of playing the guitar, you’ll learn how to play guitar chords in the open position.

You’ll be given a set of chords to learn and you’ll become familiar with how to read a chord chart whilst learning to play each open chord.

For £5 you can purchase a chord sheet from me here.

Chord charts, fingers 1-4

When chord charts are written well, there will be numbers displayed next to or inside the circles on the grid.

The numbers on the grid of the chord chart will teach you which fingers to use for that chord shape.

The fingers that you’ll actually end up using will depend on the scenario of which song it is you’re trying to learn.

For the more advanced guitarist, you might also need to accommodate or find an alternative position depending on your hand size.

Chord charts, numbers 6-1

The numbers at the top of the chord chart represent strings 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 whilst the names of the strings are E A D G B E.

Chord charts, frets 1-24

The symbols to the left of the chord chart such as F1 would translate to Fret 1, F2 will translate to Fret 2 etc.

Frets on a chord chart are represented on the left hand side such as: F1, F2, F3 etc.

Reading the Grid

Sometimes it can be confusing to look at a chord chart for the first time, but there’s no right or wrong way to read it.

You can start with the numbers on the grid, read left to see which fret you need to use, then read up to see which string it is you’re on.

Once you’re more familiar with which vertical line is which, you won’t need to look up to see which string number string it is you need. The frets always vary, so it’s important to check this each time.

If you’re reading printed music, the chord charts or even the numbers on the stave that represent which fingers to use, aren’t always the best choices. After a while you’ll find what works best for you once you’ve gotten used to using fingers 3 & 4 where appropriate.

Roman Numerals

Roman numerals are sometimes used to describe which position it is you’re playing the chord or melody in. Roman numerals indicate that finger 1 will be on fret 5 for example, but you might be using finger 4 on fret number 8.

Cross’s and circles symbols

If the chord chart for guitar music is written correctly, a cross (X) will indicate that you aren’t instructed to play that string. A circle represents that you play that string open .

Finger posture

Finger posture is important when playing any open or close guitar chord. An open chord is where an open string is played. You want to aim for the right side of the fret so that you head a clean note every time..

Thumb position (Left Hand)

The thumb on the left hand should be in a ‘thumbs up’, position and placed half way at the back of the neck. The further you want to stretch your fingers across the fretboard the lower your thumb should be.

Finger Placements

You’ll also want to arch your knuckles over the top which forces you to use the finger-tip. The knuckle’s thumb of the left hand will want to be in a ‘thumbs up’, position. This allows you to anchor and stretch your hand correctly whilst playing a guitar chord.

Open chords with fingers 1. 2 & 3

Once you’ve purchased the chord sheet for £5, you’ll want to practice it two ways. The first of which with fingers 1, 2, & 3, the second of which with fingers 2, 3 & 4.

When practicing, keep an eye on your thumb’s left hand position. It will creep up if you’re not used to placing the thumb correctly.

Make sure the knuckle is pushed in too. Although these chords are simple, you’ll want to practice the correct posture.

A good technique will result in the barre chords being more achievable.

Open Guitar chords with fingers 2, 3 & 4

Practicing the open chords in this way will make transitioning on to the barre chords a lot easier to understand.