Basic Beginner Guitar Chords (A, D and E)

Basic Guitar Chords For Beginners

Ok, so hopefully you’ve read our article on the top 3 guitar chords for beginners (If not, we suggest you follow that guide first) and are now wondering which chords you should be learning next.

There are a few options available to you but we’d suggest that you move onto the open chords of A major, D major and E major. If you did work through our previous lesson, you should already know D major. That means you only need to learn 2 new chords for this tutorial. (It's hard enough getting started with the guitar so we like to make things easy for you where we can!)

Why Learn A, D and E?

A, D and E are the major chords from ‘A’, which is another popular key in modern music. It also happens to contain the D chord (which as we mentioned, you should already be familiar with, so that makes it the next logical step.) There are also loads of songs you can play using these 3 chords alone. ‘That’s Alright Mama’ by Elvis springs immediately to mind.

Once you can change between the chords smoothly and your finger placement is accurate, you can start learning lots of well-known songs.

They're Fairly Easy To Play

They’re not the easiest chords to play but then again, they aren’t too difficult either. Put it this way, the G and C that we introduced you to earlier will have probably caused you more problems than these will!

Are you ready to give them a go?

Let’s start with ‘A’.

A major Guitar Chord

A Major Guitar Chord Box

This can be played in a few different ways but here are the most common finger positions:

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string
  • Leave the other strings open
  • Play all the strings except the 6th

The tricky thing about this chord shape is the finger placement involved (trying to fit all 3 fingers into the same fret). You may think your fingers are too big (they won’t be). It just takes a bit of practice. It’s also important to check you aren’t deadening the 1st string (this happens a lot when you first start to learn the open A chord).

Next!

D major Guitar Chord

D Major Guitar Chord Box

You’ll probably find this a bit easier than A major but it will still take some practice to master.

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string
  • Leave the other strings open
  • Play all the strings except the 5th and 6th

A common problem with playing the open D chord is that the 3rd finger can get a bit too near to the fret and stop the note ringing out. You need to make sure this isn’t happening and ensure you stretch your finger across to the middle of the 3rd fret.

E major Guitar Chord

E Major Guitar Chord Box

This is a fairly simple chord to play but there are a few things you need to watch out for.

  • Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string
  • Leave the other strings open
  • Play all the strings

When playing the E major chord, you need to make sure you don’t roll your fingers over. You need to play it with the tips of your fingers and ensure your 1st finger doesn’t catch the open 2nd string.

Changing Between The Chords

Guitar Strum

When you can play all these chords cleanly, you need to practice changing between them. Start with a I – IV – V progression (you can read more about that here) so A to D to E (then back to A). Changing to D major can be a bit difficult at first but you just need to start out slowly and build up your muscle memory. Once you can change between the chords smoothly and your finger placement is accurate, you can start learning lots of well-known songs.

Famous Songs You Can Play Using A, D and E.

Here you go!

  • Wild Thing (The Troggs)
  • Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly)
  • The Last Time (Rolling Stones)
  • Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum)
  • Gloria (Them / Van Morrison)
  • That’s Alright Mama (Elvis Presley)

There are lots of other songs that use these 3 chords but the list above should get you started. You can also transpose some other songs from another key. For example, ‘Twist and Shout’ by The Beatles uses D major, G Major and A major (it’s in the key of ‘D’) but you could play it in the key of ‘A’ using A, D and E (it won’t sound quite as good though!)

Take a look at our previous lesson (if you haven't already) on the top 3 guitar chords beginners should know. There are even more songs you can play using those chords!


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