Open Chords...

 

The first goal of any guitarist wanting to play popular music is to build up a chord vocabulary.  This is largely a question of teaching the left hand to remember various shapes.  It does take some time but the more often you use a particular chord the quicker you will be able to find it and the smoother your playing will sound.
 the fifteen chords shown here comprise the beginners chord vocabulary.  Using these fifteen chords in various combinations make it possible to play simplified arrangements of many popular songs.

Begin by looking carefully at each chord and try to memorize its shape or pattern.  Get your fingers into position one at a time and play each string separately to check that all notes are sounding.  If a fretted note does not ring properly it will be due to imprecise fingering or insufficient pressure.  If an open string does not play it will be due to one of your fingers getting in the way and dampening the string.

It takes a minimum of three notes to make a chord.  On the guitar it is possible to play chords with six different notes but the chords here have only 3 or 4 notes and some of them are repeated.

To learn these fifteen basic chords you must understand how to read a chord diagram.  These are simply box grids representing the six strings and the frets on the fingerboard.  The six horizontal lines are strings and the vertical lines are frets.  If a chord is up the fingerboard a number to the right of the fret will tell you where you are on the fingerboard.  These chords are all in "open position", meaning they all start on the first fret.  the black dot means that you press you finger down  on that string in between the two frets.  Open circles at the top indicate "open strings".  This means that you pluck or strum these stings but do not press down on them.  The X on top means that this string is not played.  The line farthest to the right represents the 1st string.  This is the highest sounding note and the smallest diameter string.  The note of the 1st string played "open" is E.  Moving left you have B, G, D, A, E.  Although the high E is called the first string, Standard tuning is usually referred to starting with the sixth string.  E A D G B E.

Learning these fifteen chords should be your first job.  The three E chords are probably the easiest to start with because once you can play E major you only need to pull off one finger to play E7 and Em.  C chords and B7 call for more precise fingering if all notes are to sound clearly.  To play the F chord, you must hold down the first 2 string with your first finger.  this is a simple "barre".  Your thumb should be directly behind your first finger applying pressure.

So, The C chord below is played like this.  1st finger one the second string, 1st fret.  Middle finger on the fourth string, second fret and the ring finger on the 5th string, 3rd fret.

 

A major A seventh chord A minor chord
D major chord D minor chord
E major chord E seventh chord
G major chord G seventh chord C major chord
C seventh chord F major chord