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Reading chord charts
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Reading chord charts

There are a couple different types of chord charts.

This is the first type:

E: 022100

F: xx3211

If you see this: "E: 022100" what the author is telling you is the frets he wants you to put your fingers on.  The order of the strings is usually EADGBE (thickest to thinnest.)  For example, the 2's tell you that on the A and D string you should put your finger on the 2nd fret.  But wait, what about the 0? There is no Fret 0, you say!  The 0 means that you leave that string open, and play it without putting a finger on a fret somewhere.  Sometimes you'll see a chart like this: "F: xx3211" and think, now what? OK. Those X's mean not to play those strings.

This kind of chord chart is a little different. It's oriented the same way your guitar would be if it were standing on end (use a stand) with the body and neck pointed toward you.  From the right to the left, the strings are the same as the other notation.  You could write 022100 under the strings on it, because those are the frets your fingers go on. In fact, that chart is the same as saying 022100! Each horizontal line represents a fret. The big black one is the nut - the part where the headstock stops and the neck begins, or fret 0.  The rest of the black lines represent consecutive frets, going down the neck.

This one is the same form, just a different chord.  The red X'es mean that those strings are not played.  It's the same as an x in the other notation, where this chart would read xx3211.

Sometimes you'll see the kind where, not only do they give you dots, but also finger numbers!  The numbers for your fingers are as follows: Thumb - no number (why?). Index finger - 1, middle finger - 2, ring finger - 3, little finger - 4.  So that chart is telling you to put your little finger on the 3rd fret of the D string, your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the G string, your middle finger on the 1st fret of the B string, and your index finger on the 1st fret of the high E string.  Don't play the first two strings.


But why should they tell you where to put your fingers?  That's a good question, and it deserves a good answer.  Some fingerings are much easier to play than others.  The chart on the right is easier to play than the one on the left.  (Try it!)  Usually, a chart will have numbers to show you the easiest way to play the chord.

This one has a different twist.  There are two places where finger 1 goes!  That means to put your 1 finger across both strings, so it sounds the same as if you had a separate finger on each location.  As you advance in your guitar playing, this sort of thing becomes much easier than the xx4312 form, because you don't need all four fingers to play it and you can switch to it faster.  This is really important in the intermediate section on Barre chords.  Don't worry about those until you're ready.

That's about it for reading chord charts.  Move on to the beginner chord forms and learn some chords!

Relevant lesson: Beginner chord forms

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