Learning the guitar can be difficult. But what if I told you that 90% of songs use 5 chords or less? And actually, there’s even better news. By learning just 5 chords, you’ll be able to play hundreds of different songs that you know and love. Everything from Led Zeppelin to Cat Stevens to The Grateful Dead and Black Sabbath… All from just 5 chords.
Below I’ll reveal the 5 chords every guitarist should learn right away, and then we’ll explore some famous songs that use just these chords, or even less. Let’s get started.
1. The E Major Chord
The E major chord is a classic and extremely popular chord. It’s often used in blues music (though often modified slightly, to form an E-7). In this chord, the low and high E strings are both left open, while the 2nd fret of the A and D strings are fretted, as well as the first fret of the G string.
Here’s a full video walk-through of how to play the E Major Chord on Guitar:
2. The A Major Chord
There are a few different ways to play the A chord on guitar. Personally, I like to use my first finger to cover the 2nd fret of the D, G, and B strings, leaving the low and high E string muted/unplayed, and letting the open A string ring out.
Covering all these strings with your first/pointer finger is known as “barreing” them. It’s great training for when you go on to learn barre chords later on in your guitar playing journey.
However, another option is to fret the 2nd fret of the D string with your pointer finger, the G string with your middle finger, and the B string with your ring finger. If you do it this way, you can let the high E string ring out open. Some people prefer the richer sound of this chord.
Here’s a full video walk-through of how to play the A Major Chord on Guitar:
3. The D Major Chord
The D major chord has always been one of my favorites. To form it, simply place your pointer finger on the 2nd fret of the G string, your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the B string, and your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the high E string. The D string is played open.
Here’s a full video walk-through of how to play the D Major Chord on Guitar:
4. The C Major Chord
The C major chord is one I found difficult to learn early on. But now, I use it all the time.
Place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the A string, your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the D string, and your first finger on the first fret of the B string. The G and high E strings ring out open, but the low E is usually muted for the C chord. This one will take some practice for new players!
Here’s a full video walk-through of how to play the C Major Chord on Guitar:
5. The G Major Chord
Here’s some good news to keep you motivated: if you enjoy country or bluegrass music, you can probably play 90% of your favorite songs just by learning the G, C, and D chords, and getting yourself a capo (link to my favorite on Amazon).
Anyhow, there are a couple different ways to play the Open G Major chord. In the “bluegrass G”, your middle finger frets the 3rd fret of the low E strings, while your ring finger frets the 3rd fret of the B string, and your pinky covers the 3rd fret of the high E. This is the G chord I play most often because I really love the sound.
However, the “classic G chord” is formed like this: place your middle finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string, your pointer finger on the 2nd fret of the A string, and your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string.
In both of these version, all 6 of the strings are played. This gives the G chord a really beautiful full sound.
Here’s a full video walk-through of how to play the G Major Chord on Guitar:
Popular Songs That Use These 5 Easy Chords (Tabs Included)
Click on these songs to check out the tabs and start learning! All of them use only the 5 chords we talked about above:
- Closer To The Heart – Rush – A, G, and D chords
- Franklin’s Tower – The Grateful Dead – A, G, and D chords
- Stir It Up – Bob Marley – A, D, and E chords
- I Saw The Light – Hank Williams – G, C and D chords
- Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash – G, C and D chords
- Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver – G, C and D chords
- Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd – G, C and D chords
- Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival – G, D, and A chords
- Jane Says – Jane’s Addiction – G and A chords
- Spirit In The Sky – Norman Greenbaum – A, D, C, G and E chords
Ready to Get Better at Guitar, Faster?
Whenever you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, check out my favorite resources below:
Elixir Nanoweb Acoustic Guitar Strings
- Unique polymer coating allows strings to last for months or years at a time, making for an exceptional value.
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- Beloved by everyone from Paul Simon to Gordon Lightfoot, the D-18 is one of Martin’s most legendary guitars ever.
- An excellent, premier quality acoustic guitar for bluegrass, country, folk, rock and more. This is what I play myself.
Chords, Tabs & Lessons for 100 Songs
- This free guide from Acoustic World gives you chords, tabs, and video lesson for the 100 best songs to learn on guitar.
- I spent hours putting this together all by myself to help you get better at guitar, faster!
Fingerpicking vs Flatpicking Guitar
- Learn which picking style is right for YOU by exploring examples, history, and popular players of each style.
- Discover essential techniques and pros and cons of each approach.