This beginner's acoustic guitar lessons course is all about laying the foundations for your acoustic guitar playing. We will show you how to play your first guitar chords, read chord charts and strum confidently and in time. Follow this carefully and you won't have any bad habits moving forwards! Make sure you go through this course before moving on, as these fundamentals will ensure you can tackle harder lessons.

Summary: Your first chords

We have selected two relatively straightforward chords to get started. They still sound fantastic, though, and will remain valuable no matter how advanced you end up becoming! Be sure to memorise the names of the chords as you learn them, as this will help with your understanding of musical theory. The first step is to understand how to read the fretboard diagram shown below:

"Open strings" means that you don't need to press any of the frets with your fingering hand - the note we want to play is the standard tuning of the string.

Materials: E minor & Asus2

Now let's apply these principles to the chords we want to learn. Use the red boxes above the fretboard to switch between one chord and the other.

When "fretting" (using your fingers to press the strings down on a fret) chords you need to bear the following things in mind:

  • 1. Keep your thumb on the back of the neck
  • 2. Make a bridge with your fingers
  • 3. Be sure to apply pressure with the tips of your fingertips
  • 4. Push down nice and hard!

Fretting strings for longer periods of time can be uncomfortable or even painful at first! Don't worry, as you play more and more you'll find you soon adjust and will be able to play for as long as you like in perfect comfort.

Summary: Changing chords

In this lesson we are looking at how to change between chords. The first thing to understand is how to read a basic chord chart, such as this:

  • Em /// //// Asus2 /// //// Em /// //// Asus2 /// ///

'Em' and 'Asus2' are the names of the chords we learnt in the previous lesson. The slash lines count the beats of the bar. So, let's break it down:

'Em ///' is telling you to play the Em for four beats, or one bar. The 'Em' counts as one beat and each slash counts as another subsequent one.

Therefore, the following bar, '////', simply lets you know to continue playing the same Em chord for another four beats, or one bar.

Be sure to practice along with the video for this one, as it can be a tricky concept to get pinned down at first!

Summary: Strumming

Every song has a particular strumming pattern, which often contributes just as much to the sound as the chords themselves. On our course, we represent strumming patterns using diagrams as shown below. The idea is to keep your arm moving at all times: up with each up arrow, down with each down arrow! Then, you only strum the strings when the arrow is highlighted. Again, be sure to play along with the video to make sure you fully understand the concept.

Exercise: Strumming & changing chords

We will now take the chord progression we have been using and add the strumming pattern to it. Since you play each chord for two bars before changing, and the strumming pattern we have learnt is one bar, this means you play the strumming pattern through twice before changing for each chord. To refresh your memory, the chord chart looks like this:

  • Em /// //// Asus2 /// //// Em /// //// Asus2 /// ///

Summary: More chords

Here are two more chords to learn, E major and A major. Major chords will be an important part of the songs we will be playing soon, so be sure to commit the names to memory.

Exercise: Changing chords

Let's apply the chord chart we've learnt already to these new chords. Once again we are doing two bars of the first chord, then two bars of the second. Repeat this for three to four minutes. Remember to use the strumming pattern we covered in the previous lesson. Here is the chord chart and strumming pattern as a reminder:

  • E /// //// A /// //// E /// //// A /// ///

Summary: Practice habits

Practice, practice, practice! We've covered several different concepts now, but the only way to make real progress is to get into a regular practice routine. You've now learnt four chords and a cool strumming pattern, so it's time to mix things up and introduce some more creative exercises to keep things fun. Here is a recap of the chord shapes we know:

Exercise: Example chord charts

To get you started here are two chord charts that would help you practice your chords. Remember to use the strumming pattern we have learnt, and don't be afraid to try out your own variations if you're feeling confident!

  • Example Chord Chart 1
  • E /// //// A /// //// E /// //// A /// /// Asus2 /// ////
  • Example Chord Chart 2 (with faster chord changes)
  • E /// A /// Asus /// Em /// E /// //// A /// ///

Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Essentials Part 2

Now that we've covered some basics, it's time to kick things up a notch! In this set of five lessons we'll be learning some trickier chord shapes, the "universal strumming pattern" and finally tackling a full song for the first time!