Let’s first start out with a simple question that is commonly asked- “What is a Chord?”. Simply put, a chord is 3 or more different notes played simultaneously. There are MANY different types of chord voicings, names, and sounds. In this article we are going to look at one type; Open Chords. An open chord is a chord that uses open strings in its voicing. If you’ve picked up a guitar and played a couple of songs, chances are you’ve played some already. But out of all the chords that exsist in the world of music, there are some that come up again and again in literally thousands of songs. Lets look at the first 4 Essential Chords to Know:

G, Cadd9, D, and Em7

**quick note** For those of you who are unfamiliar with chord charts, follow this step by step description:

  1. The name of the Chord is listed above the chart
  2. The thick dark line at the top represents the nut of the guitar
  3. The lines going vertically are the strings (6,5,4,3,2,1)
  4. The lines going horizontally are the frets. (Fret 1 is below the nut, fret 2 below fret 1, etc.)
  5. The dots represent your finger placement with your left hand
  6. You hit every string with your right hand that does not have an X
  7. To avoid fret buzz, always remember to get your finger as close to behind the fret as possible!!

Countless songs have been written with these 4 chords. Here’s a few:

“Knockin on Heavens Door” – Bob Dylan
“Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Games” – Nazareth
“More Than a Feeling” – Boston
“Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
“Good Riddance” – Greenday
“3am” – Matchbox 20
“Wonderwall” – Oasis

All of these songs have very different feels, but they all heavily feature a combination of these 4 chords. Now the really cool thing about these 4 chords is that they are super easy to play together. Lets look at a common progression and see why:

G, Cadd9, D, and Em7

Notice that your 3rd and 4th fingers stay in exactly the same place for the first 3 chords and that for D your 4th finger just lifts up, your 3rd finger doesn’t move for the entire progression!! Pretty cool, pretty easy, and a lot of fun!

Using these 4 chords in different combinations can yield countless musical variations when you consider rhythm, dynamics, and phrasing. So have fun, experiment, use the songs listed above as reference, and get strummin!!

Interested in learning more? Get started at Bradley School of Music.

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