Beginner guitar: If you’re new to guitar, A major is one of the chords you should learn first. For this open chord, all your fingers play the same fret, so it’s easy to play and easy to remember.
It’s also one of the most common chords in guitar music. It’s the first chord in hard rock classics like All Right Now by Free, Hammer to Fall by Queen and Highway to Hell by AC/DC, but it’s also the home chord for ballads like Adele’s Someone Like You and Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. Whatever style you want to play, you’ll need to learn how to play the A chord on guitar.
Our guide to playing A chords is in three sections. First, we’ll show you open A, with three different fingerings to try. Check them all out and see which works best for your fingers.
Next up, there are two barre chord shapes to give you more choices. If you’re playing with another guitarist, having each of you playing different shapes can really fill out the sound. Finally, we’ll look at variations for the open and barre chord shapes. You’ll never be stuck for an A chord again!
How to play the A chord on guitar: open A
A major is easy to remember on guitar because every note you play is on the second fret, on the D, G, and B strings. There are three common ways to play this. Feel free to try them all to see which is right for you.
First up, try your first finger on fret 2 of the D string, second finger on fret 2 of the G string, and third finger on fret 2 of the B string. This is the most popular fingering. Watch that your third finger doesn’t accidentally choke the high E string.
If you’re struggling to fit all three fingers into the same fret, you could try using fingers 2, 3, and 4 instead. These fingers are usually slimmer, so will buy you a little more space. They’re also the fingers you’ll be using when you move on to playing barre chords, so trying this variation now will give you head start later on.
Finally, you can play all three fretted notes by barring with your first finger. This is the way more experienced guitarists often do it. It’s trickier at first, but faster once you get it down.
How to play the A chord on guitar: A major barre
The E shape A major barre chord is played at the 5th fret. Barre all six strings with your first finger. Finger 2 takes the G string, fret 6; finger 3 the A string, fret 7; and finger 4 lands on fret 7 of the D string. Try rolling your barring finger slightly onto its side, where it’s easier to apply pressure.
The A shape barre chord for A major is all the way up at the 12th fret. Avoid playing the low E string. The frets are close together here, so squeezing three fingers into one fret is a challenge. Don’t use more pressure than you have to while fretting.
Squeezing too hard will only hurt your hand and can pull the notes sharp. You might prefer the alternative fingering, where you barre the D, G, and B strings with your third finger. If you take that one, you’ll need to choke the high E string (although you’ll probably find that happens anyway!).
How to play the A chord on guitar: A major variations
If you want to vary the sound from the vanilla open A chord, A7 and Asus2 are two great places to start. The version of A7 we’ve chosen appears in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy and many other blues and rock n’ roll tunes.
In that context, it works well as a substitute for A major. Whichever way you normally play an A major, just add a spare finger to fret 3 on the high E string, and you’ve got an A7.
Asus2 is a classy sounding chord that will work in most contexts where you would normally find an A major. It’s easy to play, too: make an A major shape, then remove your third finger from the B string, so that the open string rings instead. That’s it!
You’ve heard this sound in songs like Behind Blue Eyes by the Who, Champagne Supernova by Oasis, and The Flame by Cheap Trick.
A major 7
More advanced players can check out this four-finger version of A major 7. Fourth finger takes D string fret 7, third finger G string fret 6, second finger B string fret 5, and first finger E string fret 4. Note that, despite their similar names, A major 7 is a very different sounding chord from A7!
A major, Keith Richards style
Lastly try this nifty three string shape, beloved of Keith Richards. You’ll also find this shape in many riffs by Queen and Kiss. Although your first finger is technically only needed on the G string, it’s standard to barre the D and B strings as well, so you can pull off to those strings, Keef-style.