How to play guitar chords: the first 8 chords you need to learn

Young man at home playing guitar and wearing headphones connected to laptop
(Image credit: Westend61/Getty)

A chord is three or more notes (some scholars say two or more) played at the same time. That’s the technical description, but when it comes to learning guitar chords for beginners, all you need to know are that chords are our bread and butter, the core of all rhythm playing, and, in fact, the thing you’ll spend most of your time doing.

The most important thing to know when it comes to how to play guitar chords is that you’ll have to fret several notes at once – then these shapes can be used to play literally thousands of songs, including a host of easy guitar songs for beginners.

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.