Guitar can be frustrating; finding a teacher, scheduling lessons around work or
school or free time. Just like anything else, there has to be an easier way, right? There are do it yourself
ways for almost everything nowadays. So is guitar any different?
In hindsight, no—there isn’t anything different at all. In fact, it may be easiest to learn the basics of guitar
on your own.
And what is more basic to a musician than a chord? Not much. In this article, we’ll go over the easiest ways to
teach yourself how to play guitar chords.
First off, you need to take a look at your knowledge of the guitar before anything else. Are you comfortable
with the neck? Are you able to find the most basic positions? Do you know the notes of the guitar neck? Do you know
your basic intervals? Do you know those intervals’ relationships?
If you answered no to any of those questions, you may want to go and work on the problem, as these are the
things that will make learning chords easiest.
The most basic chords are triads. These are the chords that you should start off learning. Every chord contains
a triad. Triads are built of a root, a third, and a fifth. If a chord is missing any of these properties, it isn’t
actually a chord—it is a harmony.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for constructing triads:
A major triad is built of a major third followed by a minor third. A minor triad is built of a minor third
followed by a major third. A diminished triad is built of two consecutive minor thirds. An augmented triad is built
up of two consecutive major thirds.
If that didn’t make sense to you, you’ll need to learn your music intervals, then take the time to familiarize
yourself with them.
It may be in your best interest, when teaching yourself chords, to buy a chord book. These books are pack full
of major, minor, diminished, augmented, seventh, and plenty of other types of chords. Also, the chords are usually
grouped together in ways that make it easy to develop simple progressions.
If you decide to buy one of these books, take into account that you will need to learn to read chord charts.
Reading chord charts is fairly simple, and most chord books will have a section in the beginning that tells you
exactly how to read the charts that they use in the book. After that it is simply a matter of getting used to
reading the charts.
So there you have it; some guidance in how to teach yourself guitar chords. The next steps are
all up to you. If you take your guitar playing seriously, then you won’t have much trouble learning chords until it
comes to some of the more complex seventh chords and ninth chords.
If you don’t take it seriously, or if you tend to slack around, you may have trouble staying on track. So work
hard and keep at it. Have fun!