If you’re just starting out learning chords, you certainly need to know how to read guitar chord charts. While it’s easy to read open chords, it can be difficult to read barre and power chords. Here are some quick and easy tips to follow to make reading guitar chord charts a much simpler task.
Know your strings
Some guitar chord charts may have the names of each string written on top, but most don’t. Knowing the names of each string will help in learning and revising new chords. Not only that, but it will also help you in a variety of other ways while learning how to play the guitar and while learning how to read the guitar cords.
The strings are numbered from the thinnest to the thickest and the sequence of the letters for each string is as follows:
1 – E high
2 – B
3 – G
4 – D
5 – A
6 – E
Repeat the sequence in your head if you have, but it’s very important for a guitarist to know the names of the strings. This will make you a faster and more efficient learner in the long term and also make it easier to verbally tell another person how to play a certain chord.
Just like strings are given numbers, the fingers are also given numbers in charts to make it easier for the reader to know which fingers to use. The thumb is never included in the counting and is either used to provide support or muffle a string. It could also be used to add a bass note in a chord if you wish to. In very rare cases, a chord chart would ask the guitarist to use his thumb finger. The marking would normally be denoted with ‘T”.
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The counting starts from the index finger (1) and continues till the little finger (4). So if you see a chart where the 2nd string has (3) written on the 5th fret, know that you have to place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd (B) string. In barre chords, a line over the fret to be barred will be marked by the number (1) since the index is used to barre a chord.
Open and closed strings
Open and closed string marking is done with O’s and X’s. For every string to be closed or muffled, an X will be marked at the very top of that string. For every string to be left open, an O will be marked at the top of that string.
You’ll find closed strings in many chords, mostly done to maintain a particular tone or eliminate any notes that could ruin the harmony. You will find these markings in power chords where only 2-3 strings are played at once.
In chords that have most notes left open, such as Eminor 7, might not have an O mark above all open strings. It is always safe to assume that any string left unmarked and doesn’t have a finger marking is meant to be played open.
Make it more convenient for you
Not all guitar charts are the same. Some might depict barre chords with a line running over all strings, while some may number each string with the number (1). Moreover, there might also be instances where you’d find it difficult to play exactly the way the chord is shown.
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If, for example, the chord chart tells you to play the 5th fret of the 3rd string with your ring finger and you find it more convenient to play with your middle finger, then go ahead with it. Chord charts are only meant to set a guideline to refer to; it’s you who decides what sounds best and what is most convenient for you.
Another place where this problem might arise is when you have three different strings being played at once, with all notes being on the same fret. For example, A major is played by pressing down on the 2nd fret of the D, G, and B string at once.
Some charts show one finger as a barre just on these three strings. Others show three different fingers playing the three strings. If you’re someone just starting out, it might be easier for you to opt for the latter.
Following these quick and easy tips will make it extremely easy for you to read guitar chord charts quickly and efficiently. However, you must also remember that being able to read chord charts well will require continuous practice. You will only be able to put your learning into practice once you actually start playing music. Maintain a consistent practice schedule and you will be able to make great inroads with your skills as a guitarist.