2. How to Read a Chord Diagram (BC-102)

A:1[A Major]

A chord diagram is a graphical representation of a guitar fretboard, which depicts the strings on the guitar, the position of the chord on the fretboard, and the fingers to be used for fretting the chord. The guitar strings are represented by the vertical lines, and, from left to right, show the  E A D G B E strings (or 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st). We call the thickest E string the low E and the thinnest one the high E to differentiate between the two. The frets are represented by the horizontal lines, and the numbers show which fingers to use to fret the note, as follows:

  1. Index finger.
  2. Middle finger.
  3. Ring finger.
  4. Little finger (or pinkie).

In the example below, we can see a chord diagram on the left, alongside an image of the chord being played on a real guitar on the right:

The name of this chord, in this case ‘A’,  is shown at the top of the chord diagram. Directly below the chord name we can see an X and two O‘s. An X denotes that a string should not be played when strumming the chord, whilst an O denotes than an open string should be played. An open string is a string we play without placing a finger on any of the frets. In the example above, we have an X above the low E (or sixth) string, and an O above the A (or second) and the high E (or first) strings, meaning we don’t play the Low E, and we play the A and high E as open strings.

Next, we see a solid black horizontal line below the X and the O‘s. This tells us we are playing near the guitar nut and we should start counting the frets from the first fret. If we count down three frets, we can also see some text, ‘3fr’, on the right of the chord diagram, which tells us where the third fret is. This text becomes more useful as a reference point when we start to play guitar chords further up the neck, where we see text such as ‘5fr‘, ‘7fr‘, ‘9fr‘, etc, to help us find where to place our fingers.

Finally, in the example chord diagram, we can see that the 1st (or index) finger should be used to play the note on the 2nd fret of the D string, the 2nd (or middle) finger should be used to play the 2nd fret of the G string, and the ring (or third) finger should be used to play the 2nd fret of the B string.

If we were to strum this chord, it would sound as follows:


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