How To Read Chord Charts In 7 Easy Steps

In this post you will learn how to read chord charts in 7 easy steps.  And in doing so you will add to your understanding of how to read music that is created by this wonderful instrument.

What are Guitar Chord Charts?

Guitar Chord Charts are diagrams of chords that relate to playing guitar.  They are usually found in standard notation music books. Their written a bit different than tabs and can be a little more difficult to understand.  So I will do my best to explain how to read them in this post.

Why are Chord Charts hard to  read?

Because of the way they are designed.  When viewing someone playing guitar, the fret board (where the chords are played) is horizontal.  When looking at chord charts, the guitar is facing vertical, as in the picture to the right.  This is confusing because this is not how the guitar is played.  When the guitar is facing upward, the horizontal lines represent the frets (where the chord is played) and the vertical lines represent the guitar strings.  This is opposite from reading guitar tabs.

Is reading chord charts necessary?

If your a serious player…..Yes!!  If you just want to mess around on the guitar than no.  Reading chord charts is important because it might appear in your favorite book of songs and if you don’t know how to read them, you won’t be able to play them.  If you do know how to read them, you can add that to your toolbox of guitar skills.  Which will separate you from the average self taught guitar player.

Guitar chord charts in more detail.

If you look at the chord charts above and you imagine that the guitar is facing upward (as in the picture) You will see a few different things.  The black dots (with the numbers inside) represent where the fingers are to be placed & what fingers to use. The white dots represent which strings are open (played but with no finger put down) & the X’s represent strings that are muted (notes not sounded out)

With this information in hand, we can clearly see that to form the E chord, we place our 2nd and 3rd finger on the 5th and 4th string on the 2nd fret & the first finger on the third string first fret.  For the A chord we simply put our 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings on the 2nd fret.  First and 5th strings are open and the 6th string is muted.  Can you figure out how to form the G, D or the C chord?  If you take a bit of time to think this through, it’ll come to you.  Here’s an other example of how it should look.

It takes a bit to get this figured out but like I said, if you work at it a little bit at time, you’ll soon see how it works and how it can benefit your learning & playing of guitar.

The more you know about reading sheet music specifically written for guitar, the better guitar player you’ll become.  The better you’ll understand the instrument & the quicker you’ll be able to learn your favorite songs.

 learning how to read sheet music for guitar is like a car mechanic learning how to use a tool that benefits his craft. You don’t need to learn how to read standard notation (regular sheet music) unless you want to, but I’d highly recommend you learn the basics of how to read guitar tabs and learn how to read guitar chord charts.

Now, here’s how to read guitar chord charts in 7 easy steps.

Step #1.   Remember, guitar fretboard is facing vertical, not horizontal (look at picture above)

Step #2.   Horizontal lines indicate the frets, Vertical lines indicate the strings (biggest to the left, smallest to the right)

Step #3.   Black dots indicate where to put your fingers (to form the chord)

Step #4.  White dots indicate strings that are open (not played)

Step #5.  X’s indicate strings that are not sounded (muted)

Step #6.  Chord chart covers only 5 frets at a time (look again at picture


Step #7.  Numbers at the bottom of the chart indicated what fingers to use (this important to learn)


So there you have it.  Seven easy steps to learn guitar chord charts.  If your serious about learning the guitar and playing it for a lifetime, I’d highly recommend you learn how to read them, and by following these 7 easy steps you’ll be able to do it very quickly.  You might even impress your friends. As always, thank you for reading, and your feedback and comments are highly appreciated.  Let me know what you think and if you have any questions feel free to contact me.

And as always, if you feel you learned something here today & would like to leave me a review, I’d highly appreciate it.

Thanks again & until next time, take care.

Sincerely, Dwayne Jenkins

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