The Folky Beginner Chords

The First Chords You Learn On A Guitar.

These are the first chords every guitar player typically starts with when learning guitar.
I tend to call these chords the “folky beginner chords”, just to give them a name, but to be fair: these chords are neither “folky” nor “beginner chords”.

Besides folk music: you can also find these chords heavily used in pop, rock, folk, blues, country, singer-songwriter type music, and so on.
Moreover: guitarists of all levels use these chords, not just beginners.

All that being said: it makes sense to me to call these chords “beginner’s chords” if only because these chords are typically the first thing you learn when you start learning guitar.

Some Benefits To Starting Your Guitar Training With The “Beginner’s Chords”.

It is also generally considered that starting with these chords is one of the better ways to start on guitar, for a couple of reasons.

  1. You work and develop more muscles in your hands simultaneously. In addition: the switching between chords accelerates the development of your dexterity.
  2. You right from the start, develop your coordination and rhythmic abilities, strumming while playing the chords.
  3. More importantly: you get to play songs in no time at all.
    Especially in the beginning stages, it is important that you keep your motivation up to learn, as the guitar is not an easy instrument.
    With only 2 chords, you already get to play tons of songs.

    For example: if you know C and G, you can play “Give Peace A Chance” and “Paperback Writer”.
    If you also learn the D chord, now you also get to play “Sweet Home Alabama” and hundreds of other songs. Learn the F chord and you can play “Mustang Sally” and another thousand songs that all open up to you, only knowing 3-4 chords.

You see; it’s not “instant gratification”.
It takes work and practice to learn these chords and remember them, to be able to switch between them and strum at the same time, keeping time and pace.
However: you can develop and practice all these skills and learn those new chords just by playing songs that have these chords.
You really are practicing intensely, but it never feels like “practice” when you learn through songs.
It feels like “play”.

In addition: you kill many birds with one stone.
While you’re developing the aforementioned skills and learning new chords, you’re also learning songs, building a repertoire, and improving your ensemble playing (if you play along with the song’s recording, which you always should).

Use The Recommended Fingerings.

The reason for me wanting to write this blog is that I very often see self-taught guitar students use incorrect fingerings for these chords.
They oftentimes learned the chord shapes and fingerings from resources they found on the internet.

Unfortunately: as we all know, everybody (and his grandma) who has been playing guitar for half a week, post content on the internet.

There is no problem in using fingerings that are different than the recommended fingerings.
That is: unless an unconventional fingering you’re using ends up being lesser effective and thus hindering your ability to switch between chords.
However: being that “recommended fingerings” are recommended because they are more effective, not using them pretty much always leads to performance issues.

Some examples I often see of lesser effective fingerings:

Using 1st, 2nd, and 4th fingers (instead of 3rd fingers) on a Dm chord, which really only makes sense if you have the intention to embellish the Dm chord with notes on one of the bass strings.
Using 1st and 2nd finger (instead of 2nd and 3rd) on an Em chord, which gives you 2 entirely different fingerings for E and Em.
Using 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers on a G chord, instead of using the stronger fingers of the hand on the G chord.

Here are the chords with the recommended fingerings.

Page 102 Beginner's Chords

The chord diagrams with the ties tying a line of 1st finger dots together as a bar (B, B- and F bar chord diagrams) are bar chords.
There are NOT beginner chords.
I added the F bar chord on the page for thoroughness and as an alternative to the other two F chord fingerings on the page.
The B and Bm chord diagrams were added to the page to complete the alphabet, starting on C and ending on B.

You would learn the bar chords last because you need to build enough hand strength first before you can bar all 6 strings with your pointy finger.

Terminology and Conventions Used.

X’s above the diagrams, mean that you want to avoid hitting those strings.
The letters underneath the diagrams, show the names of the individual notes on every string that make up the chord.
The numbers underneath the letters/notes tell whether that note is the root, the 3rd, 5th, or 7th of the chord.
The numbers in the black dots, tell you which finger to use.
1 is a pointy finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger and 4 is the pinky.

Keep An Open Mind And Try Everything.

I know for all of you who already know these chords, this blog post might seem basic. However: maybe you didn’t know the B-7b5 fingering yet.
Or maybe you didn’t know yet what the notes are in all the chords. (By all means: memorize them!)
Or that F# is the 3rd in a D chord.
Or that the most effective way to learn a song, is by always playing along with the actual recording.

Hence: Keep an open mind. Try everything!
There is always something to be learned even in the most seemingly basic piece of information.

On the other hand: maybe you have been playing a G chord with a different fingering for many years now, and feel resistance against trying (or relearning) it the other way.
Well… maybe there is a reason why you lose rhythmic flow from chord to chord when you use that fingering, or maybe there are other things in your playing or technique that get negatively affected by that particular chord fingering and that you’re not aware of (yet) or can’t hear (yet).

Also keep in mind that when something “feels comfortable” because you’ve gotten used to doing it a certain way for many years, doesn’t necessarily make it the correct way. I know people who tighten up their neck muscles when they raise their arms (without knowing that they do so), or who lift heavy boxes from their lower back rather than from bending through the knees.
These people think and feel that the way they are doing it is comfortable, fooling their mind (and body) into believing they don’t feel the tension in their neck, or the tension caused in their lower back while lifting incorrectly. They might even think: “why to fix it if it ain’t broken”… till they get injured!

In Conclusion.

All that being said…

Playing a G chord with 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger, sometimes is better.
For example: when you want to switch back and forth between G and Gsus4, adding the C note on the 1st fret of the B string to the G chord shape.

Apart from this specific example though: you generally don’t benefit from playing a G chord using up all the weaker fingers of the hand. (Not to mention the awkward, large stretch you have between the 2 weakest fingers of the hand if you use fingers 2, 3, and 4 on G).
Yet somehow: this quite illogical and highly inefficient G chord fingering is a fingering I see quite regularly.

I’m glad I did my good deed for today. 🙂
Now you all know the best possible fingerings for all those chords we all learn on guitar.
If you find that you were using different fingerings for the above chords: learn the recommended fingerings and get used to them.
You never know how it might affect your playing for the better.


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These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress, joy, and results that my students experience in lessons when you’re learning by yourself from blogs and videos.

That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas than you can get from a blog or YouTube video.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Flynt Moreland Says:

    From the perspective of a little more than a beginner player, let me ask your opinion. You mentioned that playing the G chord with the 2, 3, 4th fingering is OK in the G to Gsus4 case, not otherwise. Having learned a song which used the G to Gsus4 progression, I became comfortable playing the G with the 234 fingering. I was already comfortable with the 123 fingering and now, I seem to automatically gravitate to one or the other depending on the situation. Is this a bad thing? As another example, when switching between an F bar cord and a D I tend to leave the 2nd finger in place which results in playing a D with 234 fingering. Bad??? – Thanks for your help.

    June 12th, 2014 at 6:30 am
  2. ZOTZin Music Says:

    It’s always better/preferred to use stronger fingers of the fretting hand first for various reasons. For one: using stronger fingers leads to better accuracy of performance. The advantage of stronger fingers being able to move to the next chord more quickly, trumps the lesser (but more clumsy) finger motion that could occur when using weaker fingers. That’s why it is better to use the recommended fingering when moving from F to D, rather than the fingering that has the lesser motion, but also the higher likelihood of inaccuracy due to lesser finger strength.

    June 13th, 2014 at 10:06 pm