This column is on basic guitar accompaniment. The goal of this lesson will be to give the beginner the skills needed to play many common guitar accompaniment parts, and to give the intermediate player some valuable review.
Listed below are the five open major chords normally learned first by students. On the diagrams, the vertical lines represent the strings of the guitar, the horizontal lines represent the frets, and the dots represent where to place your fingers. A "0" written above a string indicates that this string is to be played open. If a string isn't fingered, and doesn't have a "0" above it, don't sound it at all.
Begin by forming a chord. Be sure your fingers are on their tips so that you allow adjacent strings to ring clearly. then, with your picking hand, play the strings one at a time, making sure each string sounds clearly. If a string doesn't sound, or is "buzzing," re-adjust your fingers and try again. The two most common reasons a string won't sound clear are (1) you're not pressing hard enough, or (2) a finger on an adjacent string is touching the unclear string, and deadening it or causing it to buzz. One useful tip: when possible, place the fretting finger right next to the higher fret. This will allow you to use less strength to depress the string. After you're sure each string sounds clear individually, strum all the strings of the chord together.
Once you can play each chord cleanly you'll want to work on changing chords. This is one of the biggest challenges for the beginning guitarist. As this series progresses, we'll work on several techniques and drills to help you with chord changing. To start, though, it's best to just jump in and have a go at it. Listed below are five pairings of chords. Practice switching repeatedly between the chords in each pair. Don't worry too much about speed at this point; your main focus should be that each new chord sound clean.
To finish up, these five chords you've just learned are an important part of a good foundation for any guitar player. In many styles of music, they will be used on a daily basis. In other styles, mastery of them will give you much better chance of success with the chords you will later learn. Do your very best to memorize them, be able to play each one cleanly, and to make a good start in being able to switch between them. Best of luck.