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The Guitar Principles  
The TRUTH about Learning Guitar
The Basics > About Chords > Chord Confusion!

Chord Confusion!

Many of us begin learning guitar by learning the basic guitar chords so that we can play our favorite songs. We soon get a little confused because we see different fingerings for the same chord. We have assumed that the first fingerings we learned were "the way to do the chord", so we wonder what is up!

It seems like this playing the guitar thing is going to be more trouble than we thought! Well, I would like to dispel the clouds of confusion somewhat concerning the chords you will most likely see in your common guitar chord chart. The principle to understand is that the best fingering to use is determined by what comes before and after. It is usually best to use a fingering that takes advantage of a common finger on a note, one that can be left in place when we change chords. That is the concept behind what you will see in the chart below.

It should be understood that the properly developed hand, one that is developed with the Foundation Exercises from "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar" has no trouble doing these, or any other chords.

Here are the chord fingerings most likely to confuse you. You will see, for each one, when it is best to use one fingering over another and why.

Fingering When To Use

when going to:


  • C chord-keep shape of 2 & 3 and move over
  • Em-using 2 & 3
  • B7-hold 2

when going to:


  • D-both chords are in 2nd position
  • Em-using 1 & 2


when going to:


  • C chord-hold 2
  • Am- hold 2
  • A7-(using 2 & 3) - hold 2
  • A-hold 2
  • Full F-place 3 & 4 while holding 2, then place 1 & 2


when going to:


  • C chord-keep shape of 2 & 3 and move over
  • B7-hold 2


Personally, I don't like this fingering, it is too hard to fit the fingers in this space! 1 may not get close enough to the fret, causing a buzz. Use it if you like it, but listen for a buzz!

when going to:


  •  Dm


I use this instead, or the next fingering.

when going to:


  • Am
  • E-place 1 first
  • Em-hold 2
  • Dm-hold 4, slide up 1 fret


when going to:


  • D chord done with 1/2 bar-hold 4 as you slide up, place 2, remove 4.


This is the fingering usually given. Although it is easier for beginners because it uses 3 instead of 4, eventually all players should develop 4 so that it can be used on the 2nd string.

This is because many passages of music require the 3rd finger to be playing bass notes while the chord is held on top. It is quite easy to do this once the fingers are developed using the Foundation Exercises in "The Principles".

Use when 3 is needed for bass notes. We often need it for the C on the 5th string (3rd fret), for example.

When the fingers are properly developed, it is actually easier to use the 4th finger on the 3rd fret than it is to use the 3rd finger. There is more muscle effort to use 3.


Not usually a good choice when playing rhythm. It has no low bass notes, so it sounds thin. It can also be harder to play that the full F bar chord.
This is preferred.

This chord often goes to or follows C. Leave 3 in place, it is common to both chords.

The easier choice. Works fine, but the 7th of the chord, which gives it flavor, is in a low voicing (4th string).
This one sparkles more, because it has the 7th in a high voice (2nd string). It is better for most things, especially blues, where we want that 7th sound very prominent.


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