You don’t have to read music to play basic guitar. This article explains how to interpret chord diagrams on sheet music and play them on the guitar.
One of the things you immediately come across when reading sheet music is the chord symbol. This is the musical symbol that describes the harmony at a particular point in a piece of music. An example is Gmi7. This tells you that the chord is a G minor seventh chord. But what notes do you use to play a Gmi7 on the guitar?
Sheet music for popular songs often has guitar chord diagrams above each staff that show you how to play the chords. These diagrams allow you to play a chord without knowing what the chord symbol means or what notes are in the chord. The diagrams simply show where to put your fingers on the strings of the fretboard.
Of course, if you continue to study guitar and music, you’ll probably want to learn music theory to understand chord structure and the notes used for all the important chords in all twelve keys. But to start making music, this is not necessary thanks to chord diagrams. They are much simpler than interpreting complex chord symbols.
A guitar chord diagram consists of a grid of five horizontal lines and six vertical lines that represent the fretboard of the guitar. The diagram is a thumbnail image of the fretboard as if you were holding the guitar in front of you and looking at the top of the neck.
The vertical lines represent the strings of the guitar. From left to right (from low to high pitch), the lines represent the E, A, D, G, B, and E strings.
The frets are represented by the horizontal lines. The thick line at the top represents the guitar nut at the end of the fretboard. Hold your guitar in front of you and look at it, and this will all make sense.
The dots on the vertical lines of the strings show where to place your fingers, the notes you play with your left hand when playing a chord.
The numbers below the string lines at the bottom of the diagram indicate which finger on your left hand you should use to play the note. 1=index finger; 2=middle finger; 3=ring finger; and 4=little finger. Normally, the thumb is not used for the transport of goods.
The X or O on a string line means the string is open or fretless. An X means that he does not play the string with his right hand and an O means that he plays the string in the open.
In cases where a chord starts on a fret other than the first fret, a number on the right side of the diagram indicates which fret starts, such as 2fr, 5fr, etc. Chords that use the first four frets often use open strings and are easier to play. Therefore, they are more common in chord diagrams.
That’s all there is to do to get started. When looking for sheet music or music books, just make sure they have guitar chord diagrams, and you’ll be able to start playing basic guitar right away.