Top Tips For Reading Guitar Chord Charts

One of the best things about learning to play the guitar is that you don’t actually need to be able to ‘read’ music to rock out, but you will need to master guitar chord charts.

Luckily, these charts are far easier to follow than sheet music, and with our top tips for reading guitar chord charts, you’ll be nailing those favourite songs in no time.


Visualise your fretboard

At first, the guitar chord charts can seem a little confusing, but it’s so much easier when you grab your guitar for a closer look. The vertical lines represent the guitar strings, and the frets are the horizontal lines, so hold your guitar neck close to the chords you’re trying to read, and it becomes far easier to visualise the chart.

Know your finger numbers

Getting to grips with which fingers to use takes a little practice, but every chord chart will have a small black or red dot with a number in the middle. The location of the dot shows you where you need to place your finger on the fretboard, but the numbered dot is just as important as it tells you which finger to use.  

Here’s a quick breakdown on which number relates to which finger:

1 – index finger

2 – middle finger

3 – ring finger

4 – little finger

So, what does the ‘T’ stand for?

It’s pretty unusual to find a ‘T’ on a diagram, but it does happen occasionally. The T stands for the thumb, so it might take you a little practice using your thumb if you’ve never done it before.

Alternative fingerings

If the guitar chord you’re trying to play just isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try out some alternative fingerings instead. Sometimes, our fingers simply won’t contort to play the chord specified, so try something different and see how that sounds.

Tips for us lefties

Most guitar chord charts are designed for righthanded guitar players, which makes it a little trickier for left-handed guitar players. To make things easier, flip the chart around and re-visualise the chords again.

Practice makes perfect

Chords are usually provided vertically, but you might come across some horizontal chords from time to time. That’s why it’s always a good idea to practice both vertical and horizontal chord charts as soon as you get your head around the chord chart basics.


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