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How To Read A Guitar Chord Diagram

If you want to learn new chords, chord diagrams are your best friend!

Chord diagrams are extremely useful and are simple to read. 

Reading A Guitar Chord Diagram

Chord diagrams are a visual description of where to put your fingers to make a chord. They’re essentially a picture of a guitar fretboard showing all 6 strings. Guitar chord diagrams also have helpful markings to show you where to fret each note.

Take a look at the G chord diagram below. The 6 vertical lines represent the guitar strings. The 6th string (low E string) is on the far left and the 1st string (high E string) is on the far right.

The top bold horizontal line represents the guitar nut. If the chord is played higher on the fretboard you might see an indication that the top line is another fret instead and not bold.

If you’re new to guitar and not sure about all these terms check out Guitar Anatomy | Parts of a Guitar.

Every horizontal line after that represents frets, just like on your guitar. Each of the circles with a number in it are the specific notes you’ll fret. The numbers are the fingers you should use. So on the 6th string, you’ll play the 3rd fret with your middle (2nd) finger.

The small circles behind the nut mean it’s an open string. If there were an “X” it would mean that you don’t play that string.

So taking a look at the chord diagram, try to make the chord. 

A picture is worth a thousand words...

If I was to put this into words here’s what it would look like. Can you see how much simpler and quicker it is to use chord diagrams?

1st String - Fret the 3rd fret with your pinky

2nd String - Fret the 3rd fret with your ring finger

3rd String - Open

4th String - Open

5th String - Fret the 2nd fret with your index finger

6th String - Fret the 3rd fret with your middle finger

(If you’re having trouble playing this G chord, check out this step by step lesson.)

Is This The Same As A Chord Chart?

The guitar world is a little funny. You’ll often see a single term refer to multiple things. A chord diagram is a snapshot of the fretboard with the notes and fingering to use. This is what we’ve been looking at here.

Sometimes you’ll also hear these referred to as a chord chart. Only sometimes though. Most of the time when people look for chord charts they’re learning a song. In that case, the term chord chart is basically a simplified version of sheet music (see example below). We’ll save these for another lesson 🙂

Does reading a chord diagram make more sense now? Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about chord diagrams!

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