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E Major Chord
Fig. 1    E Major Chord

Orientation: This type of diagram depicts the guitar neck vertically. The nut is the thick black line at the top of the grid. The grid itself has frets going horizontally and strings going vertically, left to right: E, A, D, G, B, E (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). This means the right-most string in the grid is the skinny E string, the one that is closest to the ground as you play. The left-most string in the grid is the fat E string, the one that is closest to your head as you play. We will refer to the 1st string (skinny) as the top because it is pitchwise. The 6th string (fat) as the bottom. Going up the neck means toward the bridge or toward your picking hand because it is pitchwise. Going down means moving toward the nut.

In this particular example, the 1st finger plays G sharp, 3rd string, 1st fret -just behind and touching actually. On the grid, the 1st fret is the second horizontal line. The first horizontal line is the zero fret. On most guitars there is no zero fret, however on some there is one. This diagram is a simple compramise. The 2nd finger plays B, 5th string, 2nd fret. The 3rd finger plays E, 4th string, 2nd fret.

Strings 6, 2, and 1 are are called open strings because no fingers are holding them down. They are still played notes (played by the right hand - strummed , picked, or whatever) that are part of the chord.

Notice that E, 4th string, 2nd fret has a square around it. This is the root of the chord - its namesake. The sound of the chord centers around this note. Notice that in the notation for the chord, we have all the notes of the chord, open and closed (held down with fingers) and they are from lowest to highest (left to right in the diagram) E, B, E, G#, B, E. All of these notes make up the E Major chord.

A Major D Major
Fig. 2   A Major Fig. 3    D Major

In Figure 3 you will notice two "X"'s at the nut. This indicates that these strings are not to be played. What that means is, as you are strumming the guitar with your pick holding hand, you purposely avoid striking the 6th and 5th strings.

Try the progression A, D, E, D. This is used in a lot of songs: Wild Thing, La Bamba, Loui-Loui, etc.. In order to begin hearing this as a song, try playing each chord just once rather than the four strums per bar that each chord would typically receive. To see the progression notated, click here.

One way to speed up this particular chord progression is to slide fingers which are common to each chord. For example, moving from A major to D major the third finger is on the second string for both chords therefore play A major, lift the first and second fingers up, slide the third finger up one fret (to the third fret), put the first and second fingers back down where they belong, and play D major. Practice this back and forth many, many times. Moving D major to E major, lift the second and third finger up, slide the first finger down to the first fret, put the second and third fingers down where they belong, and play E major.

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