Tutorial Tips – Making the A Major Chord

Hello to all!

We get a lot of emails here at Guitar Noise, as well as those sent to me personally. Naturally, many are questions about playing the guitar! And whenever we get a question that a lot of people ask, it makes a lot of sense to share the answer!

So here is a relatively recent email concerning fingering the A major chord:

Hi David,

I found your lessons through the Gibson web site and had to write and thank you for making them available for free. Though I’ve played guitar since the late 60’s (originally self-taught using chord boxes in a Dylan songbook), only now I’m starting to get serious about learning better technique so I can improve and get more enjoyment and satisfaction from playing. Turning 60 next week, I treated myself to a new Gibson Studio 60s Tribute guitar and Fender Mustang I amp. There’s lots of good tutorials on the web, but I’ve found yours to be about the best. I particularly like the finger picking lessons.

The question I have is about the open A major chord. I taught myself a different finger placement than the standard 2-3-4 that I wondered why wasn’t used more. I place my index finger on the G string, middle on D and ring on B. The advantage of this form is that I can easily and quickly change to open E and D major, keeping the index finger on the G string (sliding down to the first fret for E). I lift off the index finger for the basic A7. I haven’t found any disadvantages, yet, so I’m wondering–am I missing something here? I’d like to know if there’s a downside to my technique. If not, then I’m happy to share it.

Being self-taught, I never had an instructor to correct me, so I’ve probably got lots of bad guitar playing habits – but I’m working to get better. If I’d had access to the resources that exist today on the web back in the 60s-70s, who knows where I’d be…

Thanks for your time,

Hello

Thanks for writing and thank you as well for your kind words concerning my lessons. I hope that the lessons at the Gibson website led you to those at Guitar Noise. That’s where they originally came from, after all, and I think you’ll find the whole website a big help to you.

Our very first Guitar Noise absolute beginners” articles on chords does, in fact, talks about the A chord and I think you’ll find that a lot more people play it your way than you might think! Here’s some of the text:

Now the A chord is another matter. Some guitarists actually have a lot of trouble with this chord. It looks like it should be easy enough, simply press the second fret of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. But that’s exactly where the problem lies. Most people (and a lot of teachers) will tell you to use this fingering:

STRING:1st (high E)2nd (B)3rd (G)4th (D)5th (A)6th (low E)
FINGER:openringmiddleindexopenopen

Personally, I find this very uncomfortable. By some happy accident, I learned the A chord after the E chord. At the time, I was trying like crazy to make as few changes with my fingers on the fretboard as possible and I managed to come up with this:

STRING:1st (high E)2nd (B)3rd (G)4th (D)5th (A)6th (low E)
FINGER:openrightindexmiddleopenopen

I just find it easier to get a better sounding A major chord this way. Not only is it more comfortable for my fingers, but I can switch quickly and easily back and forth between the A, E and D chords (which are the three most common chords when playing songs in
the key of A major). I should mention, though, that I know a number of people (mostly guys with big fingers) who can’t get all three fingers on the second fret no matter what combination they try. Sometimes they resort to playing the A chord by barring the second fret (to “barre” means to lay a finger across all the strings of a fret). In this case, you wouldn’t barre the entire fret, just the first four strings. But here you have to make certain not to play the first string.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that in many classical guitar methods, students are often taught to finger the A major chord by using one finger (usually the middle finger) to lay flat enough to cover the second fret of both the G and D strings and then using another finger (usually the ring finger) to get the C# note at the second fret of the B string.

The point of all this is to show you that there are different ways to play chords. Ultimately, you should use whichever fingering gives you the greatest comfort and ability to switch from one to the next. You may often find yourself learning to play the same chord with different fingerings depending upon the context of the chord progression in which it is used. One has to always take into account both the previous chord and the following chord in whatever song is being played. That’s all part of the fun of the guitar!

Peace

If you’ve got any questions, we at Guitar Noise are always happy to answer them. Just send any of your questions to David at [email protected] He (or another Guitar Noise contributor) may not answer immediately but he will definitely answer!