Should I learn chords by fret name strings or by symbol notes? For example: an A major chord is on the second fret and I must put my left fingers on the D, G and B strings...this is first way.second for playing (A)chord I must catch E,A and C#?

Finally do I learn chords by the name of fret strings (E B G D A E)or by names of the natural and sharp and flat notes?

  • When I started, I used to play a simple progression C-D-E-F-G-A-B from any fret, not moving the hand, just going through the strings and saying each note in my mind; very quickly you start to see the patterns emerge. After that you start to connect them, do one block of the pattern on this position, the other part at an other position, etc. You'd be surprised how quickly you can memorize the fretboard that way
    – Thomas
    Mar 31, 2020 at 12:34

4 Answers 4


At the beginning stages of your journey towards learning to play guitar, your best approach would be to memorize the basic chord shapes (formations) of the chords you want to play. So you know that an A major chord requires you to fret the D G and B strings on the second fret. For now that is all you need to know to play an A chord.

You can build quite a large vocabulary of basic chords in standard tuning by simply memorizing how to play them and putting them into practice. For many years I accompanied my singing by playing songs I loved on guitar, without having any idea what actual notes I was playing. I just knew that to form an Em chord I would fret the A and D string on the second fret and play all six strings. And to play an A major chord ....... etc.

To take my point one step further, I did not even know that the strings I was fretting for an Em were the A and D string, all I needed to know was to fret the next to the fattest string and the one beside that one. The names of the strings or notes I was playing were irrelevant. I just knew that I was playing an Em chord - and that was all the information I needed at the time.

As you advance, if you plan to play with other musicians or experiment with alternate tunings, it will be helpful to start learning which notes you are playing in the chords. But in the beginning, it will suffice to know only what chord you are playing (the name of the chord ie. A minor, G major etc.) and how to finger the various voicings you want to use for each chord.

In other words, you can go a long way in your guitar playing, by learning to associate and memorize the various shapes and formations with the names of the chords you want to play. Then when you look at chord based lead sheets or sheet music with the chords written on top of the staff or above the lyrics, and you see that the chords are G, D and C - you will be able to play the song. You only need to know how to form the chords at first. Knowing which notes you are actually playing, can come later.

Trying to memorize every note at the beginner level, will IMHO - only impede the process of getting to a level where you are deriving enjoyment from playing songs you like. It will make learning the instrument more academic and less fun. So I would encourage you not to worry about memorizing individual notes at this stage, but instead memorize the formations and shapes for the chords.

As you learn the basic open or first position basic chords, you might want to begin to learn alternate voicings and barre chords. With barre chords that are based on the E string or A string, it is helpful to know the root note played on the bass string of the chord so you can easily find the correct fret to barre for a particular chord. Or you can just remember that an E shaped barre chord on the 5th fret is an A chord.

Good luck with your journey. Try to make it as much fun as you can in the beginning. As your passion for guitar and your desire to improve your skills builds, you can start learning more about the notes on the fretboard and how they fit in with the chords.


In general, you should understand both what notes you are playing and how they relate to your specific instrument.

Naming frets on strings alone is easy for beginners and for working with other instruments with the same setup like other guitars and basses, but there are many different instruments that you may want to eventually play with and work with and saying "I'm playing the 4 Fret on the D string" doesn't mean much to other instruments for example a trumpet, but saying "I'm playing an F#" does. It's not that the other instrument can't figure it out, but the standard letter notation is instrument independent.

There's also the issue that comes up on guitar where there are different tunings that different people will use so you referencing a pitch by a fret may be counterproductive if you or someone else is in a different tuning.

For chords, you should just memorize the chord names and symbols. While you can refer to the chords by their shape and fret position, there are many, many ways to play each chord and just saying the symbol should be enough for most people to play some type of that chord.


You'll probably learn the chord names and positions from the frets they are barred on, using mainly 6th and 5th strings. So knowing the notes there will help. The two main shapes are 'E' and 'A' shapes. The chords take their names from the appropriate string, so, for example, an 'A' shape barre chord on the 5th fret (5th string also) plays a D note, which denotes (sic) it's going to make a D chord. An 'E' shape chord on the 8th fret (bottom string, 'cos it's E shape) plays a C, so it's going to be a C chord.

The open chords you'll learn first will just be shapes to remember, don't bother being too fussy about note names - that will come later.

There are other chord shapes which move up and down with barres, but again, they will usually come later. See the CAGED system.

  • Tim- What do you mean by (sic)? Apr 22, 2022 at 18:14

I'll say learn the basic Spanish chords the move on. It's a good idea to lern the chord names like A minor major. The fretboard is more when it comes to like tapping and solos. Notes needs in most cases a music instruction from a professional teacher. They are quite hard to learn. For memory it's a good idea to learn basics from that you can play all most every chord you want by tones on the fret. Like 3 string 3 bar have the same tune as 2 string 8 bar and when you learn that you win get some help like g In bar grib is the same 7 bars down just in higer note. From there its abit more difficult since its just a quick guide it's not garentee that's it's basic

  • Does the Spanish guitar has different chords?
    – harper
    Jul 17, 2015 at 5:03
  • I believe he means chords in Spanish tuning rather than on a Spanish classical guitar. Spanish tuning is another name for the standard E A D G B E tuning on guitar,
    – Jay Skyler
    Jul 17, 2015 at 20:29

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