Learn to Play D Major Chords Up and Down the Neck | Chord by Chord

Welcome to the third installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your fretboard familiarity and understanding of harmony. Today I’ll show you how to play a D major chord in a few different places on the fretboard, with the note D always at the bottom.

The Work

The D chord is a major triad, made up of three notes: D, the root; F#, the third; and A, the fifth, as shown in Example 1. As I’ve mentioned previously, many chord shapes feature doubled notes. In Example 2, a basic open D chord, you’ll see that there are two Ds: the open D string as the lowest note, as well as the third fret of the B string.


Example 3 shows a second-position D chord, based on the open C shape, moved up two frets. (“Second position” means the chord is built at the second fret.) Here, D is still the lowest note, at the fifth fret of the A string. Moving up to fifth position, in Example 4a we have the most common closed voicing of a D chord, with the lowest D on the fifth fret of the A string.

Other common variations on this shape are Example 4b, where you take away the high E string and play the inside four strings, and Example 4c, using just the top three strings for a very bright voicing of a D chord.


Your last shape, Example 5a, is a barre chord in tenth position, with D as the lowest note at the tenth fret of string 6. This particular voicing is often played with just the top four strings, as shown in Example 5b.

The End Result

And now to put your D in context: Two popular songs in which the chord features prominently are Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” That’s it for this installment on the D chord.

Next time I’ll show some examples of how to move between C and G chords. 

Kate Koenig
Kate Koenig

Kate Koenig is a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and music journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They have been a regular contributor to Acoustic Guitar since 2017.

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