Welcome to Acoustic Guitar’s Chord by Chord, a series of 62 brief lessons designed to build your fretboard familiarity, chord fluency, and understanding of harmony. From the very start, you’ll be able to apply what you learn here to playing and understanding songs.

You’ll start simply and slowly, learning one new three-note major or minor chord in different positions on the fingerboard in each lesson. Each time you learn a new chord, we’ll show you how to use it in a song. Then you’ll learn to connect two chords at a time, aiming for smooth, relaxed, efficient changes. At this point, we’ll introduce you to diminished chords, which are colorful variations on minor chords.

Next, you’ll explore four-note chords, including dominant and major seventh, ninth, and sus chords, which add tension, ambiguity, and complexity to your music. Finally, you’ll learn common chord progressions using the full range of major, minor, diminished, and four-note chords.

Throughout the series, you’ll find each chord notated in standard notation, tablature, and diagram form. You don’t need to read notation to learn the chords, but if you’d like to learn, see this lesson, which can also be found in Gretchen Menn’s The Way Music Works.


Whether or not you read musical notation, it is important that you understand how to interpret chord diagrams. If this is new to you, not to worry—it’s very easy to learn. Just check out our notation guide, which is free to download here.

Feel free to post comments and questions on each installment. Everyone at Acoustic Guitar is eager to provide feedback and encouragement.

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