Guitar Wiki

1 | Lesson 2 | 3

Reading Chord Diagrams | First Chords | Reading Tablature | First Tabs | Mixing it up

What are Chord Diagrams?[]


Vertical Style


Horizontal Style

Chord diagrams make it easy to locate and play chords on the guitar. They come in a few different styles - but generally have a few key features.

  • Chord Name - They generally feature the name of the chord.
  • Lattice - The lattice represents a few frets and all six strings. Generally a 6x3 or 6x4 table.
  • Open Circles - These represent strings that are played without being fretted (no finger is placed on them). These open circles occur at the top or side(see below) of the diagram.
  • X's - If you see an X above or to the far left of a diagram, it means to mute - or not play the string at all. If you haven't figured out already - there are chords that are NOT played with all six strings!
  • O's within Lattice (finger position indicator) - These usually differentiate in some way from the the Open Circles (see E7 below). They represent the frets and strings at which to place your fingers.
  • Numbered Circles within Lattice (finger position indicator) - These are simply way of representing where your fingers are to be placed - but they are a bit more advanced. The numbers represent which finger should be placed where. Number starts at 1 with your index and goes to 4 with your pinky - 5 is your thumb (see diagram below).


The diagrams often differentiate in some ways. Here are a couple of ways.

  • Sometimes the diagrams will contain an X within it's "lattice". These represent the frets and strings at which to place your fingers.
  • Occasionally you may see x's within the lattice that represent finger placement.
  • They may be vertical-style (fretboard perpendicular to floor) or horizontal-style (fretboard parallel to floor). Many people prefer horizontal-style because it is similar to tablature.

Here is a good text-based explanation of how a chord diagram works.

Example 1


x x o    
| | | | | |   *Notice how this chord diagram uses X's to indicate both where to place your fingers, 
-----------   And where to place your fingers.
| | | X | X
| | | | X |   
| | | | | |
1 2 3 4 5 6 <-- This part which shows the string numbers and letters is never included in a chord
E A D G B e     diagram. The Capital E is your thickest string, and the lowercase e is your

As stated before, some chord diagrams are horizontal in nature. Here is an example.


e||---|(3)|---|---| <---Thinnest String
G||---|(1)|---|---|  *Notice how this diagram tells you which fingers to put on which strings. It
D||---|---|---|---|  is horizontal in nature - making it similar to tablature in some respects.
E||---|---|---|---| <---Thickest String

These may be tricky at first but eventually it's like reading this very text.

Why are Chord Diagrams used?[]

You may be more accustomed to seeing music described on staves - four black lines with those circles and lines. While it is possible to express music on staves it's much easier to use chord diagrams, especially for beginners.

What Chord Diagrams will and will not tell you[]