How to Play a G Chord on Guitar


The G chord is one of the first chords we learn when we begin playing guitar.

Mastering the G chord will help any guitarist explore various styles of music. It’s an essential chord shape for any budding guitarist, as we find it in genres such as blues, rock, folk, and classical.

 

So what is the G chord? And why is it important?

What is a G Chord?

 

The image to the left is a G major chord.

When we listen to major and minor chords, we can hear that each one has a different quality, or feel.

Major chords sound ‘happy’. Minor chords are usually described as ‘sad’. These terms allow us to hear the difference between the two.

Chord Naming: Major, Maj or Neither

A major chord does not always have the word ‘major’ in its name.

You may see the G Major chord written as G Major, or G Maj for short, but often we drop the “major” and just call it G.

Minor, Min, or m?

A minor chord always includes the word ‘minor’ in its name to differentiate it from the major. This could be abbreviated. So we can write G minor as G min, or Gm, but never G.

How to Play the G Chord on Guitar

Guitarists often learn new chords from chord diagrams. A chord diagram is a useful tool that tells us where to place our left-hand fingers, and on which strings.

HOW TO READ A GUITAR DIAGRAM

If you have never seen a chord diagram, take a minute to look at the one shown below. It represents the guitar neck (as if the guitar was standing upright in front of you.) Study the instructions. Being able to read these will open up a whole new world of music – and save you so much time in the future.

The left-hand fingers are numbered 1–4. 1 is the index or pointer finger. And 4 is the little finger.

classical guitar left hand

Left hand finger numbers

Guitar Chord TABs Diagram

How to read a guitar diagram

With your new knowledge of chord diagrams, let’s take a look at the G Chord.

Steps to Play a G Chord:

G Major Chord

The G Chord

  • Step 1: Place Finger 1 on the 2nd fret of the 5th string (a string).
  • Step 2: Place Finger 2 on the 3rd fret of the 6th string (low e string).
  • Step 3: Place Finger 3 on the 3rd fret of the 1st string (high e string).
  • Finger 4 – We do not use it.

This is the most common G Chord shape (aka open g chord).

The other strings (2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings) are open, hence why we call this “open position.” We do not need to place any fingers on these strings. We only have to pluck or strum the strings and let them ring.

We can place the right-hand thumb on the 6th string (low e string) and strum towards the floor.

Getting your 3rd finger onto its tip might feel a little awkward. But with a little practice, it’ll begin to feel like second nature. Always try to get your left hand in the best position.

Alternate Fingering

If you find it a struggle when first learning how to play the G chord on guitar, don’t fret. This is normal.

On guitar, we can use different fingers to play the same chord. We call this an alternate fingering.

This one uses two fingers on the top of the chord shape, for a slightly brighter sounding g chord.

G Major Chord alternative fingering

The G Chord using fingers 1, 2, 3, and 4

To the right is an example of the G chord with an alternate fingering.

  • Step 1: Place Finger 1 on the 2nd fret of the 5th string (a string).
  • Step 2: Place Finger 2 on the 3rd fret of the 6th string (low e string).
  • Step 3: Place Finger 3 on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string (b string).
  • Step 4: Place Finger 4 on the 3rd fret of the 1st string (high e string).

The other strings (3rd and 4th strings) are open. We do not need to place any fingers on these strings.

With our right hand, we can place our thumb on the 6th string (low e string), and strum towards the floor.

There are other chord shapes that we can use to play the G Chord. Similar shapes, and simpler shapes. But these two are the most common ways to play the g chord on guitar.

 

G Minor Chord

The G minor chord (also written Gm) is easier to play for some people. Below is the diagram for the G minor chord.

If you already know the A chord, you may recognize this is the same shape.

G Minor chord diagram

The G Minor Chord

Steps to play an Gm chord:

  • Step 1: Place Finger 2 on the 3rd fret of the 3rd string (g string).
  • Step 2: Place Finger 3 on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string (b string).
  • Step 3: Place Finger 4 on the 3rd fret of the 1st string (high e string).
  • The 4th string is open. We do not need to place any fingers on this string.
  • The 5th and 6th strings are not played.
  • With our right hand, we can place our thumb on the 4th string, and strum towards the floor.

Give the G minor chord a few strums and get it to sound as clean as possible. Don’t worry if you get a few buzzes.

It’s tricky fitting those fingers on one fret. You could try it with fingers 1, 2 and 3 if you prefer.

Again, there are other chord shapes that we can use to play the G Minor Chord. Similar shapes, and simpler shapes. But the above is the most common.

Fretting Hand Position

The shape of our fretting hand is important, whether we’re playing a G chord shape, a G Minor chord shape, or other chords. A good wrist and hand position helps us to reach and enables us to play more with ease and consistency.

The ideal left-hand position is the C shape. This shape allows for freedom of movement and stretch. It helps keep our fingers clear of strings we don’t want to depress.

left hand shape perfect guitar

The neutral left-hand “C” shape

As a general rule, the best wrist position hovers our big knuckles parallel to the side of the fretboard. This keeps all four fingers over the strings.

An exception is when we have more than one finger on the same fret. We can then tilt the wrist. This change of position brings our fingertips more in line with the fret. And this makes it easier to keep each finger in the sweet spot just behind the fret.

left hand thumb perfect guitar

Left hand with tilt in the wrist

We must remember to return to the original position when we shift to new chords or notes.

Barre Chords

Note for beginners: Feel free to skip this section. You can return to it later if you choose.

The most common chords all use open strings (aka open position). But there are many chords that do not call for open strings. For these, we may use a bar chord.

A bar (barre) chord substitutes the first finger for the nut (fret zero) of the guitar. The first finger lays across two or more strings, while the other fingers fret other notes. This allows us to play chords all over the guitar neck.

Once we learn a small number of bar chord shapes, we can play many different songs in various genres.

Bar chords can be difficult, especially at first. They can fatigue the fretting hand quickly. And we can mute strings by mistake or get unwanted buzzing sounds.

One of the most common issues with bar chords is excess tension. We tend to press too hard. Over time this may damage the muscles in the finger and lead to injury.

But with the right technique, we can play bar chords more easily.

A popular version of the G chord is the bar chord on the 3rd fret.

G major bar chord on 3rd fret of guitar

G major bar chord at the 3rd position

Selective pressure will help with any bar chord. This means paying close attention to which strings we press for a given chord. Then we can press with more appropriate pressure where we need it, and avoid pressing too hard where we don’t.

Sometimes it helps to think of levering the first finger toward the fretboard, rather than squeezing it towards the thumb.

How to Combine the G Chord with a Right-Hand Pattern

The plucking hand controls the music we make on our guitar. It’s the power house. We use it to create different sounds and textures.

classical guitar right hand fingers

RIGHT HAND FINGER NAMES

Learning interesting right-hand patterns is a great musical and technical exercise. It builds dexterity and control.

First, we call the right-hand fingers:

  • P – Thumb
  • I – Index
  • M – Middle
  • A – Ring Finger
  • C – Little Finger (Pinky)

The PIMA Pattern

One common pattern is PIMA (thumb, index, middle, ring). The PIMA pattern appears in many different styles of music.

First, form the G chord with the left hand.

Then with the right hand, prepare the I,M, and A fingers on strings 3, 2 and 1. The thumb prepares to play the 6th string.

Here are the steps for the PIMA right-hand fingerpicking pattern:

  • P (thumb) plays the 6th string.
  • I (index) plays the open 3rd string.
  • M (middle) plays the open 2nd string.
  • A (ring) plays the 1st string.
  • Repeat the pattern in a steady rhythm.
  • The thumb (P) can alternate between the 6th and 5th strings for a nice variation.

Another common pattern played with chords is the “outside-in” fingerpicking pattern.

Classical Guitar Technique for More Effective Right-Hand Ability

Right-hand positioning and patterns are important for a good classical guitar technique. We have proven methods of form, positioning, and movement. And these make fluid and beautiful playing possible.

Much of classical guitar technique is non-intuitive. So self-learners may miss ways to make playing easier and more graceful.

If you’d like to play guitar with power and ease, consider The Woodshed® Classical Guitar Program.

Members go step-by-step from the beginning, or they can fill any gaps in their current abilities. And this means they quickly hear themselves playing smooth, effortless music. Click here to explore the option.

What is a G Chord? (Here Comes The Theory)

Music theory is a tool that can help us better understand music. Theory explains how notes and chords work together to create the music we know and love.

Do we need to learn music theory? No. At least not as beginners. It’s more important to practice changing between chords. All the background knowledge can come later if you want.

However if you want to explore the theory of chords right now, read on.

Musical alphabet and the notes of the G chord

The musical alphabet uses only the notes named A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

We can raise or lower the pitch of these notes. In music, we call this making a note sharp (raising) or flat (lowering).

find sharp keys

Sharps

 

find the key in flat keys music

Flats

  • On the guitar, we sharpen a note by moving one fret higher (towards the guitar body)
  • To flatten a note, we move one fret lower (towards the guitar head)

In all, this gives us 12 notes. These same 12 notes repeat going higher and/or lower. Think of the same pattern of black notes (groups of two and three) repeating up the length of a piano.

A piece of music rarely uses all 12 notes. Instead, we limit the notes to a key. A key in music is a unique collection of just seven notes.

The Key of G

The key of G, for example, contains the notes:

G A B C D E F# G

G Major Guitar Scale Chart

G Major Scale

This is the G major scale. To create the G chord, we take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes from this group of notes. So the notes in the G chord are G, B, and D.

We can play these notes in any combination all over the fretboard. As long as we play these notes together, we are playing a G chord (or just G chord).

The most common version we see is the open G chord that we looked at earlier. This version has three Gs, two Bs, and one D. The note under our 2nd finger on the 6th string is G. This is the lowest note.

G Major Chord

The G Chord

It is the G note which gives the chord its name, and it’s known as the root. It makes the chord sound stable and complete.

To learn more about the relationship between chords and scales, check out this article.

Chords that sound good with the G major chord

The most common chords played with the G chord are:

  • C Major Chord
  • D Major Chord
  • D7 Chord
C major chord on guitar

C major chord

D major chord on guitar

D major chord

D7 chord on guitar

D7 chord on guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Other chords that sound good with the G major chord are:

  • Am Chord
  • Bm Chord
  • Em Chord
A minor chord on guitar

A minor chord

B minor chord on guitar

B minor chord

E minor chord on guitar

E minor chord

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can find notes in all these chords within the G major scale. The chords can appear in any order and for any duration, depending on the piece or song.

One of the best skills we can learn as guitarists is how to switch quickly between chords.

Chord Progressions

A chord progression is one chord moving to another chord. Most songs in western music follow a chord progression.

Chord progressions can be as few as two chords, or can include several.

Here are two common chord progressions:

12 bar blues progression in G major

12 bar blues in G major

12-Bar Blues Progression in G Minor

12-Bar Blues in G Minor

You can also create your own songs or pieces by putting together chords in any way you like. It’s a fun way to practice your changes.

Popular Pieces With the G Major Chord

The G chord pops up everywhere in songs and pieces of music. From Albeniz to Bach, from The Beatles to Oasis, the G chord is used across time, culture, and genre.

  • “Asturias (Leyenda)” by Isaac Albéniz
  • “Etude No. 1” by Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • “La Catedral” by Agustín Barrios Mangoré
  • “Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios” (“El Ultimo Tremolo”) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré
  • “Prelude in D” by J.S. Bach
  • “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Wonderwall” by Oasis
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
  • “Let It Be” by The Beatles
  • “Hotel California” by Eagles
  • “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
  • “Yesterday” by The Beatles
  • “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
  • “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 


I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.





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