How To Play The A Chord

Time to learn another chord! The next one we’ll learn is the A chord. Once you know A and D, there are some fun songs you can play using just these two chords.

Most people will still find it takes them ages to get their fingers in the right places to play these chords and your fingertips will probably be a bit sore. That's normal, and we'll chat more about that shortly!

Time For The A Chord

Check out the chord box below and make sure you understand what it means. All of your fingers are in the 2nd fret and you won't be playing the thickest string. Check the finger order, too. Rather than having them lined up 1 – 2 – 3, they’re actually arranged 2 – 1 – 3 from top to bottom.

Fingering Options

The traditional approach, which I’ve taught for many years, uses Fingers 1, 2, and 3 all in a row in the second fret. I think the fingering shown, 2 – 1 – 3, is far superior for a number of reasons. Primarily, it allows two of the fingers to get right close to the frets, which is important when it comes to getting the best sound possible with the least amount of work. It also helps a lot with your chord changes, especially when using an anchor finger (more on that shortly!).

Put your fingers down one at a time, in finger order. 1st finger is placed on the 3rd string; then your 2nd finger on the 4th string; and finally your 3rd finger on the 2nd string. The 1st (thinnest) and 5th strings are played open, and you don't play the thickest (6th) string.

A quick note… I would strongly recommend NOT getting into using a mini-barre (using just one finger to press down all the notes of the chord) at this stage (in case you have seen it somewhere else). It is a cool technique to use later, but for learning chord changes, getting your finger positions correct, and above all, toughening your fingers up, you are best off starting with the A fingering shown here.

Common Problems

This chord can take a bit of adjustment to get right, as is the case with everything you learn on guitar. It will take some practice and patience, but if you put in the time you'll jump to it more easily and quickly than you probably think!

When practicing this chord, do your Chord Perfect Practice. Here are some things to look out for.

  • Check that Finger 3 is not touching the thinnest string.
  • Check that your fingers are pressing hard enough to get all the notes sounding out clearly.
  • Remember that Finger 1 will have to press a little harder than the other two because it is furthest from the fret.
  • Check that your left-hand palm is not touching the neck. Your thumb should be around the middle of the back of the neck.
  • Make sure your forearm is not touching your leg!

Audio Example

You can use this audio clip to check that your chord is sounding cool.

Finger Pain

It's normal at this stage for your fingers to be hurting really badly, for notes not to be coming out clearly, and for you to feel as though you might never get it. Pretty much everyone gets that feeling when they start off - I sure did! Just stick with it. It just takes practice.

I'm going to give you some tips and tricks to help you get through your practice without them hurting so much, but there is a certain amount of pain that you will just have to deal with!

When your fingers are not yet toughened up, the soft pads of your fingertips spread out and touch the strings in places they shouldn't. Sometimes you won't even be able to press down hard enough to get a good note. Don't worry about it—it will come—it's just going to need a few more hours of pain to get to the point where it no longer hurts.