How to place the fingers
There are two fundamental things for learning chords: 1) which strings to press down on which frets positions; 2) which fingers that are involved and the placement of them. The first subject is presented in diagrams all over the site, here we focus on the second matter.
Fingerings (finger position)
Fingerings refer here to how you organize your fingers in a chord position. Often this comes natural and in some cases it's almost physically impossible to use more than one specific fingering.
Another thing to have in mind is that there's actually not always one correct fingering for a specific chord, it sometimes depends on the circumstances. There are occasions when it's suitable to have a certain finger free that normally aren't used for that specific chord and the reason is for simplifying the movement to the next chord.
It’s still beneficial to know some general guidelines concerning right fingerings and how to switch between chords.
- Of natural reasons your index finger belongs to the left and to the top on the fretboard (referring to a standard build guitar).
- The little finger is often left out in chords that require three fingers.
- The little finger and index finger are often left out in chords that require only two fingers.
- As often as possible you want to have a free finger in front of the rest (i.e. in the direction to the body of the guitar). This is because you want to have the free finger for your disposal in favor for transitions to sus chords, for using techniques as hammer-ons or for the sake of other embellishments.
If you want to see some chord examples with fingering suggestions, go to easy chords.
Don't mute adjacent strings
To make your guitar playing sound good, it's a must that you play clean. Then playing chords you should always be sure of that all strings are ringing out and not are muffled in any way. It can easily happen that one of your fingers touch an adjacent string and muting it.
To check that all strings ring out from your chord, you can control this by playing one string at a time. By doing this, you will hear if some string is muted because of a finger touching it.
Even among the most common chord this can be a tricky issue. For example C Major in open position, depending on your hand you may be touching the D-string with your ring finger (see picture below).
Try to position the ring finger far from the critical D-string
Another very common chord is G Major in open position. In this case some having difficulties not muting the A-string as their ring finger are touching it (see picture below).
Try to position the ring finger far from the critical A-string
Avoid finger tips pain
Some chord grip makes the fingers tips pointing hard against the strings, for example open D major. If you feel pain when playing guitar one thing to do is to search for alternative chord shapes in cases where the pain is noticeable. Another thing is to change guitar, if that's an option for you; steel strings guitar are much worse than nylon string guitars in this case. If you don't want to change guitar you could avoid pain by special products like Rock-Tips that with help of liquid makes your finger tips harder when you play.
The next thing is to learn now is how to switch between chords.