A Chord Guitar – How to Play the A Chord

Once you have a few chords down such as your D chord, B minor chord, or possibly even G major, it’s time to start laying it on with your guitar learning journey and get another great, easy chord for beginners under your belt: the A chord. 

Now, when you’re starting to learn chords it’s normal for your fingers to be sore and develop small calluses. These are badges of honor in your guitar journey, so keep playing and feel proud (even if it hurts at first, keep pushing through the pain and learn more and more).

How to Play the A Chord on Guitar

This chord may be easier than others that you’ve already learned because all of your fingers will be on the second fret!

a chart showing the a guitar chord finger placement

Now, there are a few different positions you can put your fingers in on the second fret that will play the same chord on the guitar. There exists a “new way” to play the A chord on guitar which has finger placement slightly different than what is typical. I recommend you play guitar with this newer method as it’s easier on your fingers and easier to quickly achieve position (which means playing other chords and transitioning to the A chord can become easier with this method).

Here is a step by step approach to finger placement for the A guitar chord (new method):

  1. Place your first finger (index) on the third string.
  2. Then, put your second finger (middle) on the fourth string.
  3. Next, place your third finger on the second string.
  4. Place all strings except for the sixth string. The first and fifth strings are played open.

The newer method, as I already mentioned, is my preferred method. You can also take the more traditional approach to the chord by putting your first, second, and third fingers in a row on the second fret. 

What’s important is that whichever method, traditional or new, that you decide to play the A chord, you need to stay consistent with the finger placement. As discussed in previous articles on learning guitar, you need to practice over and over again in order to develop muscle memory with your guitar. If you’re mixing up the muscles that have certain chords memorized, then it’s only going to be harder for you to learn to play well. 

Now, if you’re an advanced player, then you should be able to choose either method of playing. If you’re just starting out, choose one method and stick with it.

Try next: The F#m chord on guitar

Some Common Issues

While it’s one of the essential basic guitar chords that you should learn as a beginner, it can still take some time to really get the hang of it. When you’re just starting out, you may not even know how to hold the guitar properly or how to do things like tune your guitar up properly. 

As with all intricacies of the guitar and playing it properly, practice will make perfect. If you spend time everyday doing repetition of this chord you will become much, much better at it. Before you get started practicing all out though on your a chord, consider some of the following issues so that you’re prepared for any potential setbacks:

  • Ensure that your third finger is not touching the first string (it can be difficult to only hold down one string when your hands aren’t used to awkward positions on the guitar neck). 
  • Always apply a good level of pressure on each string your finger is holding down. This will ensure you get a nice, crisp sound every time you play the chord.
  • The further strings will usually be harder to hold down. Be sure that the fourth string has just the right amount of pressure down on it.
  • Use your thumb for stability on the back of the neck. Try not to use your palm as this will often times lead to inconsistently in your ability to achieve proper chord execution.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room – Finger Pain!

If you’ve picked up the guitar recently and have started learning some new chords, chances are your fingertips are getting massively callused. As I addressed above, this is something of a rite of passage for guitarists that you must get used to. Keep practicing and making improvements in your skill set as well as execution, and soon the pain on your fingertips will dissipate and you’ll start to become a real guitarist!

It’s also normal to not be able to consistently execute the note through many sets of repetition. Your hands will get easily fatigued and you haven’t really established the muscle memory yet with your fingers and mind to where playing the a chord (or any chord) on the guitar is an autopilot action. Almost everyone is inconsistent in the beginning, so try not to get discouraged from setbacks or a seeming lack of progress. 

Remember this: A year will pass and, if you’ve been practicing guitar consistently, you’ll laugh at the beginner guitarist that you used to be as you smoothly glide across chords and sheets of tablature that you’ve mastered.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does finger placement matter on the second fret?

It does and it doesn’t. You’ll want to be consistent with how you place your fingers on the fret (at least as a beginner), and really focus on being able to apply consistent pressure to each string as you play the note in repetition.

Should I learn this chord first as a beginner?

Guitar teachers will usually teach simple chords such as the A chord to beginners. If you’re learning on your own, you may want to try this chord and the D chord to really start to get the hang of playing the guitar.

Is finger pain normal?

Absolutely. When first learning guitar your fingertips will get callused and hurt. This is a good sign that you’re putting in the work so keep going!

How should I start practicing the chord?

Do four beats of the chord and then one beat off (take your fingers off the strings for the off beat). Then place your fingers back on the strings. This will help you get used to quickly placing your fingers on the correct strings, as well as improve your overall rhythm with playing chords.

Try Out These Chords:

Master the B Flat Major Chord

A Minor Chord

F major (hard and rewarding)

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