The A major chord is one of the most commonly used chords in guitar playing, showing up in countless songs in every style. Basically, you need to know how to play it.
By Dan Macy
The A major chord is one of the most commonly used chords in guitar playing, showing up in countless songs in every style. Here's just a short sample of songs that use the A chord: "Desire" by U2, "Yellow" by Coldplay, "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's and R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts." Simply put, if you want to get anywhere with your playing, you must know how to play an A chord.
We're going to help you understand this crucial chord, as well as give you some tips for mastering the A chord and variations on how to play it. It's a pretty simple-looking shape, but it does present some challenges.
Here is the standard way to play an A major chord in the open position:
Strum five strings down from the A string and let the notes ring out. The low E (6th) string is the only string that doesn't get played, but don't worry too much if you accidentally strum it when you're first learning this chord. The E note is part of the A chord, so it won't sound wrong or bad if you do play it. As you practice more you'll be able to easily hit just those five strings and keep the low A string as the bass note.
The biggest problem most players have with the A chord is fitting three fingers together in the span of one fret, which can be a problem if you have large fingers. Focus on keeping your fingers scrunched together and pressing on the strings vertically so only the tips of your fingers and not the pads touch the frets. This will help you play it cleanly.
You might look at the above fingering and realize it doesn't work for you. Don't worry, there is no "right" way to play this chord and there are many variations. The combination of different guitar sizes, neck sizes, and different finger and hand sizes means it's perfectly OK to experiment and find a solution that works for you.
Strum four strings down from the A string. With this version, you don't have to worry about placing three fingers down and it's a much faster fingering. It also helps to wrap your thumb over the top of the neck and mute the 6th string with your thumb.
You can also play the A major chord using a barre chord. The phrase "barre chord" strikes fear into many guitarists because it takes extra finger strength and stamina, but it's worth the effort to learn because once you get it under your belt it becomes a very useful (and moveable!) tool.
Strum all six strings down from the low E string. The good news is with this shape you've not only learned how to play the A chord, you've also learned how to play about a dozen other chords because you can just slide this chord up and down the neck.
The A major chord is one of the main chord shapes in guitar playing. It's essential that you add it to your repertoire. An easy way to practice playing the A chord to get it under your fingers is to work on transitioning between the A chord and either a D chord or E chord. This move occurs frequently in songs that include an A chord because of how these three chords relate to each other in music theory.
You've now opened up a whole new world of musical possibility by getting to know one of the most essential and common chords in guitar music.
If you'd like to learn how to play even more chords, browse Fender Play's chord library, learn about chord types, and find tips on how to master them. And if you're not a member yet, click here for a free Fender Play trial.