How to Play A Chord on Guitar

On this page I am going to show you 5 ways for how to play the A chord on guitar. 
I'll show you the easiest way to play the A chord in open  position as well as  a few ways to play the A bar chord. We'll also get into popular chords that go with A, popular songs that use the A chord, and what notes are used to make up the chord. 

Why is the A chord so hard?

The A chord is actually pretty easy compared to other chords - however, it can be really frustrating if you do not have good guitar technique as your hands will not work properly if this is the case. We'll discuss this below as well as tips and tricks to learn it faster!

How To Play The A Major Chord For Beginners

Here is the best way to fret the A major chord:

First place your 2nd finger (middle) on 4th string 2nd fret.
Place your 3rd finger (ring) on 3rd string 2nd fret,
Place your 4th finger (pinky) on 2nd string 2nd fret.

You will have to squeeze all your fingers on to this fret so make sure your pinky is up against the fret. 

Notice that this is similar to the fingerings for A minor and E minor.


Not sure on how to read a chord diagram? Click here

While there are other fingerings for the A chord, the fingers above are best because:
1. The 2nd and 3rd fingers will also be used for other chords e.g. A minor, E major, and E minor. Which means you will reinforce other chords with this fingering.
2. You need to fit 3 fingers into one fret space so using the pinky (smallest finger) is best.
3. Suspended chords such as: Asus2 and Asus4 are often used to bounce back and forth quickly with a simple 1 finger change. This fingering makes this simple.

How To Strum The A chord

To strum the A major chord  above without strumming string 6  you can have your fret hand thumb come up and over the neck just barely so that it touches the 6th string. This way if you accidentally strum the string it wont ring out. 
Another way is to lightly rest your wrist on the bridge of your guitar just before you strum. This will help you feel where your picking hand is so you can skip the 6th. This will take some practice to do quickly without looking. 


I recommend practicing both!

Here are 2 other fingers that are very popular - however it is highly encouraged to not use these fingerings.

Players often use this fingering to avoid using their pinky but there really isn't any benefit to using the fingering but a lot of detriment for things that come later
Train your pinky!

The reason  some players like this fingering is because it makes transiting to an E major chord easy.  While this is true this is not the way to approach learning guitar and is very short sighted.  You don't always go from A to E or E to A but you need to be able to seamlessly transition to any chord from any where.

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A Chord Tips

The 1st tip to learning the A chord is to first learn E minor. The fingering for Em provides the backbone for the A chord but only uses 2 fingers making it easier. 
The 2nd tip is to to make sure your thumb is behind your first and second fingers. You don't want your thumb on the outside of your index finger as this will cause your hand to not be able to stretch or work properly.

 
The 3rd tip is for bar chords. When playing bar chords and your index finger (1st finger) needs to do execute the bar you want to apply pressure to the side of your finger. If you squeeze directly in your finger will bend and the strings on your knuckles wont ring out!

How To Play The A Chord Without The Bar

Here we have the A bar chord in a different variation than open position without the bar.  If you can make smooth transitions with this example this is a great stepping stone to doing a bar chord.
When strumming this variation, either hold strings 1 & 2 with your picking hand or if you are needing to strum up and down be sure raise the pick up so you don't pluck strings 1 & 2

How To Play The A Major Bar Chord 

Now we are going to move on to bar chords and you are going to learn how to play the A bar chord properly. I am going to guide you through different variations of the A bar chord with easy variation getting progressively harder. 

Just so we are clear, when you use one finger to press multiple strings this is called a  bar chord or sometimes spelled barre chord. 

Lets get started!

These first two A bar chords are quite similar so lets look at them side by side

To play this variation of the A bar chord, use your index finger on 5th string 12th fret and lay your 3rd finger (ring) across strings 2-4 on the 14th fret.  

* Remember to have your thumb splitting the difference with your index and ring finger and keep your 2nd joint on your ring finger high so it can SCOOP and lay flat. 
 

Yes the 2nd example is much trickier as you are performing 2 bars! Your index will need to bar the 12th fret while your ring finger is barring the 14th fret! Not only does this make it a bit trickier but you'll have to make sure your technique is on point so that your ring finger doesn't touch the 1st string. Both are correct but this example you'll be getting a bit more top end on the sound from the 1st string 12th fret.

How To Play the A bar chord hard

Ok, so you're ready to tackle the last version of the A bar chord. 

To play an A major bar chord on the 6th string, place your first finger on the 6th string 5th fret, your ring finger on the 5th string 7th fret, your 4th finger on the 4th string 7th fret, and your 2nd finger on the 3rd string  6th fret. 
You've already learn this above! Now, all you need to do is squeeze your thumb which is right behind your 2nd finger and then lay your 1st finger down on its side and press it sideways. 
 

** Note, even though I break down the fingerings 1 by 1, to play chords properly and make smooth transitions this all must be done with ONE motion. 

Now you know how to play the A major chord! 👊
Scratch that, you are like an A chord pro as you know a lot of ways to play the A chord on guitar!

Easy Songs That Use A Major

Dire Straits - Sultan's Of Swing
3 Doors Down - Kryptonite
Guns And Roses - Patience

A Major Chord Progression Guitar

Here's a few chord progressions that sound great that use the A chord. Feel free to change up the orders and experiment with the sounds!

A - D - E
E - B - A
D - G - A 

F#m - A - F#m - E
C#m - B - A - B
Bm - A -  G - C

If you need help learning these other chords, click here

What Keys Have An A Major Chord? 

Major keys that use an A major chord:
Key of A Major
Key of E Major
Key of D Major

Minor keys that use a A major chord:
Key of F# Minor
Key of C# Minor
Key of Bm Minor

What Are The Notes Of An A Major Chord?

An A chord or A major chord consists of 3 notes that are derived from the A major scale.
  A   B   C#   D      F#   G#

When you number the notes of a scale they are called SCALE DEGREES. So to make an A major chord we need the 1st, 3rd and 5th "degrees."

1     2    3     4    5     6      7 
A    B   C#   D   E    F#   G#

All major chords use the 1, 3, and 5 notes of a their corresponding scale. 

When these 3 notes are being played harmonically (played at the same time) you are playing an A major chord.

Notice from the chord diagrams, ONLY the notes A, C#, and E are being used. If you have another note such as a D note or a G not it is no longer an A major chord!

That being said, you can have multiple A, C#, or E notes as show in the chord diagrams. Try playing the chords but only strum a few of the notes. Notice the chord will sound "thin" if there are only one of each note. By adding in more of the same notes you make the chord have more depth. You may even think of it as a darker or lighter shade of the same color.

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