How to Play A Minor Chord on Guitar

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

Why is the Am chord so hard?

The Am 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!

Am Guitar Chord

Easy

The first way to learn the Am chord on guitar is in open position. Meaning, you will use open strings when you strum the guitar. 

First place your 2nd finger (middle) on 4th string 2nd fret.
Place your 3rd finger (ring) on 3rd string 2nd fret,
Place your 1st finger (index) on 2nd string 1st fret.

Be sure you thumb is lined up with fingers 2 & 3. If you thumb is curled or out the outside of your 1st finger your hand wont stretch!

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

How To Strum The A minor chord

To strum the Am guitar chord 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 is a another way to fret the Am chord in this position although i do not recommend this fingering. 

Some players use this fingering due to it being similar to bar chord fingers (more on this later). Their thinking is if they fret it Am chord like this it will make transition to bar chords easier.

While this is true this is not the way to approach learning guitar and is very short sighted.  You don't always play a bar chord after Am and it actually prevents you from quick chord changes, with other Am guitar chord substitutes such as Am/G, Asus2, Asus4 etc etc.

To prevent painting yourself into a corner, avoid this Am chord fingering

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Am Chord Tips

The 1st tip to learning the Am 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!

Guitar Am Chord

Without the barring!

This next position for the Am chord will help prepare you for playing bar chords. To play this example, 
Place your 1st finger on the 5th string 12th fret
Your 3rd finger on the 4th string 14th fret
Your 4th finger on the 3rd string 14th fret
your 2nd finger on the 2nd string 13th fret

I have this diagram labeled to not strum strings 1 or 6. Technically you can because the 1st string and 6th string are tuned to an E note and an E note is part of the Am chord. (more on this later). 

Am Bar Chord Guitar

Now we are going to move on to bar chords and you are going to learn how to play the Am bar chord properly. I am going to guide you through different variations of the Am 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!

This Am chord is just like the variation you learned but now we are going to bar using your 1st finger. Fret it just the same as above but have your index finger lining FLAT and pressing to the side so the 5th and 1st string can ring out. 
 

** 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. 

Here we have another Am bar chord. To fret this chord do the following:
Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string 7th fret
then place your 1st finger across strings 1, 2, & 3 on the 5th fret. 

Have your thumb splitting the difference between your hands and press your first finger to the side so that all the strings ring out. 

When strumming this Am chord, be sure to not strum strings 5 & 6!

The last variation of the Am guitar chord that we are going to cover here is sometimes called the "Em" shape in reference to how the Em chord looks in open position.

If this is confusing don't worry about it. I don't want you to become a "shape" player but it's a common reference so I thought I'd mention it here. To fret this place your 1st finger on the 6th string 5th fret
your 3rd finger on 5th string 7th fret
your 4th finger on 4th string 7th fret 
and then lay your 1st finger down across all the strings. To help leverage I recommend using your 2nd finger to help your 1st finger push down. 

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

Easy Songs That Use Am For Guitar

Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heavens Door
Metallica - The Unforgiven
Tom Petty - Learning To Fly

Am Guitar Chord Progression

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

Am - F -G
C - F - Am - G
Am - C - G 

D - Am  - C - G
Dm - Am - E - Am
Dm - C - Bb - Am

If you need help learning these other chords, click here

What Keys Have An Am Chord? 

Major keys that use an Am chord:
Key of C Major
Key of G Major
Key of F Major

Minor keys that use an Am chord:
Key of Am Minor
Key of Em Minor
Key of Dm Minor

What Are The Notes Of An A Minor Chord?

An Am chord or A  minor chord consists of 3 notes that are derived from the Am 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 minor chord we need the 1st, 3rd and 5th "degrees."

1      2    b3     4     5     b6     b7 
A      B    C      D     E      F       G

All minor chords use the 1, b3, 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 Am chord.

Now you may be wondering, why did you add a "b" (flat) to the 3, 6, and 7? This is beyond the scope of this lesson but for simplicity sake, all minor scales have the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes lowered down a half step.  We'll have other lessons where we'll go in-depth on this. For now lets just stick to the Am chord. 

Now, 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 minor 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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