Let me throw a few songs at you: Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)…Angie (Rolling Stones)…Tribute (Tenacious D)…Californication (Red Hot Chili Peppers)…Breakdown (Tom Petty)…Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)…House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)…
What do all these awesome songs, and so many others, have in common? They’re all in the key of A minor. And since I know you want to play them, you’re going to have to learn how to play an open A minor chord. Fortunately, this is a pretty easy thing to do. (If you already know how to play E major, than playing A minor is so easy it’s almost cheating…)
Fingering the A Minor Chord
You use three fingers to play an A minor chord: Your 2nd finger plays the 2nd fret on the D string. Your 3rd finger plays the 2nd fret on the G string. And your 1st finger plays the 1st fret on the B string.
Difference Between A Minor and E Major
Once you learn A minor, you really get two chords for the price of one because it’s the exact same fingering as the E major chord. The only difference is which strings you put your fingers on, as shown here:
With the E major chord, your fingers are on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings
And for A minor, you do the same fingering, but on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings.
Making It Sound Good
This isn’t a particularly difficult chord, so you just want to follow the same basic guidelines as with other chords. Mostly, make sure you play with the tips of your fingers and don’t let your fingers get in the way of other strings. After you finger the chord with your left hand, play each string one at a time to make sure it sounds good, without any buzzing.
If something sounds wrong, it’s probably a finger getting in the way of a string it’s not supposed to be playing. Also, make sure you’re pressing down hard enough to get a clear sound but not pressing down harder than necessary. And last, make sure you’re letting the high E string ring out clearly and not allowing the first finger to get in its way.
Because of the way the guitar is tuned, certain keys work better on guitar than others. As a result, you’ll find that you’re going to play certain chords more than others. The A minor chord appears a lot in the guitar-friendly keys, so it’s definitely one of the very first essential chords to learn as a beginner. To round out the list of most important beginner chords, make sure you also know how to play E minor, E major, A major, G major, D major, and C major. A good song to practice A minor (along with G, C, and D) is the Bob Dylan classic, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. It’s nice and slow and has the same chord pattern throughout the whole thing. Have fun!