How to Play the A Major Chord on Guitar

01
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A Major Chord (Open Position)

A major chord in open position
A major chord in open position.

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

The A major chord is typically one of the first chords guitarists learn to play. As is the case with any major chord, the A major chord is made up of three different notes - A, C♯ and E. Although you may strum more than three strings at once when playing an A major chord, those extra notes will only either be A, C♯ or E.

Fingering This A Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the second fret of the fourth string
  • place your second finger on the second fret of the third string
  • place your first finger on the second fret of the second string

When playing an A major chord in the traditional "open position", you'll usually want to avoid strumming the open sixth string (although the low sixth string is an E, and technically part of the A major chord, it sounds unusual as a low bass note in this chord shape). Play the open first string.

Alternate Fingering for This A Major Chord

Some guitarists feel uncomfortable with the fingering outlined above. To fret the above shape a different way:

  • place your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string
  • place your first finger on the second fret of the third string
  • place your first finger on the second fret of the second string

Another Alternate Fingering This A Major Chord

You'll also very regularly see guitarists use a single finger to play an A major chord. To try this:

Sometimes, when the A major chord is fingered this way, the first open string is not played. Although the resulting chord sounds less full, it is still considered to be an A major chord, as the omitted note "E" already appears on the fourth string, second fret.

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and flatten the finger so it also holds down the second fret on both the third and second strings.

02
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A Major Chord (Based on G Major Shape)

A major chord based on a G major shape
A major chord based on a G major shape.

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

Here is a different way to play an A major chord based on the open G major chord shape. To better understand this, try playing a standard G major chord. Now, slide all your fingers up two frets, so your second finger is on the fifth fret. Because you've moved the other notes in the chord, you'll also need to move the open strings up two frets. So, you'll need to re-align your fingers so that your first finger takes over the role of the guitar nut.

Fingering This A Major Chord

  • place your fourth finger on the fifth fret of the sixth string
  • place your third finger on the fourth fret of the fifth string
  • place your first finger on the second fret of the fourth, third and second strings

If you're having a hard time getting your first finger to hold down all three strings, try gently rolling your finger back, so your knuckle points very slightly in the direction of the nut. The side of your finger should do a better job of fretting multiple strings at once.

Hopefully, you can see the G major shape in this different fingering for the A major chord. This new shape makes it difficult to hold down the fifth fret on the first string which would complete the G major chord shape. That note has been omitted here, although you should feel free to try and add it yourself by adjusting your fingering on the chord shape.

This chord shape has the chord root A on the sixth string. To learn how to apply this same shape to play other major chords, you'll want to memorize the notes on the sixth string.

03
of 05

A Major Chord (Based on E Major Shape)

A major chord based on an E major shape
A major chord based on an E major shape.

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.​

This A major chord shape is based on a standard open E major chord shape. Guitarists familiar with barre chords will know this as the standard major chord shape with the root on the sixth string. If you're not able to immediately recognize the E major shape within the A major chord shown here, try fingering an E major chord. Now, slide all your fingers up so your second and third fingers are resting on the seventh fret. Now, because the other notes in the chord have moved, you'll need to "move" the open strings, by using your first finger to take the part of the nut.

Fingering This A Major Chord

  • place your third finger on the seventh fret of the fifth string
  • place your fourth finger on the seventh fret of the fourth string
  • place your second finger on the sixth fret of the third string
  • flatten your first finger across the fifth fret of all six strings

If you've never played this chord shape before, it's going to be a while before you can get this A major chord shape to sound good. Keep at it - this is one of the most widely used barre chord shapes, so you're going to have to master it.

This chord shape has the chord root A on the sixth string. To learn how to apply this same shape to play other major chords, you'll want to memorize the notes on the sixth string.

04
of 05

A Major Chord (Based on D Major Shape)

A major chord based on a D major shape
A major chord based on a D major shape.

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

This is a less common A major chord shape based on a standard open D major chord. If you're not able to immediately recognize the basic D major shape within the A major chord shown here, try fingering a D major chord. Now, slide the whole shape up so your third finger is resting on the tenth fret. Now, you'll need to account for what used to be the open fourth string by changing your fingering of the chord.

Fingering This A Major Chord

  • place your first finger on the seventh fret of the fourth string
  • place your second finger on the ninth fret of the third string
  • place your fourth finger on the tenth fret of the second string
  • place your third finger on the ninth fret of the first string

Because this is an A major chord, and the open fifth string is an A, you can strum all five strings, avoiding only the low E string. Because of its high register (featuring notes high up on the first string), you'll want to choose your situations when using this chord shape. It would probably sound unusual, for example, to move from a standard E major chord shape to the shape shown here. Instead, try playing this chord shape amongst other shapes in a similar register.

This chord shape has the chord root A on the fourth string. To learn how to apply this same shape to play other major chords, you'll want to memorize the notes on the fourth string.

05
of 05

A Major Chord (Based on C Major Shape)

A major chord based on a C major shape
A major chord based on a C major shape.

If the diagram above is unfamiliar to you, take a moment to learn how to read chord charts.

This is a really nice, full-sounding A major chord shape based on a standard open C major chord. This A major chord shape is based on a traditional C major shape. To experiment with this yourself, try fingering a C major chord, and sliding it all the way up the fretboard, so your third finger is resting on the 12th fret. Contrast the shape you are holding with the chord shape shown here, and you can see the C major shape buried within it (and incidentally, the shape you are now holding is a pretty nice sounding A7 chord). Now, in order to make the chord a pure A major, you'll need to use a finger to hold down the open strings.

Fingering This A Major Chord

  • place your fourth finger on the 12th fret of the fifth string
  • place your third finger on the 11th fret of the fourth string
  • place your second finger on the ninth fret of the third string, and barre it so it also holds down the ninth fret of the first string
  • place your second finger on the tenth fret of the second string

I encourage you to get very comfortable with this chord shape — it's one of my favorite ways to play major chords. It can often be used in place of a major barre chord with root on the fifth string ​and has a fuller, more "open chord" sound.

This chord shape has the chord root A on the fifth string. To learn how to apply this same shape to play other major chords, you'll want to memorize the notes on the fifth string.