For example, if the note E (the open sixth string) is played over the A minor chord, then the chord would be [0 0 2 2 1 0]. This has the note E as its lowest tone instead of A. It is often written as Am/E, where the letter following the slash indicates the new bass note. However, in popular music it is usual to play inverted chords on the guitar when they are not part of the harmony, since the bass guitar can play the root pitch.

Unlike many string instruments which use a bow to create a sound, guitars are played by plucking or strumming the strings on the instrument, which vibrate to create a sound. Chords are played when the guitarist holds their fingers down on more than one individual string to change its length, which in turn changes the frequency of the vibration created - in other words, it creates a different note. Performers often use guitar tabs, rather than sheet music, when learning music: this acts as a kind of 'map' to teach guitarists where to put their fingers on the strings.