The playing of (3-5 string) guitar chords is simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings, in which the musical intervals are the same for each pair of consecutive strings. Regular tunings include major-thirds tuning, all-fourths, and all-fifths tunings. For each regular tuning, chord patterns may be diagonally shifted down the fretboard, a property that simplifies beginners' learning of chords and that simplifies advanced players' improvisation. On the other hand, in regular tunings 6-string chords (in the keys of C, G, and D) are more difficult to play.
There are separate chord-forms for chords having their root note on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth strings. For a six-string guitar in standard tuning, it may be necessary to drop or omit one or more tones from the chord; this is typically the root or fifth. The layout of notes on the fretboard in standard tuning often forces guitarists to permute the tonal order of notes in a chord.
Learn the C chord. The first chord we will cover is a C chord—one of the most basic chords in music. Before we do, let's break down just what that means. A proper chord, whether played on a piano, a guitar, or sung by well-trained mice, is simply three or more notes sounded together. (Two notes is called a "diad," and while musically useful, is not a chord.) Chords can also contain far more than three notes, but that's well beyond the scope of this article. This is what a C chord looks like on the guitar:
Only two or three frets are needed for the guitar chords—major, minor, and dominant sevenths—which are emphasized in introductions to guitar-playing and to the fundamentals of music. Each major and minor chord can be played on exactly two successive frets on exactly three successive strings, and therefore each needs only two fingers. Other chords—seconds, fourths, sevenths, and ninths—are played on only three successive frets.