How To Read Guitar Chord Charts

How To Read Guitar Chord Charts 1

You might be a beginner guitar player, and if so you’re going to encounter chords, which means you’ll also encounter chord charts!

If you’re in that boat then this tutorial is for you.

You’re going to learn how to read guitar chord charts like a boss.

Reading Guitar Chord Charts

This is a guitar chord chart.

C Major
C Major Guitar Chord Chart

A chord chart shows you a position of the fretboard, the name of the chord, fingers to use, and what strings to play.

Here’s a graphic that shows what everything means/does in-depth:

How to read guitar chord charts
How to read a chord chart (labelled graphic)


Open strings are shown with an O.

Strings that are not played are shown with an X.

Any fret played will be shown with a dot on the fretboard.

Finger Numbers

Finger numbers are shown inside of the dots on the fretboard.

The finger numbers are 1,2,3, or 4. Occasionally you will need to use your thumb, which is depicted with a “T”.

The numbers indicate these fingers:

1= Index

2= Middle

3= Ring

4= Pinky

This may be confusing for musicians coming from other instruments, but it will become recognizable with more practice.


The nut is indicated by a thick, darker line.

The frets are indicated by thinner lines.

Each column on the chart is a fret number.

The starting fret number will look like this if there is not a nut in the chord chart:

C Maj7
CMaj7 Chord Chart starting at the 8th fret

As you can see the starting fret is the 8th fret, as shown on the right side of the chart.

Summary: Go read some chord charts!

Now that you’ve learned how to read guitar chord charts you’ll need to start putting this knowledge to work!

Start by learning some basic guitar chords if you are a beginner guitarist.

Try learning some jazz guitar chords if you want something a little more advanced!

And lastly, thanks for checking out this article!

You can find a plethora of other free resources on the website, so don’t hesitate to look around!