The A chord on the guitar

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How to play the open position A chord and CAGED A shape

In the video lesson above, I talk about the A chord and how it becomes an A shape. This is followed by discussing how we can extend the chord and even turn it into a Major Pentatonic, two different arpeggios, and all major modes.

Let’s start with just playing it as an open-position chord because this is where the problems begin, especially when it comes to finger placement.

Theoretically, you should play this using all five strings. However, this is kind of impossible, especially as a chord shape. How do you fret this chord shape?

Open position A chord/shape

Don’t let the sadistic beginner teacher or your ideals beat you down. The truth about the A chord is that you can’t really play it as it looks in a chord box, or in the Chordacus image you see here above.

It takes too long to fret the full shape, so let’s ignore the top string. Now all of a sudden, it’s super easy!

Just ignoring that top string is only the start to making that A chord/shape useful, here are all the ways you actually can play an A chord/shape.

  • Strings 3-5. This is an A5 chord, there is no 3rd.
  • Strings 2-5. This is a full A chord, there is a 3rd on string 2.
  • Strings 2-4. This is also a complete A chord, we have the 5th, root, and 3rd. This is what we’d call the 2nd inversion on a piano. On the guitar, we just call it an A shape.
  • Strings 1-3. This is also a complete chord as we have root, 3rd, and 5th. On a piano, we call this root position.

To learn how to play the A chord, not just fret it, you need songs that use it. Without this real-world experience, all this knowledge is just theoretical. After all, playing the guitar is a practical journey, not an academic one.

Among the beginner songs, we play the A chord in Robin Hood by Ocean Colour Scene. In Wonderwall by Oasis, we play it as an A7sus4.

The intermediate acoustic songs have the A chord in Babylon, Hey There Delilah, Mad World, and Whistle For The Choir.

Learn all these songs and you will have no problem playing the A chord in the open position, as well as a CAGED shape.

A chord extensions

Below are all possible extensions using an A-shaped chord. If you can see the intervals surrounding the A shape, you can play all these chords.

  • A major chord (root, 5th, root, 3rd, 5th)
  • Asus2 (root, 5, root, 2)
  • Aadd9 (root, 5, 9, 3)
  • Asus4 (root, 5, root, 4)
  • A7sus4 (root, 5, b7, 4)
  • A6 (root, 5, root, 3, 6)
  • Amaj7 (root, 5, 7, 3, 5)
  • A7 (root, 5, b7, 3, 5)
  • Amaj9 (root, 3, 7, 9)
  • A7#9 (root, 3, b7, #9)
  • A11 (root, 4, b7, 2)
  • A13 (root, 5, b7, 3, 6)

You need actual songs that have these chords in them to play and experience these sounds in context. Without this, you simply won’t learn them properly. Sign up for my guitar courses for this experience.

Building scales and arpeggios around the A chord/shape

Using the A-shaped chord as our framework, we can also build the maj7 arpeggio, the dom7 arpeggio, a Major Pentatonic, the major scale (Ionian), Lydian, and Mixolydian.

Below are all the intervals used to build these arpeggios and scales around the A-shaped chord.

If you can see all the intervals around the chord shape, you can play all these arpeggios and scales.

All possible major arpeggio and scale intervals using the CAGED system

The A Chord | Related Pages

Guitar chords

You can learn how to build all minor and major guitar chords using the so-called CAGED system.

This is the foundation upon which we learn to extend chords and build arpeggios and modes as well.

The Am chord

Open position Am chord, barre chord shape and extensions

Super easy to fret both as an open-position chord and as a barre chord shape, the Am chord is a great chord to start with.

As you move it up the neck as a chord shape, all you need is to identify all intervals that surround it.

Beginner Acoustic

Beginner Acoustic Songs

This collection of beginner acoustic tunes will teach you how to arrange for one acoustic guitar, as well as how to create a supporting part.

Playing songs will help you with switching between open-position chords and give you the context you need to understand how music works theoretically.

About me

Dan Lundholm wrote this article about the A chord.

This article on the A chord was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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