David Hodge

Since joining Guitar Noise in 1999, David has written over a thousand articles, lessons, interviews and reviews here. He also serves as the site's Managing Editor, supervising all content in addition to the continued writing of his own lessons and articles. And if that wasn't enough to keep him busy, David is also the author of seven instructional books, the most recent being Idiot’s Guide: Guitar Theory.

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  1. Dave MacLeod
    October 7th, 2011 @ 2:27 am

    Wow, this brought back some memories. I struggled so hard with the A major chord in the early days. Until I stumbled across the index finger on the G string version, the way I used to play it (which I still use occasionally) is to barre at the 2nd fret with my index finger and to use my pinkie to fret the E string at the 5th. A nice variation, taking it into ringing power chord territory, is to use the pinkie to fret the E and B strings at the fifth, then you’re just playing Es and As across the whole six strings.

    • David Hodge
      October 7th, 2011 @ 5:37 am

      The way you descride (barre across first four strings at second fret and then using the pinky on the fifth fret of the high E to make A major – pinky on both the E and B strings at the fifth fret for A5) is used a lot by rock guitarists. Pete Townshend uses it a lot. You can especially hear it in “The Seeker” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” On the latter, he gets that two-chord opening on the guitar by keeping his pinky on the first two strings and striking the other strings open (x0055) before adding the index finger to complete the A chord (x02255).


  2. Adrian
    October 7th, 2011 @ 8:52 am

    I used to have a lot of trouble with the A major chord shape, and I still do sometimes. What’s most comfortable for me in most situations — possibly because I have very large hands — is actually to finger it the “correct” way, but down one finger — i.e., 1st open, 2nd pinky, 3rd ring, 4th middle, 5th open, 6th muted. Because my pinky is smaller than the other fingers, it leaves me more room to fret the three strings straight across. The sort of triangle shape of ring/index/middle also feels cramped to me, which is why I switched to using pinky/ring/middle. I also sometimes do the half-barre, but not as often because I find it makes chord changes more difficult a lot of the time.

  3. Paul
    October 7th, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    Wow, that did bring back some old memories. The first guitar lessons I ever received was in middle school. The teacher also taught math I believe. I was taught to play the A chord as shown in your first example. Since then I mainly use the fingering used in your second example. Although I occasionally use some alternative fingering depending on what I am playing.

    Keep Jamming!

  4. Dave
    October 11th, 2011 @ 8:36 am

    I have found that the song itself dictates which way I want to play an A major chord. Even the part of a song, depending on what chord I am coming from and where I am going next. James Taylor uses the “three finger” method because he likes to add and remove his ring finger on the B string (especially) on an A major chord to get a few extra cool notes out of the chord. This does NOT mean you need to be finger picking, only grabbing a few extra notes to get a cool sound, ie: hammer ons and wipe offs. He, and I, also use this method with other common chords as well. I encourage everyone to play, say, a D major chord, three finger method, now, add a finger here or there or remove a finger until you find the “sweet” notes that make sense with what you are playing. It will make your composition much more colorful and fun to play. It will also make you sound much better as a musician. When you find something cool like that, then look it up, its most likely a “rare” form, ie: 7th, diminished, etc. of the root chord, in this case D major. Most of all, listen to all advice and HAVE FUN!

  5. Dave
    October 11th, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    By the way, I find this site to be very helpful, a great tool for beginners on up to professionals, you can never learn everything about music. So, thanks for initiating this site! I will be back often!!
    Take care,

  6. Russel McDaniels
    January 3rd, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    Maybe I’m the odd one out here, but since my first few weeks I’ve always played an A major with two fingers. My index goes on the D string and my middle finger goes over both the G and B strings. It works better if your hand is a little bit diagonal to the fretboard. The tone still sounds great so I haven’t tried to change the technique.

    The middle finger here takes kind of a “mini-barre” approach on those two strings (G+B).

    The two examples in the article above are just too difficult for my hands. I’ve tried and tried and there’s just no way I can cram 3 fingers into such a tight space on that chord without some big-time fret buzzing.

    It’s easy enough to go from the A to the Asus2 (open B string) by lifting your middle finger up to only fret the G string.

    Anyway, hope that helps any beginners with Hulk hands like I have.

    * I’ve also tried using just my ring finger for all 3 strings, similar to what you’d see on a major barre chord where the bass note is on the 5th string (like a B major x24442). I find it a bit difficult to get a good tone on the high E string with this method because the bottom of my ring finger tends to get in the way. That’s probably just my poor technique though; I’ve always been self-taught.

    • David Hodge
      January 3rd, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

      That’s actually not that odd. In fact, it’s the way described in classical guitar tutorials dating back from ages ago. I know a number of people (none of whom are classical guitarists, by the way) who use this method. Some also use the middle finger for the mini-barre and the ring finger for the third string, which leaves the index finger free. I suspect that these folks also find making A-shaped barre chords fairly easy.

      Thanks for the insight!


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