[Acoustic Guitar Chords] > How to Play the Am Chord (Tips, Variations, and Exercises)
Getting familiar with chords is an essential (and extremely fun) part of learning guitar – and for good reason! Chords are the bread and butter of playing the guitar; once you know a few chords, you open the door to playing countless songs.
One of the first chords that usually appears on the beginner’s list is the Am chord, also known as the A minor chord.
The reason for its ubiquitousness? Well, to start with it’s pretty easy to play, consisting of only three notes: A, C, and E. It’s also used in countless songs across almost all genres of music.
Below, we’re going to take a closer look at the Am chord. I’ll demonstrate exactly how to play it, introduce you to a few helpful variations, and show you a few exercises you can practice to really nail it.
Let’s get started!
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What Is the Am Chord?
In this guide, we’ll be using a lot of chord diagrams to help explain finger positioning and notes.
In case you’re not already familiar with reading chord diagrams, I recommend checking out this chord diagram guide that I put together first.
Now – the Am chord.
The Am chord has a full and rich sound, but being a minor chord, it’s often used in slightly more melancholic songs. That being said, when paired with other major chords the Am chord can sound hopeful and optimistic. It’s a versatile chord, to say the least.
I mentioned that it’s used in a huge variety of songs. So if you like the Pixies or Cat Stevens, then you’ve definitely heard the Am chord being used.
Now that we’re familiar with the Am chord, let’s take a look at how to play it on the guitar.
How to Play the Am Chord on the Guitar
In the grand scheme of guitar chords, the Am chord is a breezy one. Not only does it sound great, but it’s also easy on the fingers.
Here’s How to Form the Am Chord
- Index finger on the first fret of the B string
- Middle finger on the second fret of the A string
- Ring finger on the second fret of the A string
- Strum down from the A string, omitting the high E string as you go
A common mistake when forming the Am chord is not pressing down or arching your middle and ring finger enough. As the two fingers are close together, this can often lead to a muted note or fret buzz.
With a bit of practice, this shape will become second nature.
A Minor Chord Variations
Now that we’ve taken a look at the standard way to play the Am chord, I want to show you a couple of variations that you can play around with.
I usually like to teach a few options because the best way to play a chord is subjective. For example, some have stronger pinky fingers than others, and some have wider finger spans than others.
With the below variations, you can play to your strengths and find a version of this chord that suits your practice best.
Easy A Minor
This is the easiest variation of the Am chord and only requires two fingers – yep, just two.
Using the diagram above, here’s how to position your fingers:
- Index finger on the first fret of the B string
- Middle finger on the second fret of the G string
- Leave the high E string open
Once your two fingers are in place, strum from the G string down.
This version of the Am chord might sound a bit thin, but that’s to be expected; you’re only playing half the strings, so you won’t get the full tonality that you would from a standard Am chord.
Am Chord Barre Version
If you’ve worked your way through a couple of these chord guides already, you’ll know that I often like to include a barre chord version.
Barre chords are more advanced than standard variations. They tend to be more demanding on the index finger as you’ve to hold down multiple strings on a single fret. But as always, with some practice, you’ll get used to the positioning in no time.
Here’s how to position your fingers:
- Barre all the strings of the 5th fret with your index finger
- Ring finger on the 7th fret of the A string
- Pinky finger on the 7th fret of the D string
As soon as your fingers are settled in place, strum all strings.
If you find that not all the notes are ringing out clearly, here are a few tips to get a full sound from your barre chord:
- Use the hard edge of your index finger. Make sure that you’re using the side of your index finger to barre the fret with adequate pressure. It’s closer to the bone and therefore a harder surface to use than the more meaty parts of your finger.
- Practice pressure. When forming the barre variation, you might run into some trouble at first. But once you get used to pressing your whole index finger down across all strings, it’ll quickly become familiar and easy to pull off.
- Strengthen your pinky finger. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to train your pinky finger if you find that it isn’t strong enough to play the chord. Again, it’s all about practice and consistency, so just keep trying!
Speaking of practice, let’s take a look at some exercises that will help you master the Am chord:
Am Chord Exercises
Before we get into the exercises, let’s just call out the elephant in the room.
Your fingers hurt, right?
Let me assure you – this is very normal. But the hope with all this practice is that you’ll start to form some sweet, sweet calluses on your fingers.
In other areas of life, developing calluses might not be ideal. But when it comes to playing guitar, calluses are a badge of honor!
Calluses mean that you have thicker skin on certain areas of your fingers, and therefore feel less pain when pressing down on strings. They’re also proof that you’re putting in the time and effort to become a better musician.
Once you’ve developed calluses and guitar muscle memory, you won’t have to think twice when playing these chords.
And now for developing that muscle memory – one of my favorite exercises for the Am chord is also one of the simplest.
It goes like so:
- Using your fretting hand, form an Am chord
- Strum down four times
- Release the chord
- Strum the open the strings four more times
- Rinse and repeat
Another useful trick is to practice moving from a different chord into the Am chord. Choose a chord you’re quite comfortable with, strum a couple of times, and then transition into the Am chord.
Repeat this a few times and start working on making the transition even faster. If you need more help, check out my guide on chord transition tips.
Am Chord – Check! What’s Next?
You’ve nailed the Am chord – congratulations! What’s next?
Well, if you’re not familiar with all of the other guitar chords, then I’d suggest checking out my guides for the F chord and G chord, among others.
If you’re ready to take it to the next level and want even more guitar-playing knowledge, then I highly recommend checking out my guitar workshop – Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
It uses this kinda weird, but really effective teaching method I developed, that will get you excited to practice consistently. I run through different techniques and help you lay out a plan to get you to where you want to be on your guitar-playing journey.
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