How To Play The D Chord

The D Chord is one of the essential chords that all guitar players should know! You'll see in many, many songs - no matter the music style you're playing. It's also the first chord we learn in our Beginner Course. So, let's get started!

 

THE FINGER POSITION FOR THE D CHORD

The D chord uses three fingers. Remember to keep them as close to the fret as possible, in the following order:

  1. Place your 1st finger in the 2nd fret on String 3 - it’s the 3rd one up from the bottom. 

  2. Place your 2nd finger in the 2nd fret on String 1 - the bottom, thinnest string. 

  3. Place your 3rd finger in the 3rd fret on String 2.

Check out the chord box diagram again if you’re not sure. You might need to stretch your 3rd finger to get it up close to the fret, but don't worry! It gets easier with practice.

 

HOW TO STRUM THE D CHORD

For the D chord, we only play the first 4 strings (starting from the bottom.) Make sure you already know how to read chord boxes!

In the image, you’ll see the 4th string marked with an O. This means we play the string, but there are no fingers on it. Strings 5 and 6 are both marked with an X, meaning we don’t play those strings. 

Finally, give it a strum! Strum down softly on the thinnest four strings with your thumb.

Congratulations! You just played your first chord. :) We’ll talk more about strumming later this course. 

Now, let's take a look at how to get the D chord sounding good and clean! 

 

D CHORD PERFECT PRACTICE 

Don’t worry if your first chord sounds a bit rough. It’s totally normal! This exercise will help you out.

Chord Perfect Practice is a 4-step process to help with problems you may have when playing a chord. It'll help you quickly correct and master any guitar chord. Let's walk through it together, using the chord we've just learned. 

Step 1: Finger Placement 

Place your fingers on the correct strings in the right frets. Use the chord box diagram to guide you if you need it. 

Step 2: Strum the Chord 

Press down on the strings and strum the chord. If it doesn’t sound great, no worries! We'll fix it. 

Step 3: Individual Strings 

Play the strings one at a time. Each note should ring out true and clear. If they don’t, we need to find the problem and fix it. Let's do it together:

  1. Start by playing the open 4th string. If it sounds muted, it’s probably because your 1st finger is touching it. 

  2. Next, check the 3rd string. If it’s not ringing clear, make sure your finger is near the fret and that you’re pressing hard enough. It might hurt a bit at first. Also, ensure that your 3rd finger isn’t touching the 3rd string. The slightest touch will stop the note from ringing out. We all struggle with this, so if you’re finding it hard to keep each finger on its own string, don’t beat yourself up over it. Time and practice will fix this!

  3. Now, let’s check the 2nd string, played with the 3rd finger. The challenge here is getting your finger up close enough to the fret. You’ll probably find it harder than you expected. But don’t worry! Your fingers are amazingly flexible. You’ll soon wonder how you ever found it hard!

  4.  Finally, let’s try the thinnest string. For many people, the underneath of the 3rd finger often touches the string. To avoid this, play each string with your fingertips. 

Step 4: Strum Again 

Strum the chord again. Does it sound better? It should! If not, go through the steps again to check your finger position. You’ll know when you’ve got it. The chord should ring out clear and true.

 

TIPS & TRICKS 

Fingernails: Keep your fingernails trimmed. Long nails make it hard to fret the strings with your fingertips! 

Painful Fingers: Your fingers probably hurt, right? Same for me, when I started. For now, don’t press too hard on the strings while you’re practicing your finger placements. Also, try to practice often for shorter periods rather than less often in long, marathon sessions.

Time and practice will make your fingertips stronger! Make sure you've seen these tips on how to avoid finger pain

Thumb Position: Keep your thumb behind the neck, and don't let it rest in the palm of your hand. It'll help build the muscle between your thumb and 1st finger, very useful for barre chords. You'll thank me later on your journey! :)

And don't forget: memorizing chords is super important! Take a good look at the chord diagram and make a mental note of where each finger goes. Visualize it

 

Alternative Fingerings for the D Chord

Sometimes, chords have alternative fingerings - but not the D chord. The acoustic legend James Taylor plays it differently, but I don’t recommend you try it.

 

PRACTICE SCHEDULE 

The best way to practice is with My Practice Assistant. It’s free - just make sure you've logged in, and you can set your practice schedule. If you're following the Beginner Course, you’ll find the first routine at the end of this module. 

 

MOVING FORWARD

We’ll develop all the skills to play chords as we go along. So don’t worry if you have questions right now. We'll explore them shortly! Don't forget that you can get some help in the comments section below. I do my best to answer them all - or you'll get help from one of the JustinGuitar official mentors! :)