This is one of those questions where I’m a little bit afraid in attempting to give an answer to. Because no matter what I’m about to say, there will always be some folks who will call me out on my statement – and very likely, they’ll be right. Because as usual, it all depends. Now, I think we can all agree that the question: “How many guitar chords do I need to know or learn?” would very likely come from a beginner. So, let’s try to find a somewhat reasonable answer.
Here is how I look at it: if you’re just starting out on the instrument, there are about a dozen guitar chords that I would consider a basic chord vocabulary. With these chords, which are very likely those that every beginner will start with, you will be able to play a lot of songs. And that might be all the chords you need to know if that’s your ultimate guitar goal. Below is a list of these chords with links to short videos to my Guitar Chord Bank, where I demonstrate how to play them. But to put these chords into context and to understand what you can do with them – i.e. what kind of songs you will be able to play – I encourage you to check out my Beginners Guitar Course (yes, it’s absolutely free of charge, no email sign-up or any of that required).
Ultimately, how many chords you should learn and know is a matter of what you want to accomplish on the instrument. At this point, as a beginner, you may not even know what that is. But as I said before, the good news is to that most guitarist start out in the exact same way by learning these basic chords. So, as promised, here’s a list of those chords with links to the demonstration videos.
To be clear and as I alluded to in the beginning, this list is by no means ‘complete’. Some readers may argue that on should learn to play (many) more guitar chords to cover a more expansive spectrum of tunes to plays. Others may say this is way too many – a handful of chords is enough, for all intents and purposes. Again, what the chords that I just listed are the ones that you will likely find in any kind of Beginners Guitar Course, tutorial or book.
One last word of advice: don’t worry about how many guitar chords you should know. Just get started and see where your journey takes you. If you stick with the instrument, you will likely continue to develop as a guitarist. That means, inevitably you will learn new chords and other things on the guitar. But this is not about knowing as many chords as possible. Knowing hundreds of guitar chords doesn’t make you’re a great guitar player. It’s all about getting started, and the rest, including the number of chords you will learn, just comes automatically.