The A Major chord is one of the most common and popular chords on the guitar. The open A chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn, and it has been used in countless songs across many genres.
Some Quick A Chord Theory
- The A Major chord contains the notes A, C# and E.
- The A Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the A Major scale.
- The A Major chord (just like all Major chords) contains the following intervals (from the root note): Major 3rd, minor 3rd, Perfect 4th (back to the root note).
- In the key of A, the following chords will compliment the A chord: A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#diminished.
10 Ways To Play The A Major Chord
If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for A, here they are.
Easy A Chord Shape (Open A)
The easiest version of the A chord is the commonly played open A chord:
How to Play the A Major Chord (Step by Step)
- Place your first finger on the second fret of the forth string.
- Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string.
- Place your third finger on the second fret of the second string.
- Strum the first five strings of the guitar, without hitting the fifth string.
The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common A Major chord shape, which is the open chord A. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the A chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.
Barre Chord Shapes for A
The A chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 5th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 12th fret:
A Major Triads
Most of the time, when we play the A chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position A and the barre chord shapes. However, learning the strict root position and inverted triads is a great way of exploring subtle and interesting variations that exist across the fretboard. The A Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:
- A Major Triad (Root Position) – A, C#, E
- A Major Triad (1st Inversion) – C#, E, A
- A Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – E, A, C#
Here are six different ways to play the A Major triad (including inversions).
Which Keys Have The A chord in Them?
The A chord can be found in the following keys:
- The key of A Major (A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim)
- The key of E Major (E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#dim)
- The key of D Major (D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim)
- The key of F# minor (F#m, G#dim, A, Bm, C#m, D, E)
- The key of C# minor (C#m, D#dim, E, F#m, G#m, A, B)
- The key of B minor (Bm, C#dim, D, Em, F#m, G, A)
Alternative But Useful A Chord Shapes
The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the A Major chord shape. They’re not the most common A shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.
A Chord Substitutions
The A chord can often be substituted with the A sus 4 chord, the A sus 2 chord and the A add 9 chord. The A chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the A Major 7 chord, the A7 chord, and other extension chords which have A as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).
Which Scales Can Be Played Over the A chord?
The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the A Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:
- A Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the A Major chord, in any context.
- A Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the A chord.
- A Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the A chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.
- A Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.