D Chord on the Guitar (D Major) – 10 Ways to Play (and Some Tips/Theory)

The D Major chord is one of the most common and popular chords on the guitar. The open D chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn, and it has been used in countless songs across many genres.

Some Quick D Chord Theory

  • The D Major chord contains the notes D, F# and A.
  • The D Major chord is produced by playing the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of the D Major scale.
  • The D 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).
  • The D Major chord is the first chord in the key of D Major. The seven chords in the key of D Major are: D, Em, F#, G, A, Bm, C# diminished.

10 Ways To Play The D Major Chord

If you’ve come to this page just to view some chord diagrams for D, here they are.

D Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Easy D Chord Shape (Open D)

The easiest version of the D chord is the commonly played open D chord:

How to Play the D Major Chord (Step by Step)

  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the third string
  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the second string
  • Place your second finger on the second fret of the first string
  • Strum the first four strings of the guitar, without hitting the sixth string or the fifth string

The instructions above are step by step instructions for playing the most common D Major chord shape, which is the open chord D. These instructions can actually be super helpful when you feel like you’re interpreting the shape incorrectly. By going through the D chord instructions step by step, you can verify that you’re playing the chord correctly.

Barre Chord Shapes for D

The D chord can be played as a barre chord by playing a root 6 barre chord shape and starting on the 10th fret or by playing a root 5 barre chord Major shape and starting on the 5th fret:

D Barre Chord Guitar

D Major Triads

Most of the time, when we play the D chord, we play the standard shapes, such as the open position D 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 D Major triad can be voiced in the following three ways:

  • D Major Triad (Root Position) – D, F#, A
  • D Major Triad (1st Inversion) – F#, A, D
  • D Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – A, D, F#

Here are six different ways to play the D Major triad (including inversions).

D Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The D chord in Them?

The D chord can be found in the following keys:

  • The key of D Major (D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim)
  • The key of A Major (A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim)
  • The key of G Major (G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim)
  • The key of B minor (Bm, C#dim, D, Em, F#m, G, A)
  • The key of F# minor (F#m, G#dim, A, Bm, C#m, D, E)
  • The key of E minor (Em, F#dim, G, Am, Bm, C, D)

Alternative But Useful D Chord Shapes

The following shapes are alternative ways of playing the D Major chord shape. They’re not the most common D shapes, but used enough to include here as interesting alternatives.

Alternative D Chord Shapes Guitar

D Chord Substitutions

The D chord can often be substituted with the D sus 4 chord, the D sus 2 chord and the D add 9 chord. The D chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the D Major 7 chord, the D7 chord, and other extension chords which have D as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the D chord?

The most common and effective scales that can be used to solo/improvise over the D Major chord, or to create melodies for the purposes of song writing are:

  • D Major pentatonic scale – This scale will almost always work over the D Major chord, in any context.
  • D Major scale – This is the ‘default scale’ of the D chord.
  • D Lydian mode – This scale can be used over the D chord in certain contexts to add a jazz flavour.        
  • D Major Blues – This scale is particularly useful in a Blues context.

Further Reading

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