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

The G Major chord is easily one of the most popular guitar chords. The open G chord is one of the first chords that most guitarists learn. The open chord version of G uses all six guitar strings, so it feels and sounds like a ‘full’ chord.

The key of G is also a very popular key, with many Pop, Rock and Folk songs having been written in the key of G. Most of the chords in the key of G are also very common open chords (D, Em, C, Am) so it’s an obvious favourite for guitarist.

Some Quick G Chord Theory

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

10 Ways To Play The G Major Chord

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

G Major Chord - 10 Shapes

Standard G Chord Shape (Open G Chord)

The most common way to play the G chord is in the open position. This is one of the most commonly used chord shapes and one of the first ones that most guitarists learn.

G Chord Guitar 1

The above shape uses all four fingers, as well as the open strings. It is the most common way of playing the G chord. However, it is worth including a very popular variation that uses only three fingers, as shown below.

G Chord Guitar 2

Keep in mind that the two open G chord shapes above are both valid ways of playing the chord. Both chords contain the notes G, B and D. The difference between the two is that the first shapes adds an extra D note to the chord (on the 2nd string) whereas the second shape adds an extra B note to the chord (on the 2nd string).

Easy G Chord Shape

The easiest version of the G chord is essentially a mini version of the standard, open G chord (the three-finger version). It uses the first three strings of the guitar and only involves one finger (as well as open strings). These mini chords can be a great way to get started when learning the guitar, as they allow you to play chord songs without learning full (and sometimes difficult shapes).

Easy G Chord Guitar

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

  • Place your second finger on the third fret of the sixth string.
  • Place your first finger on the second fret of the fifth string.
  • Place your third finger on the third fret of the second string.
  • Place your fourth finger on the third fret of the first string.
  • Strum all six strings.

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

Barre Chord Shapes for G

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

Alternative G Chord Shapes Guitar

G Major Triads

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

  • G Major Triad (Root Position) – G, B, D
  • G Major Triad (1st Inversion) – B, D, G
  • G Major Triad (2nd Inversion) – D, G, B

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

G Major Triad Guitar

Which Keys Have The G chord in Them?

The E chord can be found in the following keys:

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

Alternative But Useful G Chord Shapes

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

G Major Triad Guitar

G Chord Substitutions

The G chord can often be substituted with the G sus 4 chord, the G sus 2 chord and the G add 9 chord. The G chord can also be used itself as a substitute for more complicated chords, such as the G Major 7 chord, the G7 chord, and other extension chords which have G as the root note (it can’t be used in place of minor chords though!).

Which Scales Can Be Played Over the G chord?

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

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

Further Reading

Get Guitar Chords Galore eBook