The D Chord [How to, Exercises, and Video Lesson]

You won’t get far when learning the guitar without learning some of the most important chords.

While being able to play the guitar is very enjoyable and highly rewarding, many budding guitarists find themselves giving up very early on, citing difficulty learning certain chords that show up in many of the most famous songs around.

The D Chord [How to, Exercises, and Video Lesson]

Luckily, for every terrifying F chord, there is a more friendly chord, such as the A chord, waiting just around the corner.

Many people start off with the easier chords when first learning the guitar, which causes them to be taken completely off guard when a challenging chord like the D chord rears its head.

The D chord may look deceptively simple, only using three fingers and two frets, but it has been known to lead many guitarists to give up on the instrument before they could ever realize their potential. 

So, in order to help you to conquer this beginner-killer, and to help you to implement it into some of your music in the future, let’s take a look at how to pull it off, and how you can practice at it! Read on to get started! 

How Do You Play The D Chord On Guitar?

As we mentioned before, the D chord looks deceptively easy at first glance. Diagrams of the D chord present just three circles placed in a relatively tidy manner.

However, many guitarists find themselves stumbling over this chord thanks to the knot it makes of your fingers!

In order to pull off the chord, you need to place the index finger onto the third string, within the second fret, and your middle finger atop the first string, also within the second fret. The ring finger then needs to be placed onto the second string, within the third fret. 

This position will feel incredibly odd upon first trying it out, as your fingers will feel like they are overly close to one another.

Maneuvering your middle finger to fit directly under the index finger without obscuring the ring finger is actually a lot more difficult than it may initially look. 

Your fingers will likely begin to ache very quickly when first learning this chord, and that is perfectly natural. If you have trouble with the D chord at first, then make sure not to take it as a sign of failure.

Every guitarist, even some of the most accomplished in history, once had to learn each chord individually, and likely had the same trouble with the D chord. 

Try holding your fingers in the correct position for a few seconds until it becomes comfortable, and then stretch them out for a few more seconds.

From there, return them to the D chord position again, and try to hold the position for a few seconds longer. Increase the number of seconds each time. This will help your fingers to naturally stretch and accommodate for the slightly awkward positioning of the chord.

It will also help you to commit the finger positions to memory so that you can easily play it in larger songs.

It is also important to mention that the D chord requires that you do not strum the fifth and sixth strings as you go. Strumming those strings will add extra notes to the chord that don’t mesh well and ruin the clarity of the chord. 

How Can You Practice The D Chord On Guitar?

So, now that you know how to achieve the correct finger positioning for the D chord, you now need to practice it to get better at it. But what should you do to practice and improve at the chord? 

One great exercise that you should make sure to start with is to put your fingers into the D chord position, and then remove them from that position.

Repeat this a few times, with fewer seconds between each time. Eventually, this will help you to internalize the finger positions for the chord, and will also help you to develop muscle memory for it, so that you can achieve it better in the future at much quicker speeds.

You can then push this even further by introducing extra chords into the mix. Try starting by holding your fingers in the A chord formation on your guitar, and then try moving over to a D chord formation. Try seeing how quickly you can move from one to another. 

Don’t worry if it takes you a while to get this right. It’s easy enough to learn how to hold the D chord, but learning to combine it with other chords is where the difficulty comes in.

Try increasing your speed slightly with each successful attempt, until you are able to quickly move from one chord position to another. 

From there, you can also then introduce more chords into the exercise. Before you know it, you will slowly begin to internalize the shape of the D chord, and you’ll be able to pull off the shape without thinking about it.

For a little extra challenge, try adding in some strumming too. Remember that the D chord requires that you only strum the bottom four strings. Strum the guitar every time you change chords and try your best to remember to only strum the bottom four strings for the D chord. 

It is important to practice this, as many budding guitarists forget just how easy it is to accidentally strum too many strings on certain chords.

Alternating between six-string and four-string strums in quick succession can also help you to remember how your hand should be positioned on the guitar to avoid certain strings, which helps to improve your muscle memory for playing.

How Can You Improve The D Chord?

One thing you may notice as you learn the D chord is that it is lacking slightly in terms of clarity when you strum. This may be due to the fact that you are not applying enough pressure to the strings on the neck of the guitar to create the chord. 

In order to improve the clarity of the D chord, you will need to work on your strength to help you to develop calluses on your fingers so that you can more comfortably apply pressure to the strings as you play.

One exercise that you can do is incredibly easy, produces a pleasant sound, and will improve your strength in no time. Start by taking up the positioning for the standard D chord, and strum the guitar.

How clear is the D chord that you have just strummed? From there, lightly move up your middle finger, so that it is no longer pressing the first string down.

Strum the guitar again. Once you have done that, place the middle finger back in position, and then take your pinky finger and place it down onto the first string in the third fret. Strum again.

Repeat this pattern a few times and, apart from creating a pleasant sound, you’ll find that it helps you to improve your finger positioning for the D chord, as well as helping you to improve your strength.

Lifting up the middle finger while holding down the other strings creates a slightly awkward position that causes you to need to apply more pressure. In turn, this causes the strength in your index and ring fingers to increase dramatically.

Are There Any Alternate Fingerings For The D Chord?

While there are no other ways to achieve the D chord with other finger positionings, there are plenty of methods for achieving the D Major chord, which sounds very similar, and thus can be used interchangeably with the standard chord. 

One method makes use of the barre technique, which is quite difficult to pull off at first but creates a very satisfying and rich sound.

Place the index finger onto the bottom three strings, and press them down into the second fret. With the middle finger, press down into the second string in the third fret. 

Now, here is where things get a little bit difficult. You need to place the ring finger on top of  the fourth string and push it down into the fourth fret.

Your pinky finger will then press into the fifth string within the same fret. Initially, this positioning feels very uncomfortable, but once you become more accustomed to it, and you develop some strength, then it is able to create some very satisfying sounds that are rich in complexity.

Make sure not to strum the sixth string, as it will complicate the chord and ruin its subtlety.

There is also another method that you can try, though this one is definitely very challenging!

In order to pull off this alternate D Major chord, not only do you have to get the correct finger positionings, but you also need to avoid strumming the second, third, and sixth strings as you do it! The index finger should be positioned on the fourth string, within the fourth fret.

The middle finger should be placed onto the fifth string, within the second fret. The ring finger, finally, needs to be positioned onto the first string, also within the fifth fret. 

When strumming, simply avoid strumming the sixth string, and begin strumming from the fifth string moving downward. In order to avoid creating noise with the second and third strings, simply touch them lightly with the fingers that are already being used to fret the strings. 

Lightly bend the index finger down into a position in which it lightly touches the third string while still retaining its hold on the fourth string. The ring finger should lightly touch the second string while also holding onto the second string. 

In doing this, you effectively ‘mute’ the second and third strings. This helps to prevent them from making any noise when strummed, which keeps them from complicating the sound of the D Major chord.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hardest Guitar Chord to Learn?

There are many truly difficult chords to learn on the guitar, but perhaps none are more difficult than the F chord. This chord requires a very unusual shape to be made with your hands, and this thus makes it very difficult to pull off in the heat of the moment.

What are the Easiest Chords to Play on Guitar?

Some of the easiest chords to play on the guitar include the A chord and the C chord. These two chords have very basic shapes that are easy for even beginners to pick up on and internalize.

Are My Fingers too Fat for Guitar?

Definitely not. Even guitarists with very large fingers can learn to play the guitar elegantly and perfectly. It just takes plenty of practice is all.

To Finish Up

Pulling off the D chord is not easy, especially when you are first starting off with learning the guitar. The chord requires that three of your fingers be packed together very tightly, which leaves very little margin for error.

This proves extra troublesome when you consider that the D chord is a very popular chord, and thus it is used in many popular songs. 

Hopefully, however, we have managed to make the prospect of learning the D chord a little less daunting, thanks to some of the techniques and exercises that we have explored. 

The best thing to remember is to stay calm and be patient with yourself. You won’t be able to pull off the D chord immediately, but with enough practice, you will easily make it second nature!

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘Top 30 Easy Guitar Christmas Songs With Chords‘.

Howard Matthews