Many people learn guitar because they want to sing songs or accompany someone else singing. To do this you don’t have to read music nor a huge amount of technique.
Beginner Guitar Chords. Commit some chord shapes to memory and then practise changing between them. The fretting hand has to change quick enough to not lag behind the tempo of the song. The melody can’t wait for several beats for the right supporting guitar chord! In addition, the strumming hand has to get used to holding a pick (soft ones are good for rhythm guitar, especially on acoustic) and evenly brushing the strings down and up.
The first chords to learn are A (x02220), C (x32010), D (xx0232), E (022100), G (320003), Am (x02210), Dm (xx0231) and Em (022000). These five majors and three minors I term the eight master-shapes of the guitar. Being open string shapes, they are relatively easy to hold down and resonant. There are vast numbers of songs that draw on them. With a capo they can be transposed to give you access to otherwise awkward keys such as the seven flat major keys (which would otherwise require barre chords).
If these seem hard at first, tickle your ear with triads. These only use three strings at a time and are excellent for beginners. On strings 1-3: B (xxx442), D (xxx232), F (xxx211), Bm (xxx432), Dm (xxx231), Fm (xxx111) On strings 2-4: Fxx321x), A (xx222x), D (xx423x), Am (xx221x), Dm (xx323x), Fm (xx422x).
Next are the moveable shapes, i.e. chords without an open string. Some of these require a barre or half-barre where more than one string is held down by the first finger. These take a bit of practise, since they need a combination of good finger position plus strength. This is where the quality of your guitar will make a difference. A guitar with a low action and/or light guage strings will be easy to play barre chords on than one with a high action and/or heavier strings.
Try F major (xx3211), B major (xx4442), F# minor (xx4222) and B minor (xx4432). These will give you the remaining major and minor chords without playing a full barre. Later you can turn these into full barre versions: F major (133211), B major (x24442), F#minor (244222) and B minor (x24432)
With this information you can play any major or minor chord in more than position. Most people pick up other shapes (open and barre) as they learn songs.
Rikky Rooksby is the author of Backbeat’s series for songwriters which comprises the best-selling How to Write Songs on Guitar, Inside Classic Rock Tracks, Riffs, The Songwriting Sourcebook, Chord Master, Melody, How to Write Songs on Keyboards, Lyrics, Arranging Songs and How to Write Songs in Altered Guitar Tunings. Visit his webpage at http://rikkyrooksby.com/ and hear his music on www.soundcloud.com