(This is part II of this article. To make sure you get the full scoop, please check out part I here first.)
Did you get, in the previous part of this article, how easier this way of learning open chords is than the traditional one that shows you the chord and has you going through a bunch of frustrating attempts to play it, which can take days, weeks or sometimes even months (yikes!) to master before you can actually produce something that sounds good?
If you apply this to any open chord, you’ll see that they will come much faster than in a traditional way, is more fun to practice (because you’ll be able to start applying those intermediate steps as described above way earlier in your songs and exercises) and will therefore get you out of that frustration that you may have been feeling so far.
There’s one thing that I’d like to add quickly here before we move on, which is the issue of string or fret buzz. If you’ve ever practiced chords and some strings buzz when pressing down the string, most probably you’re not applying force to the string in the right way. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen, make sure you:
1. Apply the fingertip of your finger
a. This is because the fingertip leverages the strength in your fingers and hands in the best way, forcing to produce very little strength to clear the note
2. Press as close to the fretboard as possible.
a. Again, it’s about little force here. The closer you press to the fret, the less energy you need to produce with the fingertip in order to clear the note and not have any string buzz.
So, now that you know how to learn open chords, the next question you should be asking yourself is “How do I now learn all of this in the fastest way possible?”
I find this an extremely important question to ask, because not only will you now practice in a much smarter way, but you’ll have way more fun doing it! Fun is a major component in my lessons and in how you practice because of the motivation it derives – if you are not motivated to practice, then there’s nothing anyone can do for you. Even an expert teacher cannot go into your house and force you to play and practice if you don’t want to – but if your teacher knows what he’s doing, he’s ALWAYS on the lookout for ways to constantly motivate you and push you to get better.
So, now how do we actually practice chords in the fastest way possible? There’s a 3 step process we can use for this that’s very effective:
1. Squeeze and release – Part I
2. Squeeze and release – Part II
3. Chord changes
Let’s break these steps down. The first point is an exercise where you’re going to be pressing the chord and releasing it time and time again so your fingers get used to pressing the chord and remember how to do it later without any problems. You do this exercise by pressing the chord (or the partial chord as we described above) and relax your fingers just enough so that you’re not pressing the strings anymore, but still touching them. Once you have your hand totally relaxed, you press the chord again, then release it in the same way.
Keep doing this several times, for as long as you can (a few mins.)
Once you’ve done 1. and it starts to feel really natural, you move onto 2. Now what you want to do is to do the exact same thing as 1. , but you relax your hand so that you are NOT touching the strings anymore after pressing the chord. Make sure though that you keep the fingers forming the same chord shape in mid-air so that you only need to bring them down towards the strings to produce the same chord. If you feel that you need to change the position of one or more fingers, then you’re letting the hand position change while you’re in the air and the exercise won’t be as effective. Another thing to note is that you don’t have to try and get the fingers off the fretboard – just relaxing them will allow you to do that.
After you’ve practiced 2. for some time, you’ll start to feel that it will too become accessible (maybe even easy) to produce the chord. Great! Now you can start doing 3. which involves basically changing from one chord to the chord you’re practicing repeatedly. It should feel easier to make the transition from one chord to the next if you’ve done 1. and 2. right. Also, note that we are never, at any point in these exercises, applying any strumming or picking – this allows us to focus solely on the fretting hand to allow us to develop it way faster.
There you have it. If you’ve been struggling with open chords thus far, then this is a quick and accessible way to practice and master them. You will get a lot more mileage out of your practice sessions if you apply this method to your chord practicing and hopefully be playing songs much better in no time!
Based in Zurich Switzerland, Gonçalo Crespo is a professional guitar teacher and musician. He has taught guitar for over 8 years covering a variety of styles but focuses mainly on getting his students to guitar playing success in the most efficient way possible. Founder of Music&Co. guitar music school, Gonçalo also offers tuition for acoustic and electric guitar.