By Byron Marks
One of the biggest challenges you will have in your guitar playing is being able to move smoothly and quickly from chord to chord. There is a reason that most guitar players struggle with changing chords. The reason you are having trouble with changing chords is: you haven’t practiced switching between chords. There are many ways to do this and in this article I am going to discuss a few of them. Don’t put off using these techniques, use them when you practice today.
The likely reasons that you are struggling to chance chords:
- You don’t yet know the chord shapes. If you have to think about, look at tabs or guitar neck diagrams to remember the chord shapes, you do not yet know the chords.
- Changing chords one finger at a time. Trying to learn chords this way is very hard and makes the process of learning chords very difficult and frustrating.
- Stopping your strumming hand while switching chords. In real musical situations you are not going to have time to wait for your fret hand to be ready before strumming
- Trying to be perfect with strumming and fretting the chord(s) right away. The truth is that this is a multi-step process and you are not going to get it perfect right away
There are many ways to overcome the challenges you are having with changing chords. Let’s take a look at some of them now.
- Visualization – Take some time when you do not have a guitar with you to practice visualizing your chords. Even taking 5 minutes a day to do some mental reps is a great way to help you understand your chords better. To start, do this one chord at a time and ask yourself: What does the chord look like? How many strings do I strum? How do I position my fingers on the chord? How hard do I press down to make the notes ring out? How do I angle my fingers so that they don’t hit the other strings?
- Moving all your fingers together when you are changing chords. This will be tough at first because it feels counter-intuitive. Yet the sooner you start practicing chords this way, the sooner you will get the results you want. Do not allow yourself to let any finger lag behind. If need be, adjust the speed your other fingers move to match with the slowest one.
- Keep your pick hand moving regardless of whether your fret hand is ready or not. This is one of the biggest challenges I see guitar students have. The key here is to go slow, V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W. No matter what, keep your pick hand moving so that you force your fret hand to catch up.
- Quiz yourself frequently. Test yourself without and tabs or chord diagrams to see how well you know your chords. You could also try this by playing in the dark or with your eyes closed
- Be creative immediately. Write a song of your own or learn a song that has the chords in them right away. Make the strumming pattern as musical as possible. If you are learning a new song, you don’t have to master the strumming pattern right away. Make sure that you are changing chords at the right time. If you are writing your own song, see which chords you think sound good together. Also, don’t shy away from chords that seem tough at first.
Follow these steps and you will see progress in your ability to play chords easier. Your chords will also sound cleaner. Even if you don’t see the results you want right away, stick with it. They will come.
About the author: Byron Marks teaches beginner guitar lessons in Manchester, NH