Learning to change chords on guitar without hesitations or mistakes is a great skill to have but, unfortunately, many guitarists have a hard time doing this basic and essential part of playing. If you are a guitarist who struggles with playing chords well, you can no doubt relate to the feelings of frustration and disappointment that occur when your guitar playing falls apart while trying to play music (especially in front of someone).
Fortunately, this guitar-playing problem, like any other, has its solution. Learning how to apply several effective guitar practice steps will help make it much easier to change between any pair of chords you may encounter in the music you play. This article will teach you what these steps are and also how to apply them to master any challenging chord change in your guitar playing.
Here are the four points you need to follow when practicing any difficult chord change on guitar:
Step #1: Get Specific
To successfully overcome any difficult aspect of the music you are learning, you need to get very specific about which chords area causing your playing to fall apart. Doing this will make you very focused and will help you to spend your time more wisely by practicing only the sections of the song that you really need to improve. Even if you are trying to play a piece of music where it seems that every set of chords is difficult to play, narrow it down to working on a single chord change at a time. This will help you to minimize frustration and will build confidence from breaking down the problem into bite-sized components.
Step #2: Touch And Relax
After you have identified the two chords that you are going to practice, it is time to spend several moments learning exactly where to put the fingers for playing each chord individually. Do not spend any time practicing the actual transition from one chord to the next (that will come next) and make sure that you are completely confident in your ability to fret the shape of each chord on its own. Your challenge is to place the fingers into the shape of the first chord in a coordinated fashion and with all fingers arriving on their notes at the same time. If you have to place the fingers on the strings one at a time, then you do not truly “know” how to play the chord. As soon as your fingers do land on the correct frets, remove them from the strings (by relaxing your hand) and fret the chord again. Repeat this motion for a period of two to three minutes, with the goal of being able to do this step many times in a row until you can do it perfectly. Then repeat this step again with the next chord in the chord progression you are practicing. Doing this will make the next step of the practicing process much easier.
To watch a video demonstration showing you exactly how to practice this step of the process, see this free video guitar lesson about changing chords on guitar.
Step #3: Isolate The Transition
After you develop the fluency and the coordination needed to play each of the chords accurately in isolation, it is time to shift your focus to the actual moment of transition between the chords. To master this element of playing, begin by playing the first chord, then relax your hand (as you did in Step #2 above) and slowly move to the next chord, forming its shape with your fingers in midair. If the chord progression you are working on requires you to shift to a different part of the guitar for the second chord, keep your shoulder relaxed as you move your entire arm to reach its target position for the new chord. While doing this, stay focused on the following:
- Keep your fingers close to the neck of the guitar during the moment of transition. The closer the fingers are to the guitar as you shift between the chords, the faster (and more easily) you will be able to play the target chord.
- Consider any instances where it’s possible to use the same finger to play the same note in both of the chords. This is sometimes possible to do if both chords are to be played in the same area of the guitar. In such cases, don’t let those common fingers come up at all from the guitar when performing the chord change.
- Fix your eyes onto the hand doing the chord change while practicing. This will make it possible to observe any problems that come up and fix them in real time.
- Go slowly and take your time to complete the transition process between the chords. Don’t allow yourself to become impatient and rush to the second chord in the progression in order to finish this step. The speed must be slow enough for you to have enough time to observe everything that is happening. The more you focus on this element of the process, the faster your hands will learn to do the chord change correctly and consistently, time after time. Spend about as much time as you have to working through this step of practicing the chord change. It might be three to four minutes, it might be quite a bit longer!
As mentioned above in Step 2, you must complete the chord change by fretting each of the chords with the fingers moving “together” in a coordinated fashion. If you have to adjust the position of the fingers after transitioning to the second chord, it is a sign that you have more work to do in this area of your guitar playing.
To see a demonstration of how to practice this part of the motion in chord changes, watch this free video about changing chords on guitar.
Step #4: Complete The Puzzle
After completing the previous step of the practicing process, it is time to insert the chord change into an actual musical context you want to play it in (such as a song you are learning). To do this, simply lengthen the original two-chord section you have been practicing in the earlier steps by a chord change or two in both directions (before and after the change in question). This will help to prepare you for actually playing the song all the way through and test how well you have practiced the previous steps of the process described in this article.
As you follow the practice steps outlined here you will see your problems with chord changes starting to disappear, enabling you to get much more enjoyment out of playing music on guitar.