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Change Chords Quickly and Smoothly

One of the aspects learning guitar that I see beginning guitar students struggle with the most has to do with changing chords quickly and smoothly when they are trying to learn their first song or two. Here’s the typical scenario:

You’ve taken or watched a few guitar lessons and are introduced to open chords, which are always a great place to start as a beginner. Now you’ve picked a song that you want to learn and found out it uses 3 or 4 open chords that you’ve been learning. Great!

You’ve learned the 3 or 4 chords individually and when you play them on their own, they sound pretty good… But when you try to play them in the sequence of the song and try to keep up with the songs tempo, you find it hard to move to each new chord in time to sound good and connect with the tune.

This can be a very frustrating situation for a new student, one that sometimes discourages them from continuing on.

So here’s the best solution that has worked for hundreds of my students and I know it can work for you!

    1. The first step is to understand and acknowledge that when you first set out to conquer this new skill…. your going to sound like crap! Don’t worry EVERYONE is in the exact same situation. All too often students are afraid or discouraged when then hear themselves sound bad or don’t get the new technique down right away. Get Over It! If you practice, you will get better.

    2. Ok… now that we got that out of the way, here’s the best piece of advice I can give. When you are focusing on practicing chord changes DO NOT stop your strumming hand (the right hand for most players) from moving. Be forewarned… this will probably sound bad at first. But here’s what happens. Because people are afraid of sounding bad when they play, they stop strumming while they get the new chord in place. Then once they are confident that the chord is ready, they start strumming again. While this might be a confidence booster that avoided some nasty sounds coming from your guitar, it does not help your hands and fingers to learn what it feels like to connect with a steady rhythm.

      You need to push yourself through the rhythm barrier and keep your strumming hand moving while your fretting hand gets the new chord into place. To help make this transition easier…we have step #3.

    3. Without strumming or playing the strings… Practice moving from one chord shape to the next. BUT make sure that you put all of the fingers down at the same time! The way that everyone first learns chords is to put one finger down at a time until you have the full chord. This is the way it should be… however at some point you need to focus on putting all the fingers down at once. Think about what the chord shape looks like and feels like and then see how close to that shape you can get your fingers to look as they hover over the strings. Then put them all down at once and see if you have them all in the right spot.

      The most crucial element to making this step, as well as all the others, work is to only focus on one main technique at a time. Let’s face it… playing guitar involves A LOT of things happening at once. The more things you can “turn off” the more you can focus on improving one particular aspect of your playing.

    4. The last step involves using a metronome. If you don’t know what a metronome is, don’t even google it… get in your car, go to the closest music store and just buy one. Or get one on a app. You NEED this tool! After you get one, then hit up google or youtube to find out how to use it. Find a tempo that’s slow enough where you can change chords smoothly and accurately. As you get comfortable and build your confidence start increasing the tempo until you get close to the tempo of the song you want to learn. Then switch over to playing with the song and hack your way through it until your sounding as if you wrote the tune yourself.

      Happy Strumming!

      Mike Deiure has been teaching guitar for over 15 years and is the creator of




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