Tips

Switching Chords Quickly

Most young guitar players find it easier to play melodies than chords. You just have to think about one note at a time when you're playing a melody, while with chords, you have to think about where you're going to place 2-4 fingers. Because chords are often more challenging, younger players sometimes gloss over them when they practice. This is a big mistake, because guitarists spend at least 90% of their time playing chords when they play with others. If you don't know your chords, it's going to be hard to play with a band or to accompany yourself as you sing.

One of the best ways to get good at playing chords is to pick two chords and practice switching back and forth between them.

  • First, pick two chords. For our example, we'll use C and D7.
  • Before you play these two chords, take a minute to study the fingerings. Is there a finger that is common to both chords? Are any of the finger shapes similar? If there is a common finger, you can make life easier on yourself by keeping that finger glued to the fretboard when you change chords. (In the case of C and D7, the first finger is the same in both chords.)
  • Now practice moving slowly between the two chords, trying to keep your fingers as close to the strings as possible as you switch chords. The lower you keep your fingers, the faster they can move.
  • To learn to change chords more quickly, use a metronome and put it on 60 beats per minute. Switch back and forth between the chords, holding each chord 4 beats. Once that gets easy, hold each chord for 3 beats, then 2 beats, then 1 beat. You probably won't be able to switch quickly at first, but if you keep at it, you'll eventually be able to switch chords like a pro.

The good news is that you won't have to do this with every single chord that you know. Once you have a handful of chords that are easy for it, you'll find that you are able to learn new chords more quickly.

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