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Changing Chords on the Guitar
I can't seem to change chords quickly enough...
Changing chords is a lot like driving a car. The first time you try it, you usually fail miserably and are left thinking "How am I ever gonna remember to do all of this?" I mean you've got to keep your eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, right foot on the gas, change gears with a free hand and somehow manage to avoid crashing into the picket fence.
Yet, after a month you laugh at yourself for thinking it was impossible - things that you needed to concentrate and focus on, have now become second nature and you do most of it without even thinking...
Guitar chords are very much the same. The first time you try to go from G to D you're left thinking that there is NO WAY you'll ever be able to get all them fingers in the right place fast enough, like the guys on TV seem to be able to do without breaking a sweat.
And yet, with enough time and practice, changing chords will become second nature and you'll be able to switch between most chords without even looking at your hands.
Usually, the biggest cause for chord changing problems with newbies, is tension. Watch a new guitar player trying to go from G to C in time for the next down strum, and you'll probably see a stiff shoulder and a tensed hand with stressed fingers that looks like they might break any minute. Here are some pointers that will help with changing chords more smoothly...
Having some problems with changing chords on the guitar? This page will show you some possible solutions and help you on your way...
Return from Changing Chords to Common Guitar Learning Problems
Relax your shoulder - As a beginner, the shoulder of your strumming hand will naturally be tensed when your fretting chords and especially when you try and change between them. A tense shoulder leads to a tense arm and tensed fingers. And tensed fingers are unwilling to move in a quick and smooth fashion.
This lockup of the muscles needs to be avoided since it will complicate things when trying to change chords. Be aware of the amount of tension in your shoulders and try to relax when strumming chords. It might be a good idea to try practicing single chords with relaxed shoulders, before moving on to the changing of different chords.
Avoid Wednesay Fingers - As in "Whens day gonna break?". Your fingers should always be relaxed when playing and have a loose and 'springy' momentum about them - however, for a beginner this is easier said than done. All that concentration leads to stiff, rigid and inflexible fingers.
Be conscious about the state of your fingers, right from the time you move your hand up to the neck to fret a chord. You'll likely notice your arm and fingers tense up. Try to keep them relaxed. Keep them curly instead of stiff and try to fret a chord in this state.
Keep movements smooth - When changing between, for example, the G and D chords, most beginners will smash down their index finger on the first string and then try and get all the other fingers in place in time. Try to avoid this by keeping the switching movement smooth and SLOW (at first). It might be a good idea to try and get a different finger (than the index) in place first and let the rest follow after.
Start slowly - It's much easier to change chords when you play SLOOOOWLY. Start real slow and if you still struggle, go even slower. It's better to be able to change a chord at a real slow pace, than doing it sloppily at a fast pace.
It's natural to want to be able to play a song at original speed, but as a beginner this might not be possible. So slow down until you've got enough skill to start speeding things up again.
Practice without Strumming - A great exercise for helping with chord changes is to simply change between chords without any strumming. Place your hands on the G chord and then try to switch to D or C or E in one fluid motion without doing anything else. This helps you to focus entirely on your fretting hand and might be a great starting point in helping you change chords effectively.