One of the biggest challenges novice guitar players face when learning to play guitar, is changing chords quickly and smoothly. I was just like you when I began playing, and thought this was a lofty goal to achieve—but I kept at it until I got it just right.
I have to be honest with you—changing guitar chords for beginners is a challenge, and something that some players may never fully master. However with lots of practice, perseverance, and more practice your odds of success significantly increase.
Of course you will need to learn a few tips and techniques to help you learn to play guitar, and master the basics of guitar chords for beginners. In order to make this process easy, I have created a step-by-step lesson that deconstructs each detail. I have used this technique when teaching my guitar students over the years—and have typed it out so that you can use it to practice at home too!
Learning how to jump from one chord to the next, without hesitation, without a change in tempo, and with all of your fingers at once is more challenging than meets the eye. If you have attempted to change chords, but end up fumbling and frustrated, you are not alone!
Start With The Basics
One of the biggest mistakes made when learning guitar chords for beginners is attempting to tackle advanced chord patterns. To increase your odds of success, let’s start with a basic chord pattern of: D – G – D – A.
Finger The Chords Individually
Start by practicing with just the D chord. Finger the D chord and look at the precise placement of your hand and fingers. Now visualize what proper placement looks like prior to returning all three fingers to the D chord one at a time. Then alternate placing your three fingers on one at a time, then all three at once. Continue to practice proper placement until you can do it right at least 80% of the time.
Now move to the G chord, and practice the same technique as you did with the D chord. Begin by looking at your hand and fingers as they are properly placed on the G chord. Make sure while practicing to shake your hands out as needed. Once you can visualize proper placement on the G chord, individually place your three fingers properly on your guitar to form the G chord. As with the D chord above, continue this process until you have proper placement the majority of the time.
Now that you have established some muscle memory for both of the D chord and the G chord, it is time to attempt moving from the D chord, to and from the G chord. Begin by forming the G chord with all three fingers, then visualize how your hands and fingers will look on the D chord. When you are ready lift your fingers off of the fretboard, place them on the D chord. During this process do not focused on tempo, just take your time and ensure that you achieve proper placement. Continue moving back and forth between the D chord in the G chord until you are able to do it without much thought or repositioning.
Once you have mastered moving to and from the D chord and the G chord, add the A chord into the mix. Start by practicing with just the A chord. Finger the A chord and look at the precise placement of your hand and fingers. Now visualize what proper placement looks like prior to returning all three fingers to the A chord one at a time. Then alternate practicing placing your three fingers on one at time, then all three together. Continue to practice proper placement until you can do it the vast majority of the time.
Patience Is A Must When You Learn To Play Guitar
While the process may sound basic, it is an excellent way to master changing chords. Now that you have developed your muscle memory for the A chord, move back and forth between the D chord and the A chord. Finger the D chord, then visualize proper placement on the A chord. When you are ready lift your fingers off of the fretboard, with no concern of tempo, and place your fingers on the A chord. Continue to move back and forth between the D chord and the A chord, visualizing in-between as needed.
Once you can successfully achieve proper placement the vast majority of the time, it is time to add tempo. Your initial tempo will be slow and steady, and speed will come later. You will be working on: ||:D///|G///|D///|A///:|| (repeat at least 4x)
Take your time and strum straight down. Strum the D chord four times then move between the chords, strumming four times on each chord. Instead of stopping when you have successfully played straight through—continue to play the chords at least four times in a row.
If it is helpful you can use a metronome to keep your pulse—but you don’t have to if it complicates things for you. Just remember that your primary goal it to keep a slow, but steady pulse—without pausing between chords.
When you are ready, the next step in learning guitar chords for beginners is to add a simple strum. I would suggest a |down - down/up - down - down/up| to begin with. To keep things simple, repeat the same chord pattern above.
As you master the chord pattern while strumming, you can increase the tempo by 4 beats per minute (4bpm)—a metronome may help.
As simple as the above steps for playing the guitar chords for beginners may sound—they are challenging and take time, patience, practice, and persistence. The bonus tips below will help you when learning to play the guitar: Relax! Many beginners tense their hands and fingers when playing—which is not only unnecessary, but can lead to sore hands and fingers.
1. Make sure you first learn how to create a crisp and clear sound when you finger a chord. Many newbies don’t take the proper time to do this when they learn to play the guitar, which creates a habit that is difficult to break.
2. When you add tempo, go as slow as you need—just find a tempo that you can commit to, without stopping or slowing down.
3. Consider using a metronome.
4. Don’t expect to master the guitar in a day, or a week—in fact it will take many months.
5. Practice makes perfect!
When learning the guitar chords for beginners above, start with the first step—and move on to the remaining steps as your skills continue to advance.
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