Beginner Guitar Lesson – Building Speed In Your Chord Changes
By Paul Kleff
Beginning guitar players struggle the most in two main areas with chords. The first is getting the notes to sound clearly in their chords, the second is in building speed in their chord changes. This lesson will show you how to practice your chord changes so that you can quickly and easily change from one chord to the next and get your playing sounding great.
The real key to chord change speed has very little to do with how quickly your fret hand fingers move. Speed is a byproduct of accuracy—learning to move your fret hand fingers as a unit is the key.
Changing Chords The Correct Way To Increase Your Speed
It sounds simple, but the best way to increase your speed is to practice your chord changes in a way that your fret hand gets pushed along. At first you have to sacrifice some accuracy, but once your speed increases the accuracy will correct itself.
Start by selecting two chords—G and D, for example. Place your fingers in the G chord. Without strumming, move your fingers to the D chord as a unit. By that, I mean do not move them one finger at a time. Practice moving the fingers simultaneously to their correct position in the new chords. Move back and forth between the two chords focusing on getting the fingers to move and land in the new chord fingering all at the same time.
Do this for several minutes—focus on keeping the least amount of tension in your fret hand that you can while you move back and forth between the two chords.
Let’s move to the next step now and add the strum hand. This is where you will truly start building your speed.
Pushing The Fret Hand With The Strum Hand
Go back and start again with your fingers in the G chord shape. We are going to use a simple strum pattern played without pausing in between the chord changes to get our fret hand moving.
Strum the G chord at a slow, even tempo. Play four down stroke strums on the G chord. As you get to the fourth strum, change the fret hand to the D chord. Do not stop or slow your strumming to wait for the fret hand to get to the new chord—this is key.
At first, you may not be able to get the D chord fingered cleanly—this is ok. If the first couple strums on the D chord don’t sound as clear as you would like, adjust your fret hand fingers while you continue to strum—do not stop the strum hand from playing your four count strum.
The consistent, even strum pattern will push the fret hand to learn to keep up. Most beginning guitar players develop the habit of stopping their strum pattern to wait for the fret hand to make the chord change. To increase the chord change speed, you have to get used to the feeling of the fret hand changing while the strumming remains constant.
It will not take you long to get your chord changes smooth if you practice using the strum hand push technique. Remember to keep it simple at first—use two chords and do four strums per chord while keeping the strum hand moving. Never stop to wait for the chord change. As you get better at this, you can add more chords and more complicated strum patterns.
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