Every guitar student struggles with the art of making smooth chord changes, so don't feel alone if you're having this issue with your playing. No matter how well you've learned how to fret a certain chord, if you can't move easily to the next chord position, your progressions will sound choppy and not in time with the rhythm of the songs you're playing.
There are 3 methods you can use to improve your transitions from chord to chord:
1. Break the song into bits.
If you sail through most of a song's chords with ease, but your fingers get jumbled at a few places, stop and figure out which chords are giving you trouble. Maybe you can go from the F Major chord to the C Major chord easily, but the G7 thrown in the mix is giving you fits.
Break down the specific segments where you're not transitioning smoothly, and only play those segments during the next practice session of the song. Play the problem chords over and over for at least ten minutes no matter how awful they sound. Remember to start slowly, and only speed up when you've mastered the changes.
You're doing 2 key things to help your playing with this exercise. First, when you're forced to confront those tough chord changes, you'll finally take some time to find the easiest way to move from chord to chord instead of just rushing through the tough parts of a song. Secondly, the repetition builds muscle memory. If you spend 2 or 3 practice sessions working on the problem parts of a song, you will see a noticeable improvement in your playing as your fingers "remember" where they're supposed to go.
2. Use your trusty capo.
If your guitar has high string action on the upper neck, it may be difficult for you to learn how to make smooth chord changes. When you're adding new chords to your repertoire, if your strings are so high you can't easily fret all the chords, try using your capo.
Place your capo on the 2nd or 3rd fret to lower the action of the strings. This puts less pressure on your fingers so you can move them more easily from string to string and fret to fret.
Now try playing your difficult chord progressions without as much resistance. You should be able to make your transitions much more quickly and easily with the capo's help. This will build your self-confidence and create the muscle memory you'll need after you remove the capo.
3. Develop fingering that works for you.
As you learn new chords, you'll be taught the standard ways to play them all. But you can develop your own way of playing most chords. As long as you strum the correct notes for the chord, it doesn't matter if your fingers form the chord differently than the standard position.
The A Major chord, for example, can be played on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings of the 2nd fret in a number of ways. You can make a "triangle" with your index, ring and middle finger, you can use those fingers all in a straight line on the fret, or you can press down on the 3 strings with one finger. Each way is correct. But each different formation of the same chord makes it easier to move to other chords in a song.
As you learn new progressions, choose the chord forms that help you make smooth chord changes. Sometimes a finger can be left in place since it's in the same position in the next chord. Use that stationary finger to help you move into the next chord more quickly. Or drop the bass note or the high note in a chord if it helps you move through a chord progression seamlessly.
Your guitar instructor has other proven techniques to help you become a smoother player, so don't be shy about asking for tips on how to make easier chord changes.
For more information, contact Pimentel & Sons Guitars or a similar company.
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