5 Tips for Smooth and Efficient Guitar Chord Transitions

Beginning guitar lessons is an exciting thing – learning the notes, building your first chord, and of course, playing your first song.  However, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  Learning to play takes commitment, practice and the motivation to get over some common beginner hurdles.  First, the painful process of building calluses can drive many to stop practicing.  Second, there’s always that awkward stage of learning to seamlessly transition to different chords.  You know the drill –  practice makes perfect.  But here are some additional tips from Teachstreet.com to help with switching chords:

1. Keep your fingers as close to the fret board as possible.  When that pinkie and third finger start flying out in space it takes longer for them to come back down.

2. Build your chords from the bottom string up.  For some reason a lot of us get in the habit of building our chords from the top down.  Like in an open C major chord, starting with the 2nd string, then 4th, then 5th.  The problem with that is your pick is going to hit the bottom strings first, so get those notes placed first.  That extra split second will give you a chance to get the last top bits of the chord in place.  I know it seems like a negligible amount of time, but you’ll be surprised how it can improve your guitar playing.

3. When moving from one chord to the next, move the finger that has the farthest to go first.  For instance, in moving from G major to C major in the open position, your first finger has to move all the way from the 5th string to the second.  Lead with that finger and you’ll find that your other fingers naturally pull along behind to end up close to their intended frets as well.

4.  Stay relaxed and let the natural movement of your hands help you get to the chord.  Believe it or not, the guitar is actually designed very well to accommodate the natural movement of the human hand.  When you use tip #3 and lead with the farthest finger, your other fingers will follow along behind it naturally and you can get them to settle in the right place.  If you tighten up they won’t move as naturally, so stay loose.

5. Keep your right hand moving.  The way your brain works has a lot to do with how your hands react.  As a beginner, your brain is giving you permission to stop in between chords and rationalizes it as “we’ll get it eventually.”  It’s normal and happens on a subconscious level.  You can easily change that by setting up a dissonance in your brain.  That means presenting your brain with a problem it needs to fix.  Here’s the way it works:  You brain loves when your hands are moving together.  So if you force your right hand to keep strumming, no matter what happens in your left, your brain will want to solve that dissonance by making your left hand move faster to keep up with your right.  Exactly what we’re looking for.

Looking for a guitar teacher who can help you master chord transitions even faster?  Search for a guitar teacher near you here.

You might also like…
Learn to Play 20 Songs Using 5 Easy Guitar Chords
5 Common Mistakes of Beginner Guitarists
How to Clean Your Guitar: 4 Easy Steps

Photo by lemuelinchrist.


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4 replies
  1. Larry Weaver
    Larry Weaver says:

    I didn’t know that a guitar is designed to accommodate the natural movement of the human hand. Staying relaxed is something I’ll have to do for learning how to play. Guitar lessons for beginners are also something I hope to look further into.


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