There are several ways to master the technique of changing chords, so let’s look at a couple of exercises using basic guitar chords. The basic guitar chords are C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G, A, and Am. Some instructors add C7, D7, E7, G7, A7 and B7. The F chord is always the most difficult for the beginning guitar player because you hold two strings down with one finger.
Ideally, you want your basic guitar chords to sound clean and crisp – no muffled strings. Keep practicing the individual chords until you feel confident you’ve got them down.
Your next goal is to make a fluid transition from one chord to another; start slow and pick up speed at your own rate of learning. This is where a metronome can be very helpful. You’ll start with very slow transitions, then increase the beat and your speed. Playing with drum tracks is another option. Don’t worry too much about strumming at this stage. Use one down strum on each chord and increase your speed as you are able.
Practicing chord-changing within a song is one of the best exercises you can do. But you can also start by pairing a basic chord with another basic chord. Try switching back and forth between G and all the other basic chords, like this:
G > C G > Dm G > Em G > F G > Am
G > Bm G > D G > A G > E
Keep practicing until you are easily transitioning from G to the other chords, then repeat the exercise using C, D, Dm, E, Em, A, Am and F.
You can even make a game for yourself: Make basic guitar chord flash cards and select two at random. Make that selection your day’s practice exercise. 20 minutes per day is a good target time. It’s normal to hit a wall with one particular transition. Keep working and changing between those two chords and soon it will be effortless. This is a good example of how effort and consistency will take you beyond the range of more talented guitar players. You’ll be the person they wish they were “as good as…”
About.com has some great articles and exercises for working on guitar chords. The following is their suggestion for improving your picking accuracy, finger strength and fretting speed:
Put your first finger on the fifth fret of the 1st string. Downstroke. Put your second finger on the sixth fret of the 2nd string and upstroke.
Put your first finger on the fifth fret of the 1st string. Downstroke. Then place your second finger on the sixth fret of the 3rd string and upstroke.
You’re going to repeat Exercise 2 using the same fingers on the same frets, but this time upstroke and downstroke the on the 1st and 4th strings.
Repeat Exercise 3 using the 1st and 5th strings. Your goal is to play all the notes evenly and at the same volume. Start slowly and build speed; if you’re making too many mistakes, slow it back down and try again.
If you’re feeling ready to try a song, here’s one that uses only three chords: G, C, D. It’s slow and smooth, and the transitions are easy. As you strum it, start slow. Then as you continue practicing, build up to Kenny Rogers’ pace.
Finally, try this exercise. It’s a major barre chord (a type of chord that has only fretted notes and can be moved up or down the guitar neck) warm-up. Play the first measure of 5/4. The progression repeats one fret (or one half-step) higher than the starting chord. This upward move changes the letter name of the chords in the second and subsequent measures, but you are using the same chord forms as in measure 1.
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