Changing chords can be one of the most challenging elements of playing the guitar, especially for the fledgling guitarist. Here are a couple tricks to help you master the skill of quick chord changes.


  • Find Alternate Chords: when you encounter chords that are difficult to switch between, you can often simplify the chords or find alternatives to one or both of the chords. ¬†Look for chords that minimize motion (see below).
  • Imprinting: This is a technique that I’ve used for years with students. The idea is to fast-track muscle memory. See this video for more information.
  • Minimize Motion: The basic idea here is that you can be fastest when you’re moving the smallest distance. It’s easy to get in the habit of letting fingers fly way off the strings or make big shifts between chords, so awareness is key. Here are a couple things to help with this.
    • Find Common Tones: one of the other ways to most dramatically improve the speed between chords is to find notes that are in both chords or notes that are closest to one another. When there are common tones between chords, you can often use a note as a pivot point (keep that finger in place and move the others around it).
    • Find Common Shapes: Look at the chords you’re switching between. Do your second and third fingers happen to keep the same shape relative to each other? Rather than lifting them up and putting them down independently for the next chord, move them together!
    • Stagger your fretting: This depends on the picking pattern you’re using, but if you’re playing part of a chord first, you can sometimes make sure that part is in place and then get the rest of the chord in place before your right hand plays it.

Play on!

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