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Can I Be Taught To Change Chords?

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

Hi, my first real post here.

I've been trying to learn to play guitar for eight months now. After eight months of diligent practice (at least one hour per day on average) and two teachers I can't change chords anywhere near fast enough to begin to approximate a real song. Neither teacher has been able to offer any more specific advice than "keep practicing".

I am wondering if I simply lack the motor skills required to play guitar. Or maybe I'm just not able to concentrate hard enough. Or maybe my expectations are unrealistic. I enjoy practicing and my lessons, and although it sounds like it I am not particularly frustrated. I simply seem to be unable to change chords quickly. I can form most chords readily enough and can change them slowly but any attempt to speed up results in my fingers landing in the wrong spot. Practice as I may I can detect no improvement.

"Keep practicing" seems to fly in the face of Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Should I just accept my insanity or is it time for a realistic assessment of my abilities? I would like to be able to play a song someday but perhaps in my case it's as CCR sang: "someday never comes".


John Ryan

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2717

"Keep practicing" seems to fly in the face of Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Einstein is also quoted for saying,
"Genius in 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration"
But yeh, after 8 months you should be able to change chords fast enough to play a simple song
if the simple song is slow enough and consists of some simple open chords.
(E and Aminor being about as simple as it gets.)
How about
G, D, Am
G, D, C ? (although D is one of the harder ones to get quickly)

That's Knockin' on Heaven's Door and is played pretty slowly.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.

Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 87

Should I just accept my insanity or is it time for a realistic assessment of my abilities?

Who says that's an either/or question? :wink:

I'm in roughly the same boat (except I haven't had any instructors yet). The mental part of it (figuring out where to put my fingers) isn't the issue, it's just the physical coordination required. Me fingers don't want to behave, they don't. Recently I timed myself making some simple chord transitions, slowing down (and down, and down) until I got them cleanly. My final speed: 10 bpm.

Improvement on this front has obviously been very slow for me. I've learned other aspects of playing at a faster rate, it seems, but getting that coordination down has proven elusive.

My solution (for the moment): concentrate on music I've written instead of popular songs. That way no one knows how badly I'm butchering it. :oops:

Yeah, I guess that isn't really helpful to you, but at least you know you're not alone in this boat.

ETA: G(ee), Ken, that's probably the hardest chord for me to play. I never understand why most people think G is an easy, basic chord whilst F is brutal. I find F to be much easier for my fingers to manage.

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 8

Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 375

Here's my response:

"If I can do it ... you can!"

I don't care how old you are, how big or small your hands are, I've seen people with smaller hands than me just WHALE away.

Also, take note of some of David's lessons. I believe he says you don't always have to be playing a chord. For instance, just to keep rhythm (sp?) when changing from C to G you don't always have to be fretting a chord, you can strum the open strings on the transition. That should go for all the chords also.

I don't know what you're trying to play? Have you tried the "Easy songs":
"Eleanor Rigby"
"For What's it worth"

And, I'm at point where I don't really care what the chords sound like, I just keep the rhythm. Hope that makes sense. If I keep the rhythm the chords will come around.

I have another suggestion if you're still stuck. Take some (easy) songs (even though it's in the key E) and put a CAPO on the second fret. Do that for 2 or 3 weeks and practice songs. Then, practice the same songs without the CAPO and see if there is improvement. Hang in there!

Bob Jessie

Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1089

I might add only one possibly off-the-wall idea... the guitar itself. I've discovered that it's harder for me to play some things on my electric than on my acoustic. There is a very slight difference in the spacing of the strings, and for me that makes a difference. If possible, I'd suggest just trying a different guitar.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 15

I'm not sure if this would work for you or not, but have you tried practicing chord changes without looking at your hand/fretboard? I see a lot of similarities between being a decent touch typist on a computer and handling a guitar neck reasonably. I remember learning to type and feeling like I just couldn't go fast enough, until I forced myself not to look at the keyboard and learn to trust my instincts/training a bit. It was still very slow for a while, but the speed picked up quickly. I can probably do about 85 wpm today. You might be thinking too much and it may have more to do with your eyes watching the movement that's slowing it down rather than your hand itself.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5480

It's kind of a feel thing that will steadily improve over time. Setbacks or bad days will happen, sure, but I'm sure you're better now than you were 5 months ago.

I've got a different perspective that works for me. I don't "practice". I play. I probably put in a grand total of 20 hours of practice last year. I played a ton more than that though. My timing continued to improve. I also played a ton of different songs to eliminate boredom. Getting quicker at one song helps your motor skills all around and makes another song that much better when you go back to it. The best example I can give is that I've been playing Wild Horses by the Stones for maybe 6-8 months. It's never been one of my stronger songs because of the verse transition of Bm-G-Bm-G. However, over time it's gotten better and I do not "practice" that song every day.

"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin

Reputable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 334

Some chords changes are giving me a lot of trouble as well. Now I only finally managed to play the (easy) F chord consistently a few weeks ago, after 20 years of on and off playing. Other changes that I have problems with are G7, even the little finger in C7 and E7. And after playing with a friend recently, I noticed how poor my blues shuffle changes between G5 and D5 were.

So, what I then decided to do was to practise these changes while watching TV. Luckily, it's summer here and the Cricket is on for hours on TV. I must have spent hours just changing to and from the F chord - no playing, just slow movements, press down, relax, move hand away, form chord, push, relax. I tried to count 1-2-3-4 - 'play' the chord on one, then on 2-3-4 move the hand away and form the chord again, and this was done very slowly and with no sound/playing.

It was incredible how well it worked. I am far from perfect - in fact, changing from D to F in 'House of the Rising Sun' still needs some work, but overall the improvement was incredible.

Only drawback seems to me that I spend hours practicing 1 chord, sometimes not doing any other playing for the whole day - but then, I tell myself, I've got many years of playing ahead of me, 1 day or 1 week or 1 month will not make a difference. This time round, persistence and practice will pay off for me :D

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348

how about a whole different approach. tune the guitar to an open tuning and play slide guitar.
chords are straight barres up and down the neck. I'm just saying.

Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 29

We've all been in the same boat.

And I think that yes it is just about practicing.

Without even strumming just place your fingers exactly where they should for each chord and make sure it rings nice. Do the same with the next chord.

Then move from one to the other SLOWLY so you get the finger placement as near to spot on as possible. Strum once each time to make sure it rings clean.

If you do this with 2 easy chords (E, Aminor) you should be able to do it quicker over time. This may be minutes, hours or days just depending on yourself. You cant rush it, it will just come.

I am no teacher and this is how I self taught myself and would teach someone else as the next step is strumming and if the fingers are not placed on the string correctly then it will sound awful.


Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2415

"Keep practicing" seems to fly in the face of Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I think with this he's referring to something to the effect of "If you keep turning over a 2 of spades and expect to see a Jack of hearts when there's only one card on the table" then you may be insane.

Practice practice practice and you'll get it, I can't really add anything more than what the other people said here.

Keep at it and you'll be rewarded 10-fold.

In Space, no one can hear me sing!

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 6
Topic starter  

Thanks all, for the encouragement and tips. This guitar journey has been a humbling experience. But I will keep plugging away, much to the annoyance of my teenage daughters.


Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342

The answer is Yes, you can be taught to change chords. It is an exercise in motor control, and you will get there.

David Russell - Grammy winning Classical Guitarist - sets it out quite simply. If you do technical exercises for ten minutes each day you will improve.

David Hodge - yep, the one and only - has the perfect starting lesson in chord changing right here on this site - Horse With No Name has only two very easy chords and your parents have probably got it on any number of compilation CDs.

There is no substitute for practise, so those who say "keep practising" are bang on the money, but it's the quality of that practise which is important. If you take Horse With No Name, finger the chords individually and look at the finger movements that are going to be necessary to switch between them, you will get your head around it. Once you've got to that stage it's time to bring the right hand into the game, grab a pick and start to strum the chords. You'll need to do that slowly at first too. What this will teach you is not only the finger movements, but also timing those finger movements; it's perfectly ok not to strum the 4th beat of a bar whilst you move your fingers for the chord on the 1st beat of the next bar.

From there, I take my students through Brown-eyed Girl, Maggie May (not the F#m barre chord though, not straight away), Take It Easy, Lyin' Eyes, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and gazillions of other three or four-chord tricks. You'll notice "Operation Ground & Pound" doesn't feature.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at:

Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 25

Yes you can! There are no excuses for not being able to change chords.
This amazing guitarist play with his feet! No joke.

Every new guitarist goes through the same pain. I found that changing cords with a metronome helped a lot. It also kept me focused on the timing of the strumming hand. As soon as you can master one speed you can crank it up to a higher speed!

Good Luck!

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