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Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 239

Yep, I've certainly spent my time agonizing over this one and posting similar questions. There have been a lot of good suggestions, and I am sure you can pick up on the common elements.

I have had the most success playing simple progressions real slow with downstrokes only like this: Bass, Down, Down, Down.

This forces me to plant all the fingers at the same time instead of the pinky or index first.

Sweet Home Alabama D, C, G
Freebird G,D,Em,F,C,D
Boy Named Sue G,C,D,C

As you get the hang of it throw in some upstrums and sing along.

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 6

Someone mentioned the need to keep the rhythm, even if you flub up some initial notes. THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND! The first few years I played I would let my fretting hand dictate the rhythm. I did this without really realizing it; so even if you *think* your strumming hand is playing the rhythm, make sure you practice to a metronome to really make sure. You need to get your muscle memory to the point where you can think 'D' and just have your fingers place themselves into the D chord. Then, you can focus on making sure your strumming is rhythmic, and your chord changes will fall into place.

It was also mentioned that you can do an open string strum to allow a bit more time to change chords. My guitar teacher taught me this, but after finally coming to realize my rhythm dependance on my fretting hand I would highly discourage this. It might make it seem like you're changing chords faster, but you're really just tricking yourself. You're just as slow, but now you've introduced a whole bunch of notes that have no place in the chord progression. Listen to your favorite guitarists. Do you hear them throwing in that open strum between chord changes? Likely not, and if they do, chances are its by choice, not because they can't make the change fast enough.

Take it slowly. Playing 5 chords at a slow rhythm PERFECTLY and being in control is much better than playing 20 chords twice as fast but having a reliance of open string strums, and flubbing up your rhythm and notes. Keep in mind that when you practice, you're not only practicing the guitar, but actually practicing HOW to practice! Do you want your playing to be dictated by coordination limitations, or do you want your only limit to be what you can hear in your head?

Anyway, I've probably said way more than needs to be, but there ya have it.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353

I found that changing my hand to the exact chord shape before plunking it down on the strings helps (especially with some funky chords like the intro chord on Under the Bridge). It's going to be difficult in the beginning, but you'll soon start automatically making the shape with your hand and improve your chords changes. So, hold your hand in the air over the chords and make the shape, then plop it down.

I agree. also, dont be afraid to let go of the strings. you dont have to be in constant contact to make the chord changes fast and seamless.

my fingers, all of them, many many times release completely. just an instant, but full release. your fingers will eventually retain a memory of the chord shapes and make them before you think it.
if you listen to some great guitarists, like Pete Townsend, they often sustain the chord played (allowing the open strings in the chord shape to ring) while transitioning to the next.
dont be afraid to let space work for you.

Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 159

I have an article on chord changes. I use this method to clean up mine.

The article is genius and painfully obvious at the same time. I participate in other activities where visualization is the key to success and never once thought to apply it to guitar playing.

Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 536

It helps to try and find an easier fingering of the chord based on the chord you played before it - minimize and simplify finger movement/change as much as possible. Don't limit yourself to thinking you can only finger the chord one way.

"That’s what takes place when a song is written: You see something that isn’t there. Then you use your instrument to find it."
- John Frusciante

Eminent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 33

I'm sure someone already mentioned this but just in case, the best thing you can do is to just keep practicing. Sometimes even if you feel you're practicing a lot, it still isn't enough in the end. You'll realize this after you've been playing for a loooong time.

Also, if you're playing an acoustic, the height of the strings from the fretboard (called "action") might be giving you a hard time. You can try lowering the action yourself by sanding the saddle down or taking it to a guitar shop and having them do it.

Good luck and have fun. I know practicing can get really boring but it's the only way and the results are worth it!

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