One thing that crops up time again from students everywhere is the dreaded issue of chord changes. I spend a lot of time in the early stages with my private students helping them get past this hugely frustrating part of playing the guitar, and I answer quite a few emails on this subject too.
I hate to see it when students start learning the guitar with loads of passion and ambition only to lose interest or get super frustrated because of this issue. Often they will then stick the guitar up the attic for 10 years and let it gather dust while their musical ambitions slowly fade away. It’s a real shame to see.
Faster Chord Changes!
The first tip I will give you today is a really cool little method called the ‘Pivot Method’. It’s a tip you will find really useful and will help with quite a few really common and important chord changes.
When learning a new chord change, the first and simplest way to get your fingers used to moving to the right spot is by using what is called the ‘Pivot’ method.
1) The ‘Pivot’ method
On certain chord changes you can leave one (or sometimes two fingers) in the exact same place for both chords. For example, the G Major to E minor chord change is a very popular chord change and can be used in a tonne of songs from Stand by Me (Ben E. King), Songbird (Oasis), and many more…To use the pivot method here going from a G to Em the:
- 1st finger stays in the same position (used as pivot)
- 2nd finger will move from the 3rd fret, 6th string to the 2th fret, 4th string
- 3rd finger moves off the fretboard
Take a look at the images of the G Major and E minor chords below. That first finger doesn’t move. It’s so simple, fast and effective – yet so few do it.
The reason why this is such a good method is that it makes it much easier to get all the fingers in the correct position quickly and with ease while pivoting around one finger.
Have a think about which other chord changes you frequently do where you can ‘Pivot’ from and to. Your chord changes and guitar playing will improve if you use this method wherever you can.
2) The’Minimum Pressure Required’ Method
One thing I have seen over and over again with students is that they use way too much pressure on the fretboard when playing a note. If you haven’t played guitar for long you probably do so too.
Whenever a new student plays a note that requires their fretting hand fingers to fret a string, they often squeeze the life out of the fretboard, and this only gets highlighted whenever they are playing something out of their comfort zone.
If you are squeezing the life out of the guitar when fretting a note, feeling your muscles explode like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then it’s time for us to take a step back and look at this crucial aspect of guitar playing.
You should always aim to play with the minimum pressure required. The reasons we should be aiming to play with absolute minimum pressure is that we want to relieve our hand, fingers and the rest of our bodies of as much tension as possible.
Tension in the fingers equals tired, sore fingers and that means slow, lacklustre inaccurate changes. It’s like if you were slogging it all day in the gym, and then went to play football, you probably would be too worn out to play well.
Spend a couple of minutes each day playing random notes and a couple of minutes playing the chords you know while constantly checking that you are using the absolute minimum pressure required to fret that note.
You should be constantly adjusting the pressure so you get the perfect balance between fretting the note cleanly, and using hardly any pressure.
One super tip to make this easy, is to get as close to the fret as possible. You hardly need any pressure at all there.
When we have a huge amount of tension in our fretting hand fingers, we are making everything 10 x harder, SO STOP PRESSING so hard and your chord changes will get faster.
3) The ‘Lift up’ Method
Many beginner guitarists don’t realise this until someone shows them, but a lot of pro’s and I mean a LOT use what I call the ‘Lift Up’ method.
This is a great method and one you should use today.
On the last upstroke you strum, you lift your fingers off the fretboard with your fretting hand and start moving towards the next chord.
This buys you time to get your fingers into position for the next chord.
Yes, it is just a fraction of a second, but hopefully by now, you will have realised that fraction a second makes all the difference.
If you were to strum a very basic pattern of:
D, D, U, U, D, U
Normally that last upstroke you would play with your fingers on the chord, but now we lift our fingers off on that highlighted upstroke.
As the fingers of your fretting hand are in the air they should be moving towards the next chord while the right hand is still strumming.
It is difficult at first as you need to be moving your fretting hand on an upstroke which you probably won’t have done yet, but stick with it as it will make BIG difference.
If you want quicker chord changes and are feeling huge amounts of frustration, fear not, the above techniques will help.
Apply them as much as possible and you will notice the time it takes you to change between chords will decrease and your enjoyment of playing the guitar will increase.
If you want to get really good at your chord changes (and get past the most frustrating part of learning the guitar so you can start having fun with this awesome instrument), check out Ninja Chord Changes – a powerful course dedicated to solving this guitar hurdle in quick time.
Just found your website and spent the last hour reading and watching videos with a lot of “Aha!” moments.
I am over 40 and just started learning the guitar 7 months ago and I am so stoked I found your website! There is so much information out there that is confusing or not well explained. You really do a great job explaining the basics and why.
I will be reading the e-books and will definitely be signing up for the Ninja Chord Changes.
Just wanted to say thanks and what your doing is appreciated!!
All the best!!
Dan Thorpe says
Many thanks for the kind words and I`m glad you are enjoying the site! It`s always been my aim to demystify the art of learning guitar and make it possible for anyone to learn. I`m glad to have helped so far and I hope you enjoy the course!
Jack Buitendag says
Hi, I’m turning 56 this year and decided to take up accoustic guitar and yes did I battle to get the chord change over right. Well, I came across your site and after reading your article I grabbed my guitar and I’m proud to say within 4 minutes I got it right. Thank you very much. You gave me a well needed little push in the right direction. I’m so excited and can’t wait for my guitar teacher to arrive. Regards Jack