26 September 2008

The Secret of Fast Chord Changes

Today I'm very happy to share a video lesson with you that shows the most effective method I've ever come across to practice chords. I know that a lot of guitarists, of all levels, struggle with chord changes. I've applied this method myself since I saw it two weeks ago and it really leads to clean and fast chord changes.

The method is called "Grab the chord in the air". I'm amazed that no book, teacher or training program I know has ever shown me this. I'm happy that I've found it now, though, and even more pleased to share it with you. But I did run into a couple of problems as I applied it. Stick around and I'll show you my solutions to those as well.

So, before we get to the good stuff, let me just tell you what you'll be learning. First, you'll get the links to watch the video lesson. After watching I'm guessing that you'll be pretty excited to go and try out the lesson on your guitar immediately. If you are, that's fine, you just go and do it. I'll wait for you.

If you're the patient type, or you run into problems as you practice, you can come right back to this page. I'll show you how I solved problems I encountered when I rushed off excitedly to practice it.

OK, enough talking already. Let's get to the good stuff!

The Video Lessons

You'll need about twenty minutes to view both the videos linked below. They are on the YouTube site and the links will open in a new browser window or tab. Just so you're not too surprised, or anything. Enjoy them, and don't forget to come back for the extra tips when you're finished...

  1. Grab Chords In The Air, Video 1

  2. Grab Chords In The Air, Video 2

Pretty amazing, did you ever get shown that? But what about those problems I spoke of? Well here they are, with the solutions that worked for me, too...

Tips to Solve Problems With this Method

When you first start with chords you don't know well your fingers will often miss their strings. It will take a little practice (or a lot!) to get your fingers all in place at the same time. To practice most effectively work very, very slowly and use a metronome.

When I started learning some completely new chord shapes I couldn't get all my fingers down in the right places at once. You might have this problem, too. So, I set my metronome to 40 beats per minute, the slowest tempo available. But that was still not slow enough, so I grabbed and released the chord every four beats, like this - grab 2 3 4 release 2 3 4 (repeat).

After I grab the chord I stare at it to fix the finger positions in my mind for beats 2 through 4. When I release it I fix the fretboard and visualize the fingers in place during the second bar of four beats.

Still Not Getting There?

With a couple of chords I found that I couldn't get the whole shape in place accurately, even working very slowly. My fingers would just get in a tangle. The solution is to build up to the chord one finger at a time.

Let's take an open G major chord as an example to show how this works. Start with your first finger, grab the 5th string, 2nd fret cleanly with just that finger. Then release and move your hand away from the fretboard, lather, rinse and repeat...

When you master it add another finger, the second finger on the 6th string for example, at the same time. Practice with the two fingers, then finally add the last finger, ring finger on 1st string 3rd fret.

Once you've got all the fingers going in place like this, you can use the practice method just like the video to build your finger memory and speed.

If you haven't already done it take fifteen minutes to watch the videos, I promise you won't regret it. I've applied this practice method for two weeks on some new blues chord shapes and I am very happy with the results. I think you will be, too.

Let's take a moment to review what you've learned in this article.

Firstly, the videos show you a very effective practice method to learn chords. Secondly, when you start with a new chord shape you can practice *very* slowly to place it accurately. Thirdly, if you are unable to place a chord even at a slow tempo, you have a finger by finger method to work up to it.

Now, if you're really serious about improving your chord playing, I'm giving you a challenge to put this lesson into practice right away. Think about the chords you play, I'm sure there's at least one that you can't play fast. Mine were the open D minor and B7 positions, I'd even avoid faster songs with these in.

Maybe you've got lots of problem chords, but choose just one for now. Pick up your guitar and play it, place the chord on the fretboard. Do all your fingers go directly into place, or do you walk it one finger at a time, the mistake described in the video?

Now go and practice the chord with the method you've been shown. Practice for a few minutes at a time and give it a few days. Whatever your result, please come back and report it here in the comments. I'd love to hear how you benefit, learn about any problems you encounter and how you solved them. And if you're stuck, maybe we could find a solution together...

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Lisa said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! First of all I have been really struggling with several chord changes and now I know why, I was walking my fingers just like he said. I always heard people talking about chord shapes but couldn't figure out how to get all of my fingers in place at once. I also struggle with Dm and also G7, C is also hard for me but not as bad as G. I was getting really frustrated with my lack of progress considering I have been very consistent with my practice. Thanks so much for sharing and the metronome is a perfect idea to work on timing at the same time.
Thanks again,

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Lisa, Glad to hear the post helped. This technique really works well.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the tip I needed
to move forward in a structured practice time. Thank you so much for providing a valuable tool that will help indefinitely with each chord. B.B.R.

Gary Fletcher said...

@B.B.R. You're welcome, glad this helped you.

Anonymous said...

I been playing for about 3 months and i thought i reached my beginners peak until I noticed that my chords progressions and changes were very sloppy. I thought that pushing through that wall was how to get passed it. Then I found this!! only after 5 days I notice a great change in how cleanly I grabbed each chord. I'm learning chord progressions for songs in only 30 minutes just by using this method. Thank you so much! -D.S.B

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