One of the toughest things most beginner guitarists have to contend with is being able to switch chords without dropping beats. Every guitarist goes through it, but there are some simple things to keep in mind to make it easier.
The key idea is efficiency of movement. Every extra bit of space your fingers have to move through takes extra time. Nanoseconds, yes. But at faster tempos, those nanoseconds add up to your slowing down. So here’s a few tips to help you make your movements more economical and help make your chord changes smoother.
1. Keep your fingers as close to the fret board as possible. When that pinkie and third finger start flying out in space it takes longer for them to come back down.
2. Build your chords from the bottom string up. For some reason a lot of us get in the habit of building our chords from the top down. Like in an open C major chord, starting with the 2nd string, then 4th, then 5th. The problem with that is your pick is going to hit the bottom strings first, so get those notes placed first. That extra split second will give you a chance to get the last top bits of the chord in place. I know it seems like a negligible amount of time, but you’ll be surprised how it can improve your guitar playing.
3. When moving from one chord to the next, move the finger that has the farthest to go first. For instance in moving from G major to C major in the open position, your first finger has to move all the way from the 5th string to the second. Lead with that finger and you’ll find that your other fingers naturally pull along behind to end up close to their intended frets as well.
4. Stay relaxed and the let the natural movement of your hands help you get to the chord. Believe it or not, the guitar is actually designed very well to accommodate the natural movement of the human hand. When you use tip #3 and lead with the farthest finger, your other fingers will follow along behind it naturally and you can get them to settle in the right place. But if you tighten up they won’t move as naturally, so stay loose.
Tips for doing this:
– Use a metronome to keep your tempo steady.
– Keep your right hand strumming even if the chord is mangled when you get to the first beat. It will improve.
– Make sure to stay on your beat. If the chord lasts for 4 beats, don’t play extra beats after you clean the chord up.
To practice all this, take just two chords that you’re having a problem with and work them back and forth with 4 strums on each. Once you get that, go to two strums each. Don’t try to attack all these ideas on a whole song at once. Break it up into easily learnable chunks and you’ll make more progress faster.
Get to it!