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  • Manuel Diewald

Why do my Chord Changes Feel Slow?

My name is Manuel Diewald and I am a Sydney-based guitar teacher in West Pennant Hills with a B.Mus. (Hons) (First) in Music Pedagogy from The University of New South Wales (UNSW).


Changing chords can take a bit of coordination and dexterity as we are trying to develop our Fine Motor Skills (FMS). If you are new to learning the guitar and have tried to jump straight into chords, I suggest that you first start with exercises that focus on one finger at a time to develop FMS before trying to coordinate all or most of your fingers at the same time. For those who have been doing this, and I encourage you to keep doing this, then there are some tips that will help when trying to change chords with more control, and ultimately, playing at speeds that are necessary for the pieces or songs you are learning.


Some important things to consider while changing chords are:


Taking all your fingers, or the necessary fingers, off at the same time. The idea behind this is quite simple, to make sure that you let the chord ring out for as long as it needs to and to perform the chord change at the same time between the fingers used.


Only lifting the fingers that you need to. Sometimes chords share the same notes and so if you are already placing down a finger for one chord, you may be able to keep that finger down, using it as an anchor point, while changing to the next chord. For example, G Major to D Major. Both chords share the note D and when playing a G major chord (as listed below) the 3rd finger that is on the note D can stay there when moving to the D Major chord (as listed below).





Placing all fingers down at the same time. It is important to place all your fingers down at the same time when changing chords as you want to hear all those notes at once. By placing chords down one after another, you will more than likely hear some open string notes that are not part of that chord. I do want to point out that there are instances when playing arpeggios (an arpeggio is a broken chord) where we can place fingers down as we play them but in this instance, I am talking about chords where we play all the notes at once.


Preparing fingers. It is important that we always prepare our fingers for the next chord which means keeping any fingers that we are not using and which need to be used in the next chord, close to the string and fret that that finger is going to be placed. This helps to make the chord change much easier as we essentially just need to place that finger down a very short distance from where it originally was.


Synchronisation between the left and light hand. When changing chords, we can be very focused on the left-hand fingers so they press down on the correct strings and frets though sometimes the right-hand takes a back seat. When strumming, remember that at the same time you are placing your left-hand fingers down on the correct notes that the right-hand must be strumming the strings at the same time. This will eliminate any silence or muffled sound between chord changes.


I hope this helps you to think differently when practicing chord changes and that this information helps you progress beyond a plateau.

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