10 Tips For Guitar Chord Transitions

Ayla Tesler-Mabe  /  Lessons / Apr 23

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You have a couple of guitar chords down. That’s great! But now maybe the transition between them has been a struggle. This is completely normal and happens to everyone on different levels of their guitar journey. Eventually, you’ll naturally develop the speed and smooth changes over time. However, you’re probably looking for a quicker solution, right?

In Ayla’s newest lesson, she provides ten tips and tricks to expedite the process of cleaner chord transitions. 

Tip # 1 – Internalize One Chord At A Time

Choose a chord you know well (it can be as simple as an E Minor!) and ensure you’re playing it properly by going through it string by string. Are there any strings muted? Are your fingers in the correct place? Go through the chords you know one by one and confirm you can play them perfectly.

Tip #2 – Be Mindful Of Your FIngers

Admit it — making chord shapes can be very awkward! So it’s important to pay attention to what your thumb and your fingers are doing when playing through your chords. As you go through the string by string process, look at your fingers and make sure they’re pressing down the right amount and your thumb is placed comfortably on the neck. 

Tip #3 – Off & On

When fretting a chord, try taking your fingers off and then back on the guitar neck again with the right shape. This exercise builds muscle memory for each chord shape and its position on the neck. Even if you do this little by little every day, you’ll notice huge improvements. 

Tip #4Check-In Every Now & Then 

You’re going to want to keep checking every once in a while when doing this exercise to see if the chord is still ringing out nicely. Or that you haven’t moved the shape into the wrong position. It’s easy to fall into a bad habit of incorrect placement, and this exercise eliminates that!

Tip #5 – Isolate Two Chords At A Time 

You can do this with any two chords you know, but we encourage you to challenge yourself and choose the two chords you find the most difficult to play. (Some tough transitions may include G Major to D Minor or F Major to B Major) Practice going back and forth between just these two chords. And when you master your two most tricky chords, every other transition will be noticeably easier from that point forward. 

Tip # 6 – Think Ahead Of Upcoming Chord Changes 

Now, this trick is more of a certain mindset that’s good to have. When you’re playing a chord, you should always be thinking of the next chord change coming up. This gets you thinking about where your fingers will need to move next so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.  

Tip #7 – Start On The Root Note

If you’re aware of where the starting note is, you can always start the next chord with the root note and then play the whole chord. This buys you time so you can figure out where to move your fingers where they need to go before playing the whole chord.  

Tip #8 – Anchor Points 

Most chords have common tones between them which means it’s not always necessary to move all of your fingers to create the net chord shape. You’ll discover that a lot of chords in a progression make a similar shape where you only need to move one or two fingers or sometimes you can simply jump all your fingers one string up or down. 

Tip #9 – Practice Without Looking 

To test if you know your chords, start playing without looking at your fretting hand. Play with the lights off! Play while wearing a blindfold! Whatever approach you take, make sure you’re not looking at what your other hand is doing and see how well your muscle memory is for each chord you know. Once you’re comfortable, practice with a real song! Start slow and slowly build up the tempo the more confident you get with the chord changes. 

Tip #10 – Replace Power Chords With Bar Chords

We all know bar chords are already difficult to begin with. But if you’re looking to get better at playing switching between them, a little trick you can do is by playing your progression with power chords. Power chords usually only require a couple of fingers and are easy to move around. Then start mixing it up and do a couple of power chords and a couple of bar chords. Repeat this until you’re able to pay all bar chords in your chord progression. You’ll be surprised at how fast you’re able to begin implementing bar chords into your playing. 

You have ten different tricks to try next time you pick up your guitar. It’s always good to work towards something in your playing and we hope you found any of these tips helpful. Soon your chord changes will be so clean and fast, you won’t even remember ever struggling in the first place!

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