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How to Nail a Hard Chord Change

Sometimes the chips are stacked against us: we have to shift up or down the neck to a totally different chord. More often then not, we miss it, buzz some notes and try it over again.

It’s time to break that chord change down, and really address the issues. Here’s how.

  1. Look ahead of your hands. This is the most underrated tool for guitar playing. Don’t follow your hands with your eyes, look at your target fret. See your hand there, in the new chord shape, and you’ll be better prepared to nail the shift.
  2. Check to see whether and angle or straight position is easier. Sometimes your left hand doesn’t need to be straight on. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to use and angled position. If it is, use it! Try to find the perfect wrist position that makes the chord as easy as possible.
  3. Sequence the left hand fingers. Chances are not every left hand finger has to get to the chord at once. See where you can cheat, and add fingers later. It’s much easier to get 2 fingers into place then add one or two more than to place all four at once.
  4. Use Stop/Go Practice. Play one chord. Stop, prepare the next chord, and play it only when everything is prepped and ready to go. Drill the chord change/shift only, don’t go on. The trick is, of course, to incorporate the three above aspects into your stop/go practice. Look at where your hand is going before you move/prepare. If the chord change requires a wrist rotation, do that en route to the new position. Places the fingers that have to be there first, then add the others as you go on after beginning to play again.

This advice is good for guitarists of all genres. Bottom line: break things down and practice every hard shift/chord change individually. Resist the urge to keep going with the song!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. 2010 October 21

    Don’t forget to look for guide fingers. A lot of people miss out on the opportunity to leave a finger down and makes things harder than they need to be.

    • 2010 October 21

      Thanks, William!

    • 2013 February 18
      Luís Abrantes permalink

      Exactly what I thought that was missing in this article. Guide fingers and extremely helpful and they can make a shift become much easier.

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