How beginning guitarists can eliminate dropped beats between chord changes.
Every beginning guitarist has problems switching between chords without dropping beats. But by following these 4 simple steps you'll be able to go from one chord to the next with little effort and no more missed beats.
When you watch a professional guitarist, they make playing look really easy, right? They're fingers fly effortlessly over the fretboard and it looks like they're barely moving. That's because they really are barely moving.
The key idea is efficiency of movement. By eliminating excess movement you'll be able to cover more space faster. We're talking about shaving nanoseconds off, but has your songs get faster and more complex those nanoseconds add up. Don't worry. We won't be doing any scientific time testing to eliminate those nanoseconds. Just follow these tips and your movements will be more economical and your chord changes smoother.
1. Keep your fingers as close to the strings as you can. If your fingers are coming a couple inches off the fretboard, it will take too long to bring them back down. In most cases, your fingers shouldn't ever be more than a half inch away from the strings. Also be sure that your fingers are always directly above the fretboard and not out to the side or underneath the neck.
2. Build chords starting from the bottom string. When building chords, our fingers don't necessarily all hit the strings at the same time. For a variety of reasons we fall into the trap of fingering the higher strings before the lower ones. For instance on a C major, starting with the first finger on the 2nd string, then the 4th, then 5th. But where does your pick hit first? The bottom strings. So you want to start building your chords on those bottom strings, working toward the top. This will eliminate lumpy open string mistakes as well as giving your top string fingers and extra split second to get in place. It may seem like a very tiny amount of time but you'll be amazed at how it improves your playing.
3. Start your chord move with the finger that has to go the farthest. Take D7 to G major for example. Your 2nd finger has to move from the third string all the way to the bottom string. Move that one first. Because of the natural structure of your hand, your 1st finger will move right along behind it to its place on the fifth string. If you move the furthest finger first, your hand muscles will do a lot of work for you, making the change faster and less strenuous. Stay relaxed and let your fingers follow each other.
4. THE TOP TIP - Keep your right hand moving. Your brain is in control of everything here. As a beginning guitarist your brain gives your hands permission to stop between chords on the rationale of "I'm just a beginner and I'll get it eventually." It happens totally subconsciously and is normal, but we want to get it out of there quickly. Here's how: Set up a dissonance in your brain. A dissonance is a problem and your brain loves to find solutions to problems. Your brain loves when your hands move together. Which means if one hand stops, the other will too. However, if you keep force your right hand to keep strumming, nailing the downbeat of that next chord, your brain will force your left hand to move faster to keep up with your right. That's exactly what you want.
Tips For Implementing #4
- Use a metronome to keep you on a steady tempo. Use a very slow tempo to start, and gradually speed up as the chord changes become more comfortable.
- Keep that right hand strumming if your let hand isn't quite in place for the new chord yet. After a few times mangling that first beat, you'll find your left hand getting in place faster.
- Make sure to keep your count. If your chord gets 4 beats, don't play extra beats after you clean the chord up. Once a beat is gone, it's gone.
- This technique will also help train you to fix chords on the fly without losing your rhythm. Mistakes happen regularly, so it's good to know how to get past them.
Practice these steps on just two chords at a time. Four strums on each chord. Once you can do that, try two strums on each chord. Don't try to attack a whole song at once. You always want to break things up into small, easily learnable chunks.
I've taught hundreds of beginning guitarists to smooth out their chord changes with these four simple steps and they'll work for you too.