This is a very common problem amongst a lot of beginners and even some intermediate guitar players. This is why a lot of guitarists at these skill levels struggle to play songs all the way through. I want to let you know that if you struggle with this, it is not your fault. There are many people who struggle with this. In fact even on the advanced level when you play harder chords, you will find that going from one difficult chord to another is hard.
So if you are a beginner or intermediate guitar player or even if you are quite advanced and know some difficult chords but struggle with going from one of those chords to another this will be useful to you.
A lot of people approach solving this the wrong way. Most just keep practicing the chords in isolation. This is fine and good because this is part of what you need to do to solve the problem but it is not the complete way. Here is what you need to do.
1) Make sure you not only know the chords, but that you can form them in isolation instantly and easily
This is step number 1. If you cannot form the chord on it’s own, there is absolutely no way you will be able to play that chord in a chord progression. And knowing it is not enough either. You must train yourself to being able to form the chord easily. It should be so ingrained in your muscle memory that your hand can be nowhere near the chord and you are able to form the chord easily.
You need to take lessons from a great guitar teacher to help you with this, but I will just say here, that you need to also train yourself to form the chord with all fingers at once. Not one finger after the other, since this will make it impossible to form the chord fast enough to play the chord in chord progressions. This is a really common mistake for beginners and some more advanced players may still be doing this with some chords, if so, you need to break that habit.
2) Next, work on going from one chord to another with the fretting hand so that you can do this easily.
This is the next part. You have to do the same thing as step one but now you are merely practice going from one chord to the other. How you should practice this you should go over with your teacher. But here is a good thing for you to do to get started.
Whatever is the hardest part of the chord progression for you, go over that part of the progression over and over. For example let’s say you are doing this chord progression:
G, D, C
G, D, Am
You are struggling with going from D to C the most. Simply go over D and C over and over instead of going over the entire thing. There is more to getting this down than this, but this will help you improve your chord playing.
3) Work on the strumming hand on it’s own then put it together
Most people try to put it all together right away, this is not a good idea unless you are good at doing the other things in isolation but struggle with doing this together.
Whatever the chord strumming pattern is, or if there is some arpeggio picking pattern mixed in, work on these things in isolation with just the picking hand. You don’t even have to hold the chord yet, you can just do open strings so you can focus on these things. Then hold the chords and put it all together afterwords.
Of course there may be other reasons you are struggling with chord changes but this is something to start with. If you have a great teacher, then you will have your specific problems solved in no time.
About the author: Being a guitar teacher in Exmouth Jake Willmot knows that playing chord changes is only one of the many skills and pieces needed to become a great guitar player. Although you cannot get there overnight, you can get there way quicker if you take guitar lessons with Jake as he has already gone through what it takes to get there! You will save years of your life by studying with him.