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Want To Supercharge Learning Guitar? Choose Chord Patterns Over Individual Chords

Guitar Playing Secret 6


Guitar Chords Are Important

Being able to play chords is if not the most important thing very close to it when playing guitar. Chords are at the heart of playing rhythm guitar. Even if you’re not ready to play fancy fingerpicking patterns or sizzling guitar solos you can have great fun strumming a few chords and singing along.

With that in mind guess what’s the first thing I teach the beginning guitarists… You guessed it! CHORDS.

At first we got to get the fingers in the right place. That means showing each finger goes to make the chord. I’ll have the student place of fingers, then take them all off, then put them all back on. We’ll do this for a little while to get the hang of where the fingers go. When I was a beginning teacher I used to spend a lot more time on this part. I’d even show my students a number of different chords and have them practice over and over… taking the fingers off and putting them back on. I still think this is a good practice. But now, after years and years of teaching, I’ve discovered what many beginning students will think of as a secret.


Guitar Playing Secret #6


That’s why I call it secret number six in my 10 Secrets to Playing Awesome Guitar. Simply stated:

Practice Chord Patterns, Not Individual Chords

So what does that mean?

First I came to understand that most popular music is made out of common patterns. I didn’t know this until I began studying music. I read once that most people have a hard time mentally accepting anything that’s more than 10% new. Let’s think about this in the context of music. Most music that we like has a lot of similarities to other music that we like, even though we don’t always realize it. One of those similarities is the chord progression.




Common Chord Progressions


There are many common chord progressions or patterns in popular music, but applying the 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle) to get the most bang for buck by learning I have a dozen of these patterns. That’s what reason for practicing chord patterns, but if not even the most important reason.

There’s another critical reason for practicing chord patterns instead of individual chords. The music happens not from playing the chord but rather in the movement from one chord to another. And this is where most students find the difficulty.… changing chords.



Change Chords Is The Problem


I cannot count on all my fingers and toes the number of students that have come to me at my music school think it already play a dozen or more chords but did not change in time to save the life. The solution is simple. Practice changing from one chord to another.

Now that doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn to finger the chord. What I’m saying is that’s just not the place where I want students to spend most your time.

Are you following me? Because now when I put these two ideas together we really come up with a powerhouse practice principal.


Learning Guitar Faster


Here’s the two ideas:

1) It’s faster to learn songs by memorizing and practicing chord patterns.
2) It’s more efficient to use your time practicing chord movements instead of individual chords.

Now you see? By practicing chord patterns you’re actually doing both. Your learning a structure that you’re going to use over and over when learning songs and your practicing chord movement. Doesn’t that make sense?

My system starts off by teaching simple chord patterns and having students practice those until they’re ready for the more complex patterns. That way I can have students work on timing as well as learning chords.

At the same time I like to show students some songs they can use with the chord patterns, and most importantly teach them how to identify the patterns so they can learn songs on their own.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the short lesson.


Recommended Resources:

Learn to Play the Guitar Faster Using Common Chord Progressions




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