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Why Can’t I Change Chords?

Changing Chords On Guitar Is Hard!

Here's some good news: It's not just you. Even intermediate and advanced players can have problems changing chords on guitar. Anything new we do on guitar is going to be challenging. 

But there might be something you're doing that's holding you back even more. 

I wish I knew what I know now when I first started playing guitar. It would have saved me a ton of time and frustration! So today I'm going to give you 5 reasons why you might be finding it difficult to change chords on guitar. And more importantly, I'm going to give you the solutions so you can get to making beautiful music on guitar. 

Why You're Having Trouble Changing Chords

Reason #1 - You Don't Know The Chord

I'm definitely guilty of this. You get in a hurry to learn a song or play a chord progression and you rush through learning a chord. Actually, you skip to playing the chord in a progression instead of learning it first.

The problem with this is if your chord changes aren't quick you wont be able to play them with the rhythm of a song. And how can the chord changes be quick if you don't know the chord? Here's an approach I always recommend to my students.

Let's say you're learning to play a G chord. You give yourself to the count of 5 to form the chord. If you can do that, try to form it in the count of 4. Then 3, 2, and 1. Now, do that with the other chords you're going to play. If you're doing a G to D progression, you'd want to do the same exercise with the D chord. 

Once you're feeling pretty good with both you can grab your metronome and do the same thing at a moderate tempo. You can think of it as a game. Try and see how quickly you can form the chord.

Reason #2 - You're Trying To Play Too Many Chords

I see students come to me and tell me that they can know 24 chords. They'll show me a few of them, but they can't switch between them. They kind of skipped an important step here. Knowing chords doesn't really matter if you can't switch between them. 

When I first started playing guitar it was a badge of honor knowing "x" amount of chords. But the fact was I couldn't change between them smoothly. And because of that I couldn't actually play the songs I wanted to play. 

What would have saved me a lot of grief back then was to focus on just a couple chords, and then add more from there. 

You can play nearly endless songs with just 3 chords. But it's important to practice common chords together, like G, C, and D. 

If you were to learn these chords you'd want to start by learning G and C. You'd get to the point where you can play G to C, and C to G pretty well. Say about 80% of the way. Then you'd want to add D in. Start by learning C to D, and then in reverse D to C. Once that feels good learn G to D and the reverse. 

Breaking it down into these manageable sections will ensure you're developing good habits on guitar.

Reason #3 - You're Going Too Fast

Another thing I see students do it move fast between chords, but then when they come to a trick chord change they slow way down. The inconsistency in tempo is going to create problems down the line. The way to solve this it to go slow. 

Start at a slow pace. Something that is manageable but still pushes you just a touch. Once you're comfortable start to increase the speed, all while making sure your changes are smooth and on time. You'll be surprised at how you'll naturally want to speed up or slow down as you're playing. 

Not only will this help your chord changes, it will also start to build an internal metronome. This takes a long time to develop but makes you a much better musician.  

Reason #4 - You Don't Have A Chord Changing Strategy

This really is a whole separate video. There are a lot of chords that share notes and fingering, and there's a technique I call chord anchors that help when changing chords. It's all about seeing these patterns and shared notes, and using them to help you change chords. Like chord changing efficiency. 

This is something I go into much greater detail on throughout my Real Guitar Success course. If you want to know more about this, I'd highly recommend checking out the course.

Reason #5 - You Haven't Practiced Enough

The reason we all avoid and the reason most things come down to. Let's say you've worked through all of the steps here. You learned the chord, you've practiced it in the context of other chords, you're not moving too fast, but you still are having trouble.

If you're practicing smart as I've outlined in this post, you likely just need to keep at it. Everyone takes a different amount of time to learn something. And nothing about learning guitar happens overnight. It will take time and good practice to become proficient in all of these things.

We live in a society that promises quick and fast results and we buy into that. But the fact is, in reality things take time. The things that are worth learning will take more time and dedication too. Understanding this will bring more enjoyment to your guitar playing journey. 

That old saying "Slow and steady wins the race" is pretty true here. How much you practice, and the quality of your practice, are what really are going to define your growth. 


I hope you found this lesson helpful, and more than that, I hope you take action on it. With so much content on the internet it's easy to consume and consume. But putting these things into practice are what's going to make a difference in your guitar playing.

So let me know. Do you struggle with chord changes? And if so, do these tips help you? Let me know in the comments, and add any additional tips that have helped you! Your tips just might help someone else who's reading this. 

This is day 14 of my 30 day guitar coaching challenge and there's a lot more useful lessons to come. So stay tuned!

>> Check Out Day #15 : Great Sounding Chords on Acoustic Guitar

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