When learning the guitar for the first time, forming chords can be a delightful experience. After all, you’re finally making some music on your guitar. If you are looking forward to playing songs, however, you’re going to need to learn chord transitions. Chord transitions are basically learning how to change chords quickly on guitar.
There are many to practice guitar chords and their transitions, but today we are focusing on a few key exercises that will help you do chord transitions with greater accuracy and speed. If you like this lesson and you’re looking for more free online guitar lessons, be sure to check out our library of guitar lesson videos. If you’re looking for more guidance, be sure to join the 30 Days to Play Challenge — online guitar lesson videos designed for beginner guitar players.
2 Types of Chord Transitions for Guitar
In this lesson, we’re going to be covering the two essential types of chord transitions: transitions where two chords share a common finger and transitions where you have to completely change your fingers.
Basic Chord Transitions
For transitions where a finger stays in the same place for both chord shapes, think of the common finger placement between a G chord and a D chord. When performing the chord transition between these two frets, your ring finger is going to stay on the third fret of the B string. That note, a D, is the fifth scale degree for the G chord, and the root note for the D chord. Pretty neat, right?
When you work on this chord transition, start by keeping your ring finger on that third fret of the B string for the G chord. Then, lift every other finger and slowly place them in the D chord shape. It might feel weird at first, but this is to help build muscle memory and individual control and dexterity of fingers. Once you feel comfortable doing this, try moving from the D chord to the G chord, keeping the ring finger stationary while other fingers move.
Complex Chord Transitions (and the Domino Effect!)
Complex chord transitions involve shifting all of your fingers into a new chord shape. This chord changes can be daunting, but remember that it will get easier with practice.
To start practicing more complex chord transitions, start by creating a G chord. From there, lift your fretting hand entirely off the fretboard. Take a few seconds to relax your hand. Once you feel nice and relaxed, start creating the C chord shape by placing your ring finger on the third fret of the A string. This is the C note in the C chord. Think of that ring finger for the C chord as your anchor finger. After that, place your middle finger on the second fret of the D chord and your index finger on the first fret of the B string.
When you do this exercise, your fingers should act like dominos — that is, your ring finger is the lead domino. Once that ring finger falls on the C, all the other fingers fall one after another on their respective frets. That anchor finger will act as a bearing for where your other fingers.
Variations on Chord Transition Exercises
If you’re struggling with a using your ring finger as an anchor on the D chord, try using a different finger as the anchor. The idea behind the anchor method is that you build muscle memory and confidence in playing chord shapes. If you can better orient yourself on the fretboard by using your middle finger, by all means, do so!
The anchor finger concept and the domino effect are designed to help you understand the chord shapes and play them quickly without feeling helpless. There are thousands of songs that use the G, C, and D chords. Being able to transition between the chords efficiently and seamlessly will unlock more opportunities to play the songs you love!
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