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Lesson #6: Changing Chords

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-17
Topic: For Beginners Subtopic: General
Level: Beginner Number of Readers: 73715

Changing Chords

When you play a song, you won't be strumming the same chord over and over. You'll be changing chords while you play. Changing chords quickly is one of the first big steps in learning to play the guitar. Once you know a few chords, and are able to switch between them quickly, you are well on your way. Did you know that if you know the chords A Major, D major and E major, you can play hundreds of songs based on _only_ these chords? It's true.

For this lesson we'll be concentrating on these three chords. Consider the following:

A Major		D Major		E Major
xo---o		xxo---		o---oo
......		......		...1..
..123.		...1.2		.23...
......		....3.		......
......		......		......

Arrange your fingers in the first shape. Then arrange your fingers in the second shape. Then arrange your fingers in the third shape. Did this take you a long time? You probably had to place every finger individually every time you changed chords. That's okay, it takes practice. What you're aiming for is to be able to lift all your fingers of the first shape, and then bring all at once to form another shape. This comes with practice.

You can practice it now. Just keep alternating between two shapes. Once you can switch between those two fairly well, try switching between other shapes. Do this all the time with all the chords you know, and eventually it will become easy.

Now we're going to introduce some strumming into the scheme of things.

Form the A Major shape, and perform 2 downstrokes
Form the D Major shape, and perform 2 downstrokes
Form the A Major shape, and perform 6 downstrokes
Form the D Major shape, and perform 2 downstrokes
Form the E Major shape, and perform 4 downstrokes
Repeat if you want to.

Congratulations, you've played your first song. :) Now what you're going to want to do is practice switching chords so that there will be no pause between the 2 downstrokes of A Major, and the two downstrokes of D Major, and so on. It's this pause that becomes the enemy of so many beginners. Practice changing shapes on the fretboard, and eventually this pause will disappear.

As you've seen from this example, all a song really is a succession of chords. In the next lesson, I'll show you how to communicate these successions of chords, so that you can learn some songs, using the chords you know.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. When playing songs, you'll have to change chords.
2. Switching chords will be slow at first, but with practice it becomes second nature.
3. Songs are successions of chords.

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