Updated: Feb 20, 2022
A common problem I encounter daily in teaching the guitar is frustration in my beginner students with the speed at which they can change from chord to chord when just starting out.
They have learned how to play the chord correctly and clearly but changing from one chord to another with speed takes time to master.
The answer is to this problem that it’s impossible to be able to change chords really quickly at the start until you have established something called muscle memory.
A beginner will be able to quickly play the chord correctly but at the initial stage you will still be actively thinking about where your fingers need to go each time you play the chord. I don’t think about this at all. The reason being that the chord is now a part of my muscle memory and I can do it without thinking at all.
How do you get to this stage? The simple answer is repetition. Lots of repetition! You must move from the chord to chord placing your finger correctly so many times that you brain eventually form as a correct habit of doing and the process become subconscious. This is what we call muscle memory.
There are two keyways to learn this muscle memory with chords on the guitar. The first is simply to keep learning songs with the chords in you want to master and be patient with yourself as over time you will gradually get faster and faster at changing chord until you can play them without thinking.
The second method is great if you are passionate about moving forward with this as quickly as possible. I personally use to this day to learn new chords.
This is where you take just two chords at a time you want to learn and simply move back and forth between the chords over and over. I would call this drilling the technique. This will beef your muscle memory much faster. You will need to do this at least 10 times (or more) to get the benefit. (I’ve been known to do 100 repetitions of tricky chords). The key is also to do this slowly at first making sure everything is correct. The speed will come naturally as you brain begins to internalise the chord (don’t try to force the speed)
Whichever technique suits your personality and needs more the key is don’t try to learn more than a few chords at a time until muscle memory is established with those chords. (The more chords you try and learn the less time you will have to complete the needed amount of reptations to establish muscle memory)
The process of learning the initial open chords G D E A F Am Dm Em at the start of your guitar learning will probably take around 1-3 months to get to the point of muscle memory. After this initial period, you will find many of the chords you learn after this will take less time as the finger mechanics of chords are often more similar and your brain will begin to have a subconscious road map of how to get their quicker.
If you want more precise information tailored to your exact needs and more details of how this process works then pleas get in touch and I will look to book some lesson to help you with your current guitar skills or begin from the start.