How to change between guitar chords

Woman playing guitar at home
(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

Music is made up of sequences of chords (known as chord progressions) – so that means you need to be able to change from one chord to another. 

It takes time to develop fretting skills, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while. Even experienced guitarists can struggle with new chords. 

It’s a matter of training your fretting fingers to move quickly and with as little movement as possible. Try out these two tricks to make your changes as smooth as can be.

Anchoring your fingers: C and Am

(Image credit: Future)

C and Am share two fretted notes (as well as an open string) played by the same fingers. Keep these fingers in place as you change between the two chords.

Beginner Chords

(Image credit: Future)

‘Keeping two fingers ‘anchored’ in place helps guide your third finger as it moves. In reality, you may have to make tiny positional adjustments – but basically, these two fingers don’t move.

Moving in a block: Em and Am

(Image credit: Future)

Look at Am and Em side by side and you can see they both use the second and third fingers at the 2nd fret, but on different strings. This can make the change easier.

Beginner Chords

(Image credit: Future)

Because the shapes are similar, it’s possible to move your fingers in a ‘block’. Simply keep your second and third fingers formed in the shape of the chord as you move.

One-minute chord change challenge

1. Choose two chords to practise

2. Set a timer for a one minute countdown

3. Swap between your chords as many times as you can

4. Note down your score and try again

The rules:

If any notes don’t ring clearly, discount that chord from your total

Be strict with yourself so you get a true picture of your progress.

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