View Full Version : beginner; chord switching

08-18-2002, 04:37 AM
I just got my first axe a week ago (Yamaha Pacifica 112). I'm trying to learn basic chords and practise basic chord progressions.

My problem is that I can only play chords very slowly because when I switch chords, I need to look at my fretting (left) hand to put my fingers into the new position, and also at my strumming (right) hand to place my pick over the proper string, ready for the downstroke (except when I strum all strings, in which case, I don't need to look at my right hand...I just strum them all).

This looking at my left hand then right hand seems to be slowing me down. Am I supposed to be looking
at only my left hand?


Bongo Boy
08-18-2002, 03:09 PM
You probably wanted advice from the experienced experts here and not some dork, but I thought you might also like to hear the experience of a 3-month player. For my 1-3 weeks with the instrument I thought I'd never be able to play a couple of the simple starter chords at all. One or two strings would always be damped out by an errant fat finger, and I had to do as you are now: look every time at every finger.

With practice and patience, it all happens. I now have a few of the simple, open chords I can get cleanly 80% of time, and without looking at all 48.7% of the time. I can move between the really 'dumb' chords, in tempo, without looking and without too much fumbling. I'm not doing Segovia, but it's progress. I'm sure progress would be faster if I concentrated on even fewer things, and didn't unwittingly repeat bad technique--dangers of not having a mentor.

The most basic advice I hear over and over both here and in the percussion forums is: speed comes with accuracy, rarely the other way around.

That's the view from someone who's only maybe 80 hours 'ahead' of you (in terms of practice time only). I thinkyou can count on getting the word from folks here who actually know what their talking about, too :D

08-19-2002, 08:06 AM
Thanks. I 'practise' about an hour a day, but it's still of limited value because the tips of my fingers still hurt when I press down, so I can't yet finger many chords properly...heck even typing right now hurts my left fingertips. I'm getting slight callouses, but obviously not thick enough yet.

I agree with you about accuracy vs. speed. I tried speeding things up, but it got sloppier, so instead, I kept the same speed, but tried improving my accuracy...and that helped more. And the more cleanly I can play chords, the easier it is to play faster, but like I said, it's still pretty choppy & slow...at least 1-2 seconds to put my fingers into their new positions. And I'm able to take quicker looks at my two hands now.


08-19-2002, 08:32 AM
Hi Patrick! You said you strum them all so I guess you use your instrument as just a rythm guitar by far. It's ok that your fingers hurt at this stage while you take your firts steps. Let me encourage you - your fingers will definitely hurt (at least a bit) after hours of playing even when you have mastered your guitar and become a star :) The main thing about rythm guitar is actually rythm maintenance (what a wonderful discovery! :) ) So if you can't switch to the next chord smoothly and keep up with a rythm you may try to take an "idle" strum on open strings while you're busy preparing your finger position - this trick would keep your mistakes some short way back.

Ultra mega best regards,

08-19-2002, 11:33 AM
Give it some time, it is going to take a while before your muscles and nerves are dealing with this properly. I do suggest learning chords using voice leading to make the transisitions less difficult.

What this means is use common tone in each chord to connect the patterns ( so leave that note in the same place for both chords, and move the other notes as short a distance as possible)

Example C major in root inversion (CEG from lowest to Highest) to F major (FAC) use the second inversion of F major to keep the C note common and move the E to F and G to A so the new voicing would be CFA. When ever possible use common tones or move the minimum distance between chord tones. This is musch less work for your hands (both of them), and sounds better too!

08-19-2002, 11:56 AM
Hi Patrick,

Important is that you realise that your inability to switch chords is not a lack of strength but a lack of control. Control means that your brain is able to send detailed instructions to your fingers -this is a big hurdle in the beginning.

It's a good idea to separatly focus on left and right hand.

Try to examine just your left hand.

What work is needed to switch? Can you leave some fingers in place without moving them?

The fingers that need to be moved: how can you get them into place with the least work and effort.

How much strength is needed to make the chords ring? Chances are you are using way to much strength which hurts even more and switching becomes a difficult task.

Understand what you are doing then you will realise what you need to change to make it work (Book of Guni, Chapter 1:D )



08-19-2002, 12:53 PM
Where can I get a copy of this Book?

08-19-2002, 01:23 PM
I'm working on it ..... :D


08-19-2002, 01:34 PM
Canīt wait to see it... to make this a success, please do not forget the following things...

-You must have at least one picture of Jimi, Jeff Beck, Clapton and Eddie in there.
- YOu must explain the mixolydian scale by using "Freeway Jam" as an example
-For the accompanying CD, you must find the cheesiest drum computer to make backing tracks with.


08-20-2002, 11:34 AM
Thanks everyone. Related question:

At the moment I'm working on the basic A D and E
chords. All fingering for these is within the first three frets. If I do an A chord, I'm also able to do the D and E without having to slide my entire hand up or down the neck...I can stretch my fingers a bit.

Or I can slide my palm up or down a bit to get closer to the new chord. This gives more accuracy, but... it takes longer to get my fingers into their new positions. I guess this is kind of like 'playing in position'.

So which is the proper way to do it?


P.S.: Don't laugh, I'm learning to play my first song, Kumbaya. Rock on!

08-20-2002, 05:00 PM
Hey Patrick,

Here's another dork (14 months experience) chiming in. :D With respect to what Guni said of separating your left and right hands, I do an exercise where I focus only on my right hand. I may fret a G chord (or perhaps no chord at all) and then leave my left hand be. Then I'll practice exclusively with my right hand. For example, I'll practice hitting two strings at a time, starting with the 6th and 5th, hitting them for 4 beats, then go to strings 4 and 5, hitting them for 4 beats, til I get to the top strings, and then I go back down again. For where you are in your progress, you would probably want to do an exercise where you practice hitting just the top 4 strings or the top 5 strings, and perhaps alternate between those, playing them with just all strings open, or muted, or whatever. Hope this helps!

BTW, make sure you have the gain turned all the way up when you're playing Kumbaya :D (or is the Yamaha Pacifica 112 an acoustic :confused: )

08-20-2002, 07:11 PM
Playing chords in inversions that will fall on the same set of strings will eliminate the need for your left hand to make drastic changes and for you to have to look at your right hand.

Learn the chords to a song you want to play, then figure out what notes are in each chord, Find inversions of each chord on a given set of strings (Pick a set), Now, figure out how to use these chord inversions to play the chords with the minimum movement of left hand and staying on the same set of strings. It is likely that you can find three different ways of playing your song on one set of strings. One different way for each inversion of the starting chord. This will give you more options for playing the rhythm guitar parts you will come across in the future.

There may be some chords that do not share common tones with the previous chord, but you will find that most chord changes will contain at least one common tone, or at least tones that are a whole step or less apart.

In most music this occurs between the V and the IV chords. Which is easy for a different reason, because you don't move any finger in relation to one another you just slide the whole pattern down a whole step. While this is not proper (recommended) voice leading it will facillitate quick changes.

Bongo Boy
09-07-2002, 08:17 PM
Originally posted by Patrick
At the moment I'm working on the basic A D and E chords...If I do an A chord, I'm also able to do the D and E without having to slide my entire hand up or down the neck...

Or I can slide my palm up or down a bit to get closer to the new chord. So which is the proper way to do it?

I'm a beginner--and am wondering if, with these chords, you are keeping your lh thumb approx in the center of the neck--that is, the center of your thumbprint placed at the back of the neck at it's thickest point, and roughly opposed to wherever your middle finger is.

This is what I've been told is a good...er..rule-of-thumb :), and if you do this for these chords, you shouldn't have to move too much of anything.

Now, if what I've learned is total crap--I would expect folks here to say so. How's it coming? It took me over 2 MONTHS before the Beginner's D7 was right most of the time--I learned to hate this chord, simple as it is.