Chord transitions

This blog post will provide some thought if you’re struggling to transition between chords.

Chord Transitions

For guitarists, mastering the art of transitioning between open chords is the first hurdle.

Brushing across the strings when transitioning between chords, is going to help with speed and accuracy.

Removing the fretting hand’s finger tips and re-fretting them, is going to slow down the transition.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some essential tips and techniques to help you improve your chord changes and create a seamless flow in your guitar playing.

Chord transitions in A minor

If you’re a beginner guitar player and looking to improve your chord transitions in the key of A minor, ‘House of the Rising Sun’, is a great starting point.

You’ll need these chords:

Am, C major, D major, F major,

A minor to C major are relative minors of each other which is why this chord transition works. It requires movement of the 3rd finger from the A minor chord to fret 3 string 5.

C to D Major requires a complete change as does D to F major, but remember to brush across the strings rather than the ‘lift and replace’, technique.

If you’re not sure what these chords are you can purchase my chord sheet.

Memorising the chord shapes & names

When learning to play each chord, ideally you want to learn their name and not just their shape.

Remembering the starting point for each chord will provide you with the root note of that chord. If the strum starts from the E String, the chord will be an E “something” such as major, minor, 7th, diminished, or sus2 etc.

It’s great being able to play the chords out of context, but you’ll want to apply the chords to a sequence to which you’re familiar.

Often, tunes sound more complicated than they actually are. Distorted chords sound different to clean chords but they’re still the same chord.

Some beginner guitar tunes that you could try are:

  • AC/DC, Back in Black
  • Queen, Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Hendrix: Hey Joe
  • 12 bar blues sequence

Practice Slowly & with a metronome

Google’s metronome.

There are a number of ways you could use a metronome to practice.

Should you know your rhythms such as crotches, quavers & semi-quavers you could divide or times the bpm by the crotchet beat.

Crotchet beats are straight forward. It’s on the ‘click’. 60bpm is 60 crotchet beats and matches to 60 seconds around the clock. 120bpm would be twice as fast as the second’s hand.

  • Two quaver beats per crotchet.
  • Four semiquaver beats per crotchet

To practice your ‘quaver rhythms’ between strums or single note riffs, the metronome could be set to twice the speed.

IF you’re practicing at 60 crotchet beats per minute, you could change the ‘tempo’ to 120bpm. But you’re still working at 60 crotchet beats per minute.

For semi quavers you could set the metronome at 240bpm but you’re still working at 60 crotchet beats per minute and so on.

Speed is deceptive. What’s fast to another guitar player may not be as fast to another. If it looks ‘easy’, that’s because to them it is. They’ve put in the above practice.

Practice Common Chord Progressions

AC/DC for example often use three or four chords complimented by amazing guitar riffs.

These chord transitions will be used again and again at some stage so it’s worth practicing.

You’ll find that once you’ve learned half of the song, the second half is mostly the same which is especially true for the rhythm guitarist.

Chord progressions that occur for one tune will definitely be very similar in another. Remember Ed Sheeran winning those court cases?

Guitar is about repetition

There are only so many chord sequences but there are at least three stages or ways to learning that tune.

A mixture of reading the music & by ear then, by memory.

Presuming you know the chords to your favourite tune can you recognise the same chord in another tune without the music?

You’ll eventually you’ll be able to play that tune with your eyes closed.

Brush across the strings

Previously, you may have been taught to lift the chord away from the fretboard and then re-fret for the new chord shape.

If you want to play efficiently, this isn’t the method to use. It’s a great start and if you have used this method to date, you’ll want to change your approach.

If you’re completely new, you’ll want to skip that step all together.

Some chords have notes in common which sometimes means you can leave the same finger on that fret.

When you do have to move shape entirely it’s actually better to brush and co-ordinate the fingers across the strings rather than taking them away from the fretboard.

This approach allows the fingers to travel less distance and therefore at a quicker pace.

Very rarely will you actually want to remove your hand entirely from the fretboard to transition from note or chord.

Practice Transitions within Songs

Choose simple songs that incorporate the chord progressions you’ve been practicing.

Playing along with songs allows you to experience chord transitions in a musical context and work on your timing alongside the track.

It can be challenging initially, but with practice, you’ll notice significant improvements.

Remember, electric guitar tunes can be practiced on classical or acoustic guitars too. It won’t sound the same, but it will mean you’re practicing hearing the clean notes.

Thought whilst practicing:

Mastering the transition between open guitar chords is a fundamental skill that every guitarist must develop.

By committing to regular practice, using a metronome, and focusing on accuracy and timing, you’ll notice your chord changes becoming smoother and more seamless.

Remember, progress takes time, so be patient and consistent in your efforts. Before long, you’ll find yourself effortlessly strumming through your favourite songs with confidence and flair. Happy playing!