I have started learning guitar basics,since last couple of months. I am facing huge difficulty in shifting chords.

I have started playing simple open chords like C,Am,Em,Gm. I am practicing for these four chords. I am facing huge difficulty while shifting. It is sometimes very depressing and at the same time frustrating when I cannot play it correct. I have tried practicing with metronome and go slow, but still I cannot shift easily from one chord to another.

Any tips will be really helpful.


  • 2
    I think it was a good couple years before I was switching chords cleanly in almost all cases. It takes time, but the upside is that's all it takes. You don't have to learn any complicated math or physics or foreign languages to learn guitar, all you have to do is practice. Apr 23, 2015 at 16:58
  • @Sidd Make sure you are using the correct hand position for the type of guitar you are using Steel String vs. Nylon String Technique
    – Jay Skyler
    Apr 25, 2015 at 11:37
  • Gm is not a simple open chord. Are you sure you don't mean G?
    – empty
    Apr 29, 2015 at 2:16

6 Answers 6


I feel your frustration! But it is a normal part of learning to play guitar.

One reason so many aspiring new guitarist, give up before they ever get to a point where they feel a sense of reward and accomplishment, is that learning guitar involves overcoming several difficult challenges thrown at you all at once in the very beginning.

First you have the pain of tender fingers pressing on steel strings. Then you are using muscles in your hand and fingers that ordinary daily living activities have not helped you to develop the strength required for playing guitar. And, as expressed in your question, you must train your brain to tell your fingers and hands to contort in very unnatural and strange positions to play chords.

My best advice is to abandoned any idea of instant gratification and commit to the idea that learning guitar is a slow process in the beginning. It gets exponentially easier to improve your skills after you get past the huge hurdles you encounter in the beginning.

Think of where you presently are in your journey as merely preparation and training. You are getting in shape to learn to play by developing some basic skills and building finger strength and callouses and coordination. Progress will be very slow in the beginning but if you persevere, you will reach a point where progress comes at a far more rapid pace.

Now to your specific challenge. Before working on transitions between chords, you must first train your brain to tell your fingers to form the proper shape for each of the two chords. Start one at a time. Learn to properly form and play a particular chord (say a C chord for example). Practice forming the chord and releasing your hand and forming the chord again and releasing. Do this over and over until you can go from an open hand position to a C chord without hesitation. Do this before you even think about transitioning from a C chord to something else.

Next step is to learn the next chord (Em for example). Practice forming an Em chord and opening your hand and forming the chord again - until you can play it without hesitation.

Once you are able to form a C chord from an open hand without much hesitation and can do the same with the Em chord, then you can begin to practice the transition between the two chords. To do this, start on one chord, then play the second chord and repeat this process. Start slowly and you will build speed over time. Don't use a metronome in the beginning, it will only add to your frustration. Once you can quickly and easily transition between the two chords, you can begin to practice using a metronome to further ingrain your transition and develop some rhythm at the same time.

It would be very helpful to have a teacher or experienced guitarist, help you with the proper fingering and hand position for every chord you endeavor to learn. Efficiently forming a chord involves more than just putting your fingers on the right strings at the right frets. Each chord requires a different hand position and sometimes arm position. Some chords have you tilting your hand one direction - others the opposite. Some chords have your thumb in the center of the back of the neck, while others may be much easier to play if your thumb is at the top of the neck.

Keep your goals and expectations realistic. It may be helpful to set a goal of learning the I - IV and V chord of a particular key and then learning to transition between those three. In the key of C that would be I = C IV = F and V = G. Once you learn the basic I - IV and V chords and develop the ability to transition between them, you will be able to play literally thousands of songs.

If you accomplish that one small goal, you will develop the passion and desire to continue your journey, which will provide opportunities to continue to learn and improve for the rest of your life. And it gets more enjoyable as you go.

Don't give up! What you are experiencing is normal and something that all of us (who have learned to play guitar) went through in the beginning. It takes slow and deliberate practice to get over the huge wall at the start. It gets much easier after you get over that initial wall. Good luck!

  • I gave up learning guitar a bunch of times. Eventually I'd discovered every possible way to play it wrong... and then finally, I picked it up one more time, and I could play it just fine! Apr 23, 2015 at 16:37
  • @Rockin Cowboy Thanks for all the motivation and tips.. I will surely not give up and try to stick with it.
    – Sidd
    Apr 27, 2015 at 4:57

*Try to think hard about where your fingers have to move from/to. With C - Am, for example, two fingers (4th and 2nd strings) don't need to move off their frets.

*Try to move a pair of fingers together, as in Em - Am,keeping them touching each other as they move across between strings. When you learn E, then A, you leave your index finger on the 3rd string (for E), but also don't take it away for A. You'll find some chords which often move between each other, like E/A, and E/B7, found in many many songs. Leave fingers in place if you can, as pivots for your other fingers.

*Learn to 'hammer on' chords, so that all your fingers arrive at the same time.

*Gm is not one of the chords I'd be teaching a beginner. Apart from not being easy to play a proper version, the other chords found in a song with Gm are not beginners chords, either.

*Don't lift your fingers far above the fingerboard when changing chords.

*If you're looking at the fingerboard while finding chords, it'll put guitar at a bad angle for your wrist and hand. Don't! Use a mirror, or try to feel your way.

I have started learning guitar basics,since last couple of months. I am facing huge difficulty in shifting chords.

Welcome to the guitar.

Any tips will be really helpful.

Welcome to the guitar. That's really all there is to it. Chord shapes take mental effort and motor coordination for you right now and there is nothing that will help other than repetition.

Just be sure to stop whenever it hurts. This kind of stumbling conscious effort and non-fluid movement is quite more strain on hand and fingers than well-mastered "effortless" playing. Also it makes more sense to practice good playing than bad playing, so you should quite prefer slow reasonably well-executed play over fast and interrupted sloppy one. Picking up speed later on works better than reducing a sizable quota of errors.

  • 3
    A great phrase I saw on this very SE is "practice makes permanent, NOT perfect", Apr 22, 2015 at 9:31
  • Agree with both of you here, lots of quality practice. Listen hard to the end of one chord and the start of the next - look for a smooth transition without finger noise on the strings, or stray notes ringing out. Lots of practice on chords also helps develop your "ear" for tuning, your hand strength, your arm position and general rhythm. It isn't time wasted.
    – Andy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 10:44

As with many questions asked here, the answer is practice; lots of practice.

The simplest way to practice is to play songs -- sing or whistle if you like; you don't need to sing well if you're practising in private.

By playing actual songs, you learn functional sets of chords that work together, and the way your left hand can shift from one of these to another.

Make sure you learn to do this in lots of keys; either by picking songs in a variety of keys, or by transposing. A good early target is to be able to play the "three chord trick" (root, fourth, fifth -- for example a 12 bar blues) in E, G, A, C and D.

When you learn barre chords, notice how you can translate the E/A/B three chord trick you already know into any key by playing the corresponding barred shapes at any position up the neck. You can sometimes substitute these shapes for other inversions, for an easier chord shift.


I've been playing the guitar for 3-4 years now; I remember the same difficulty with chords: I still can't hit the open G major perfectly sometimes... You need to get used to the shapes of the chords, and practice is the only way. Then you will have difficulties with power chords. The same: practice, play a lot of these chords, and you will feel the improvement in weeks-months. Then come some exotic chords: this is my current level. The solution: practice.


Partly, it just takes time to learn the shapes, such that you think "E minor" and your fingers "just go" to that shape. It might take a long time, but you'll get there with practice. Just keep doing it while you're watching TV etc. A couple of months isn't that long to have been learning.

Also, it's good to make sure you are getting your wrist and elbow position correct for each chord. It's not just about moving your fingers.

When it comes to getting smooth transitions between the chords - partly that comes as your fingers get faster with time, but also you learn to cheat such that if you have a difficult transition, you play e.g. just the root note for a beat while you adjust the rest of your fingers. To be honest, if you can get into the "cheating" mindset, you'll do well at the guitar!

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