Been playing guitar for four weeks. Having problems with chords-like every beginner-. What I don’t understand is, how do professionals change chords with lightning speed. Is there a secret to how to play chords ?

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    Practise, practise, practise. – Tetsujin Oct 12 '17 at 18:41
  • Accuracy and economy of motion. You must develop finger independence and the ability to accurately move each finger to where it needs to be, and find ways to move economically on the fingerboard. Try to keep your fingers close to the strings when they are not fretting notes so that minimal movement is required when they are needed. All of this requires much practice and experience. Try to find some really good players to watch, or find a good teacher. And have patience. – ex nihilo Oct 12 '17 at 19:30
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    Nobody can "play like a pro" after only 4 weeks. At that stage, you have to think consciously about many things that will eventually become "automatic". If you are still "slow" at chord changing after a year, try to get some more specific advice. If you are still "slow" after ten years, maybe consider changing to a different instrument! – user19146 Oct 12 '17 at 21:18
  • When was in your position 13 years ago, I just picked a song I liked and went through it, always taking whatever time it took to finger the appropriate chord. It was a 3-minute song. It took me 15 minutes to play for the first time :—). If you try it some more times, it will gradually get smooth and you will be playing a song in the normal tempo at the end. It doesn't even take too much time. (And I use this approach even today with some very fiendish classical pieces. Just "forcing it through until it's OK".) – Ramillies Oct 12 '17 at 21:42
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    @Ramillies - it can work, but I find that some students who do this get to certain points and either make the same mistake again, or slow down for certain bits. Effectively practising those mistakes through repetition. Counter-productive sometimes. – Tim Oct 13 '17 at 7:04

This can take some time and practice, like most skills. But, a couple of pointers.

  • Try to establish whether you actually need to move everything between certain chords which often get played consecutively, such as E and A. Here, I teach keeping the G string 1st fret index finger on fo both. This provides a pivot and middle+ring can move across, as pinky comes down on 2nd string, second fret to make an A chord. Moving the other way, the index finger is already there. (A and E often follow each other in songs)

  • Practise hammering on with each chord, so that all fingers arrive on the fretboard together, rather than practising putting them on slowly in installments.

These ideas will get you started, after which mostly changes will get easier. Every new chord shape you learn needs to be practised changing to every other chord shape you already know. Time consuming - but you're building up a big bank of known changes which will all appear eventually in songs you have yet to play.

  • "G string 1st fret index finger" for both E (major?) and A (major?) chords? Is there a typo in there somewhere? – Todd Wilcox Oct 16 '17 at 12:35
  • @ToddWilcox - I tend to leave that index finger there and press the 2nd 3rd and 4th strings on the second fret. Did you think I was trying to play Amaj7?!! – Tim Oct 16 '17 at 14:46

Of course practicing will help but try to find tricks like this one : you don't need to move all of your fingers at the same time. You can even start to strike your chord before having the finger on the strings that you haven't stroke yet.

  • This will only work if you play in slo-mo... – Tim Oct 12 '17 at 20:31
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    @Tim no, it still works even when playing fast. You gotta be fast placing those fingers tho – Mafii Oct 13 '17 at 7:32
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    @Mafii - I'm sceptical. Even a slow strum is less than a quarter of a second, so to put certain fingers down before others is virtually impossible - and pretty pointless. – Tim Oct 13 '17 at 11:39
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    @Tim totally agree, its mostly useful when the base of a chord is played before the rest of the chord, e.g. low g, then the rest of the g chord, then low C (A-3), then rest of the C chord, etc. – Mafii Oct 13 '17 at 12:26
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    @Tim I have been doing the "just in time" finger placement trick for more than 20 years. As you get faster it becomes more workable. Of course when you're playing arpeggios it is much easier (slower). Think about how you move your fingers for sweep picking. That's pretty fast also but still something guitarists do every day. – Todd Wilcox Oct 16 '17 at 12:39


Play songs - simple songs initially to get you used to changing chords.

Try just playing four beats of each chord and running through different chord progressions.

E - A - D - A - E over over and over

G - C - D - Aminor - C - G over over and over

A - D - E - A - Bminor - C - D - E

Those three chord progressions will get you going and build some hand strength. Don't be concerned at this point in your development about speed as much as getting the chords down.

Do your best to get at least an hour of practice daily. Don't forget to floss after each meal.


When I was just starting out, I found that some of the songs I wanted to learn were much to advanced musically for me. I also found plenty of songs that I liked well enough that I could enjoy practicing, that were simple two or three chord songs. They were pretty easy to learn and my fingers got to practice changing from one chord to the next. Then I got a chance to play with others and I got the chance to learn how to keep up with them. Soon I was being asked to play new songs that had more advanced chord progressions, and because my fingers were starting to be able to move independently of each other, it was easier to learn the new chords. The point I'm trying to make is if you start at the beginning and enjoy the work, you most likely will go as far as you want to go, quite possibly much further.


If you just started out, I'm sure you haven't built the muscle memory nor the calluses to move your fingers with easy. I suggest just practice 1 chord shape (e.g. A Major) and strum it a few times. Then when you feel confident mix in another chord shape (e.g. C Major).

You'll develop a habit of where your fingers go and when and how to transition efficiently.

I've been playing for several years now and even now and then some chords don't always transition so well. But definitely just keep practicing and I hope you have fun!

  • How do calluses help? – Tim Oct 20 '17 at 9:59
  • Most beginners have problems pressing down the strings because of pain on their finger. Calluses help take away that pain by making your fingers tough and being able to switch to different chords with more ease. – go.surf13 Oct 20 '17 at 15:25
  • It's just that I don't believe in calluses. I play every day - bass and guitar, as I have for many decades, and there's no sign of calluses. Both hands' fingertips are the same. With well set up guitars, they shouldn't even form. Yes, I had them when I started playing, but that guitar re-defined the term bad action! My students didn't get them either. – Tim Oct 20 '17 at 15:54
  • @Tim I believe what you say about good action, but I wonder if your fingertips (and your students') are tougher than they look. I no longer have obvious callouses, but I can play all day the same instruments that gave me pain when I started. I'm pretty sure that the skin on my fingertips is thicker and tougher than it was when I started. I know for certain they my fingertips don't flatten out like they used to, another indication that they are harder than they once were. – Wayne Conrad Oct 21 '17 at 15:55
  • @WayneConrad - the fingertips on each hand do appear to be the same, and they feel the same too, and I don't have callouses on my picking/strumming hand, so I'm sticking with 'callous free' ! Maybe I don't press- or need to press hard enough to obtain them. Or maybe I'm just thick-skinned... – Tim Oct 21 '17 at 16:46

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