Easy Beginner Guitar Chords Lesson

How To Quickly Memorise Chords And Develop Smooth Chord Changes

My Simple 5-Minute Routine For Better Guitar Chords

When it comes to learning how to play guitar one of the biggest challenges many beginner guitar students face is learning their chords and being able to develop smooth changes.

In fact, one of the biggest sources of frustration for most guitar players comes from their inability to change from one chord to the other without pausing. This in turn causes you to have to stop while your fretting hand fingers catch up and kills the fluency of the music.

The result is individual blocks of sound rather than anything that resembles the song that you’re trying to play.

In this article, I aim to give you my special 5-minute guitar practice routine that will help you memorise chords quickly and develop the ability to change between them smoothly.

If you employ the 4 guitar exercises from this article in your own guitar practice routine you’ll have better-sounding chords and strumming in no time at all.

man in brown hoodie and white cap playing an acoustic guitar

Why Most Beginner Guitarists Struggle To Memorise Chords

Let’s get straight to it. Most books, articles, instructions videos and guitar teachers tell you what to learn, but never teach you how to learn.

You’re given a bunch of chord diagrams that you need to remember and are told to practice them until you learn them.

You spend 30 seconds getting your fingers in the right spot for the first chord.

Then you strum it once

Then you take your fingers off and spend another 30 seconds putting your fingers down on the next chord.

It might take you anywhere from 3-5 minutes to go through all of the chords on your page once each… making it a very inefficient use of your time.

Imagine going to the gym and doing one bench press, then putting the weights down and walking over to a new workout station to do a single squat. After that, you walk to a new machine and do a single pulldown…

You get the idea.

We need to practice our chords like we would be working out – Lots of consecutive reps in the time we have allocated to that exercise.

A quick side note – if you prefer video guitar lessons to written articles you can watch the video I made titled “How To Quickly Memorise Chords & Master Smooth Chord Changes: My Simple 5-Minute Routine” that accompanies this article, you’ll find excerpts embedded throughout this article from the main video found on my Youtube Channel

The Best Exercise For Memorising Guitar Chords

To combat the huge amount of wasted time, I invented an exercise called ‘Finger Pushups’ to help you quickly memorise your guitar chords quickly. This exercise will quickly help your fingers develop the muscle memory of the shape that you are trying to learn so that you never forget the chord shape again.

To perform a Finger Pushup do the following:

  • place your fingers down on the correct frets
  • squeeze the chord shape for half a second
  • relax your fingers without lifting them off the string
  • squeeze the chord shape again for another half a second
  • repeat this process at least 10 times.

Once you have done ten Finger Pushups on the chord you are trying to learn you can move on to the next chord.

This exercise works so well because you’re not having to start the shape from scratch every time you don’t waste 10+ seconds finding the right spot to place them and can maximise the number of reps you get in the time you have.

It’s also worth mentioning that you are not strumming the guitar as you do this exercise. All of your attention is on your fretting hand so that you can see the shape and convert it to long-term memory.

See Finger Pushups In Action

How To Make Your Guitar Chords Sound Better

Our next exercise is an extension of the Finger Pushup exercise and adds a strumming component so we can hear what we are playing and work towards improving it.

This new exercise is called the Strum/Mute/Lift technique and is performed exactly how it sounds.

  • place your fingers on the correct fets and squeeze the strings to fret the notes
  • strum all the strings that belong to the chord (while listening for dead strings or missing notes)
  • mute the strings with your strumming hand
  • lift your fingers up 1-2cm while maintaining the shape of the chord
  • place your fingers back down, adjust for any misplaced notes and repeat the process again

Continue to repeat the routine for at least 10 repetitions. Make sure that you adjust as necessary and try to make it better each time. If you just rush through it without listening for mistakes or correcting what you are doing then you just reinforce a bad habit.

Once you have done your ten reps you can move on to a new chord.

If you practice this way you will have better sound chords in no time at all!

Strum Mute Lift Exercise In Action

How To Learn Beginner Guitar Chords…And Beyond

Now that you’ve learned the best two exercises for memorising and practising guitar chords you should get to work and incorporate them into your guitar practice schedule.

Now while these two exercises are great for beginner guitar players they can (and should) be used by intermediate and advanced level guitarists and indeed guitar players of any level.

To this day I use Finger Pushups and the Strum/Mute/Lift technique for any new chord shape that I’m learning, no matter how easy or difficult.

You can apply these two exercises to:

  • Open Chords
  • Suspended Chords
  • Power Chords
  • Bar Chords
  • Triads
  • Extended Chords
  • Altered Chords

So just because this article is written with beginner guitarists in mind doesn’t mean more skilled and experienced guitar players can’t implement these techniques into their guitar practice routines.

Anyhow, now that you know how to learn chords more efficiently it’s time to learn how to change between them smoothly.

How To Develop Smoother Chord Changes On Guitar

As mentioned before the biggest source of frustration for most guitar players is having to pause and think about where they put their fingers.

Too often when they practice they do so in a way where they put each finger down sequentially.

The problem with this is that how you practice is how you play, so when you go to play your chords you put your fingers down one by one…just like you practised!

The previous two exercises should help you overcome that problem, and our third exercise “Moonwalks” should make it even easier to change.

I coined the name Moonwalks because our fingers are going to resemble the low gravity situation on the moon.

To perform a Moonwalk you are going to pick two chords that you want to practice and do the following

  • in ultra-slow motion, bring your fingers to the correct frets above
  • place all of the fingers down and squeeze AT THE SAME TIME
  • relax your hand and lift off
  • now switch slowly to the new chord shape and form it above the frets
  • bring all of your fingers down once more SIMULTANEOUSLY so they arrive at the frets of the new chord at the same time!

The whole aim of the exercise is to have all of your fingers moving together at the same time and arriving at the same time. Go as slow as you need to in order to have your fingers arrive together.

Once again, there is no strum, all of your focus needs to go to your fretting hand finger.

See the Moonwalk exercise in action

What To Do When You Can’t Change Chords In Time?

This final exercise is the big guns we bring out when you can’t change chords in time!

This one is called Rapid Fire Changes and works 99% of the time when my guitar students come to me saying they can’t change chords in time.

You see, most of the time they have the physical capacity to change their guitar chords in time, but they have a mental block in place that prevents them from making a quick change.

What happens is that they are putting their fretting hand in control and waiting until all of their fingers are in the right spot before they start strumming…

As a result, they are always stopping and waiting until they are ready.

This is the completely wrong way to approach this.

Instead what you need to do is put your strumming hand in control (and to make him a ruthless taskmaster.

What happens is you are going to pick out two chords to change between them, strum four times per chord and switch instantly without breaking the strumming pattern.

That’s right, instantly!

Even if your fretting hand fingers aren’t in the right spot yet, you’re going to keep strumming and correcting any misplaced digits as you go.

The results will be pleasantly surprising!

After a few attempts, you’ll likely make the changes almost instantly, and all we had to do was change the way you thought about things.

So a step-by-step process is as follows:

  • fret the first chord
  • strum the first chord four times
  • instantly change to the second chord and strum four more times
  • adjust any missed fingers on the remaining beats of the bar
  • switch back to the first chord and repeat the process

It pays to start slowly to give yourself more time to change, but the trick is to NEVER STOP STRUMMING!

Make your fretting hand play catch-up, just like someone who has missed the train but can still catch up and jump on!

How To Master Your Chord Changes

By reading this article you’ve discovered four new exercises to help you learn and master your guitar chords

  • Finger Pushups
  • Strum Mute Lifts
  • Moonwalks
  • Rapid Fire Changes

Use the first two exercises to help you better learn and memorise your guitar chords and the second two exercises to help you develop the ability to switch between chords smoothly.

Using these exercises on the individual chord changes within a song that you are learning or a collection of chord progressions will dramatically improve your guitar playing in a short period of time

Why do these exercises work so well? It’s because they cut out a lot of time wasted switching between chords. It is a much more efficient way of practising. This further compounds when you use these exercises on chords you don’t know or switches you can’t play smoothly.

Don’t waste time practising things you can already do. Instead, allocate 80% of your practice time to improving your deficits and you will make unbelievably fast progress towards mastery.

Lessons From The Best Guitar Teacher In Melbourne

Here is a picture of Melbourne Guitar Academy owner and head teacher Michael Gumley. He is a guitar teacher in Essendon.

Michael Gumley is a professional guitarist, musical educator and entrepreneur from Melbourne, Australia.

He is the founder of Melbourne Guitar Academy, the author of the Guitar Ninjas Curriculum and the Head of Guitar at the music educator website Topmusic Pro. Michael’s goal is to raise the standard of musical education globally by empowering both teachers and students with better tools and resources to learn guitar so that they can avoid learning guitar the hard way as he did.

Melbourne Guitar Academy is Australia’s highest-rated guitar school with a 5-star average rating from over 100 Google Reviews. If you want to take your guitar playing to the next level and are looking for the best guitar lessons in Melbourne then look no further than taking lessons at Melbourne Guitar Academy.

Click Here to book a FREE guitar lesson with one of our professional guitar teachers.

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