I was working with a student the other day. A complete beginner. He asked me this question:
“I seem to have no problem switching from G7 to C. But, I have a hard time going from C to G7. Do you have any tips to help with that?”
We decided to play a simple two chord song using C and G7: Jambalaya. And indeed he was right. He went from G7 to C with no trouble. When it came time to move from C to G7 he was always late. I asked him what he thought the trouble was.
“C only uses one finger so I can get to it pretty quick but, there are three fingers involved in the G7, so it’s tougher. I guess I just need to get quicker at it.” He answered.
ME: “How much time do you think you have to change chords?”
Student: “Not much. If I strum the C for 4 counts then switch to the G7. I have to get to the G7 really really fast, it’s hard!”
ME: “What if you leave the C chord a little early so you get to the G7 on time?”
Student: “But then I might strum the open strings in between. Is that okay?”
ME: “Guitar players and uke players do it all the time. Try it and see if it works.”
Student: “Hey! That makes it a lot easier!”
I think many of my students are under the impression that they have to switch between chords with a lightning quick change of shapes made between strums: that they need to hold on to one chord until the absolute last moment and then ZIP, quick as a fly, switch to the new chord. I have experimented with switching chords this way and I have a confession to make. I can’t do it well! And I get really tense trying.
I frequently find that I leave a chord early to get to the next chord on time. And when I do this I sometimes catch the open strings with one strum. The open strings ringing briefly between chords can cause problems but usually it doesn’t. And I really believe it’s important for beginners to know that it’s allowed! It can help make chord transitions smoother and easier.
Here’s a little video demonstration:
If you are struggling with chord changes I hope this helps. Maybe if you are a more experienced player you have intuitively started leaving chords early. Tune in to your chord transitions and let me know what you find. If you know a beginner player who is struggling with getting from chord to chord maybe let him/her know that it’s okay to leave a little early to arrive on time.
That’s all for today’s lesson.