UD#4 Passing Through Neutral: Changing Between Chords

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UD#4   Passing Through Neutral: Changing Between Chords

from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek

“How do I make difficult chord changes fast enough without leaving an unnatural pause? “


“I am pretty fast at making transitions between familiar chords but when I have more complex shapes with 3 or 4 fingers, I can’t seem to make the transition fast enough. How can I practice?”


This week I would like to show you one way I like to work on moving between chords. I call it “Passing Through Neutral”. We’ll start with a progression  F to Fm and then look at a tricky Ab6 to Gb7 (#11) chord change.


This progression  can be found in Love Me Tender and many other songs. It is a chord transition that many beginners find challenging.

Below are the chord diagrams. You’ll notice that I have made the F chord a 3 finger chord, which makes the transition easier. It’s still an F chord, it’s just a different way of playing it.

I’ve marked the left hand fingers you are meant to use.

i=index  m=middle r=ring p=pinky

m      i    p          i        m  p

Try moving between the chords playing the F for two beats and then the Fm for two beats.

F      Fm
1   2   1    2

How did it go?

OKAY, now let’s try a new way of practicing the transition.


1. Make a “neutral” F shape.

What’s a “neutral” shape? Make the shape of the chord on the strings but do not bring the strings all the way to the frets. The fingers of your left hand should sit on the strings lightly. The chord is not playable this way, of course. It’s just for practice.

Staying in neutral, switch between the F and Fm chord. Don’t strum just practice the movement of the left hand. Remember the fingers of the left hand should rest lightly on the strings but should not bring the strings to the frets. We’re not playing the chords, just practicing the shapes and moving between them.

Bring some awareness to what each finger is doing. Notice that when you move from the F to the Fm, the pinky stays where it is. The other two fingers switch strings.

2. Let’s practice strumming each of the chords from neutral. Start with a neutral F shape, strum the F chord and as you strum bring the strings to the frets so the chord will sound. As soon as you you’ve strummed let your fingers come back to the neutral position. In other words you make the shape of the chord but only bring the strings to the frets when you strum. The strumming and the fretting of the chord happen together.

Do this a few times with the F chord:   Neutral  Strum   Neutral   Strum   Neutral

Do the same thing with the Fm:    Neutral  Strum   Neutral   Strum   Neutral

3. Let’s try to the progression this way:

•Make a neutral F shape
•Strum it
•Return to neutral
•Move fingers to Fm shape (stay neutral!)
•Strum it
•Return to neutral


You may find that your fingers move much more easily between chords if you learn to pass through NEUTRAL.

CHORD PROGRESSION 2: Ab6 to Gb7(#11)

Here is a more challenging chord progression for the more advance student. The chords come from the bridge of Christmas Time is Here:

i   r   m  p          m  p   i    r

Please practice this progression following the same steps as the F to Fm progression:

1. Practice moving between the shapes in neutral. Notice the movement of each finger.
2. Practice strumming each of the chords from neutral and returning to neutral.
3. Practice the progression remembering to pass through neutral.

Try this approach with some chord progressions that are giving you trouble. Hope it helps!

A couple of final thoughts:

•The goal in switching between chords is to have the fingers come together to create the shape simultaneously. Not one finger at a time. Learning to pass though neutral really helps with this, as the fingers move much more freely.

•It helps  to be able to make the shapes of the chords without having to “plant” each finger individually. Ideally we should even be able to make the shape of a chord in the air, without the ukulele.

All for now!

See you next week.


P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!


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