Improve Chord Changing
Speed and Accuracy

By Jon Taubman

Are you avoiding certain chords because they're difficult, or even painful to play?
Is your fretting hand struggling to keep up with your strumming hand?
Are you hearing more buzz than notes on some chords?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then the following playing tips are for you.

Tips to reduce string buzz

1. Fretting hand thumb position - watch that your fret hand thumb stays behind the neck and doesn't creep upward. Dropping the thumb will lower your wrist providing your fingers with more arch and more room to maneuver.

2. Fretting hand palm position - be sure the guitar neck isn't resting on your fretting hand palm. Relax your palm and straighten your wrist so there's air between it and the guitar neck. Without that air, your fingers won’t have the same reach and mobility.

3. Nail length - it's best to keep the nails on the fretting hand short. A little length is ok, but shorter is best. A long finger nail will make it harder to push the string against the fret with your fingertip. Good string to fret contact is how a good tone is produced. When the string is not pressed all the way against the fret you’ll hear a buzz. You may also hear a buzz if your finger is angled too much toward the string below it. When this happens your finger tip is coming in contact with the string below causing it to buzz or mute completely. Pro tip: Always keep a nail file and nail clipper in your guitar case.

Building finger strength and callus

● Fret and play a D chord in your fretting hand
● Relax the hand
● Fret the D chord again but this time squeeze the chord tightly and hold for 3 secs
● Relax again
● Repeat for a total of 10 reps - holding the tension for 3 secs and relaxing for 6 secs each time.

This will increase strength in the muscles used to form, and hold down the chord. It'll speed up callus formation on the fingertips too. Perform this exercise everyday for 7 days using a different chord each day – Day 1: D, Day 2: G, Day 3: A, Day 4: C Day 5: E, Day 6: F, Day 7: chord of choice.

Improving chord changing speed

The most likely reason your fretting hand is out of sync with the strumming hand is because your fingers are moving independently and not together as a unit, causing them to move much slower than they could be.

● Fret a D chord
● Now relax your fingers but keep the shape of the chord intact. Your fingers should be about ½ an inch away from the strings when fully relaxed.
● Quickly snap the chord shape back in place on the neck, moving your fingers together as a unit
● Lift the fingers up together
● Snap back in place
● Repeat this 10 times slowly at first, and gradually increase the tempo
● Next do the same thing for the C chord, then G, then E, etc. Next try a chord sequence of D and C back and forth. Then try G and D. Gradually increase the speed.
● Repeat everyday for 7 days and you'll see a significant improvement in your chord changing speed and accuracy. Relax, stretch, take a breath. You've got this!

About The Author

Reading School of Guitar is owned and operated by professional musician, Jon Taubman. With over 30 years as a performing artist, composer and music educator, Jon has developed a unique approach to learning guitar that gets results fast and builds confidence from day one. Jon offers in-person guitar Lessons in Reading MA and surrounding towns.