Struggling with Guitar Chords?

October 1st, 2011

Guitar chords look and sound simple especially when you watch a veteran play them, but they do take a little time to learn for beginners. The biggest problem with guitar chords is you generally need three fingers, all in positions using muscles that you traditionally do not use. Oh, and did we mention you need to fret each string clearly without getting in the way of the string above or below?

Learning guitar chords is all about muscle memory. When you practice playing chords, and do it the right way, you progressively get better. When you first start playing guitar chords, they probably will not sound all that great. With practice, those chords will ring nice and clearly in no time.

Struggling with guitar chords? Check out common beginner mistakes below…

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Start with Easy Chords

There are hundreds of guitar chords. However, you will find after a few months of quality practice that a lot of songs utilize the same basic chords, which makes your practice easier because A) often these are easy chords to learn and B) once you memorize these chords you will learn new songs much quicker. Start with basic, easy-to-learn chords like G, A, E, D.

Warm-Up Your Fingers

Do you remember when you were in gym class and the instructor always made you run a couple of laps before playing dodgeball? It seemed pointless, right? Warming up you fingers might sound ridiculous (‘They’ll just warm-up when I practice’), but you will be surprised how much more you will get out of practice if your fingers are ready to go. The biggest frustration with learning guitar is that you are using muscles in your fingers that you rarely would use otherwise. Your left index finger may be able to fret any string, but what about the ring or pinky finger? What about when you need to strum a chord incorporating all three fingers?

The good news is that finger strength improves A) simply by practicing, B) with daily warm-up exercises and C) even through outside means like finger weights. Okay, maybe you’re not into the whole finger weight thing, but you would be surprised how wide scale exercises (they stretch as well as warm-up fingers) will improve finger strength as well as get you ready to play chords.

Keep Your Eyes (and fingers) In The Right Places

Quick exercise. Try playing a chord. Now freeze! Where are your eyes when you play the chord?

Most beginner guitarists would probably say their eyes are focused on the neck of the guitar, or more precisely the fingers fretting the chord. It might seem like a logical practice yet the reality is you can focus too much on the fingers playing the chord. Remember when you first picked up the guitar? You were probably so sloppy with strumming/picking that your eyes were only watching the pick as you played. Now, you’ve been playing for a couple of weeks and only starring at the bridge seems ludicrous, right? The same is true with the neck. As a result, some instructors have the beginner wear a blindfold when they play each chord. Now you are no longer looking, but feeling the chord.

Keep an Eye on the Pinky

We already discussed how frustrating the pinky can be since it’s rarely the primary finger for doing ordinary tasks like cupping a ball, pointing, etc. Consequently, when beginners pick up the guitar they have a tendency to hide the pinky. Who needs it anyhow!?

Unfortunately, that’s a terrible habit especially when learning chords. A wise guitarist understands that your fingers (yes, even the pinky) always hover over the strings of the guitar even if they are not fretting at that precise moment. Why? You will be able to shift between chords much faster.

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