In this article, you’ll discover how to play chords more effectively and how to strum more effectively, so you can combine both things and sound awesome when you play songs on your acoustic guitar.
When you’re first starting out, you learn how to make chords like A, G, or others, and sometimes you can strum just one chord and sound great… but when you try to change to a different chord, it’s hard to make your hands and fingers cooperate. :-)
But don’t get discouraged, because ALL guitarists go through this difficult stage. And I've got an easy way to help you sound great when you play chords on your acoustic.
Important question… do you know any guitar chords yet? If you don’t, no worries, just continue reading (and watching).
Click on the video to play chords faster
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to both visualize chords and know how to play them more accurately and have smooth transitions from one to another.
Learn How To Visualize Your Chords Before You Actually Play Them
- creating chords in your head - will help you memorize chords much easier. In fact, you can use this skill to practice guitar chords, even if you don’t have a guitar in your hand.
The first step is to make a list of chords you know how to play, and think about how to place your fingers on the guitar to play that chord. The idea behind this training is to get you ready and remember the chord pattern on your hand. This way you can play chords much faster without having to think about where your hand and fingers go when you’re changing chords on your acoustic guitar.
Example of visualization for D chord:
- The fourth string is open
- Your first finger goes on the third string, second fret
- Your ring finger goes on the second string, third fret
- Your middle finger goes on the at the second fret
When you can visualize chords, you will know what to play when you look down on your guitar. Just knowing how to visualize chords helps you play better as well as build confidence.
A Simple Trick: Make Your Hand “Remember” Chord Shapes
Remember, visualization is key. When you can “see” chords in your head, and remember where all your fingers are supposed to go, you’re ready to start making your hands and fingers “remember” the chord shapes with muscle memory.
Grab your guitar, tune it up,
and make a chord with your hand. It doesn’t matter which one.
Place all your fingers in the right spot (scroll up and review how to play D if you want), and press down on the strings. When everything’s ready, strum the strings. Don’t get discouraged if there’s a string or two that doesn’t ring out-right. Just relax (don’t get stressed!), and adjust your fingers until you can play the chord.
Remember… relax! It’s OK if your fingers don’t know where to go yet. :-)
Now, once you’ve got the chord sounding “right” when you strum it, lift ALL your fingers straight up from the fretboard… but hold the chord shape with your fingers.
Now, holding that same shape - pretend your fingers are super-glued together in that shape - set your fingers down on the guitar exactly where they were before.
“Bouncing” Chords To Build Muscle Memory
The purpose of this lesson is not to make you go fast and just be able to play that chord by moving your hand away super fast. Your goal is whenever you move your hand away from the chord to keep that shape with your fingers, have that pattern in place. The goal is to be able to play that chord without missing the strings and notes… and without having to waste time thinking about where your fingers go.
“Bouncing” chords is a great way to build muscle memory. And it works with ANY chord shape. :-)
And if you want to improve your guitar playing even faster, check out Acoustic Guitar by Steve Stine.
Hi all. I'm having a problem getting clean cords. Always 1 or 2 not sounding. Also, the radar in my picking hand doesn't zero in yet. I'll hit the wrong string on occasion.. How can I fix this? Thanks in advance. Jerry
Jerry, The key to making clean chords (and hitting the right strings) is muscle memory. And unfortunately, muscle memory is not something you can develop overnight. But, there are easy exercises to help you develop muscle memory, and you can do them every time you pick up your guitar. Here's a video that talks more about the "bouncing" technique for playing chords more cleanly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWkQWcFN1LI&list=PLXsgqaRTz85UKYMpBp174esSOL8aQd0zL&index=15 With picking, it's the same basic idea: you have to "train" your picking hand to zero in on those strings. A good way to do that is simple repetition. If there's a part of a song where you always seem to miss the string you're trying to pick, play through that part a few extra times. The most important thing to remember is that you may not see results immediately, but if you keep doing playing and you keep doing these exercises, you *will* see results. Because every time you pick up your guitar and play it, you're developing muscle memory. Here's another video... this one gives tips on how to alternate pick across strings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS0cQstd6UA Hope this helps! -- GuitarZoom Staff