Form Chords and Switch Between them Quickly -- [Beginner/All Styles/Technique]

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Precise Playing through Chord Planting

This lesson is a branch from Area 1 from the Playbook for Beginners and Beyond main lesson. Visit the main lesson to see my philosophy on the five different areas of learning to play.

The idea behind Chord Planting is for you to incorporate this technique and keep it with you always. What it does for you is that it helps you to form the chord formation in the air with your fingers before placing them on the strings so you place your fingers on the strings all at once instead of 'feeling' for the chord one string at a time.

Begin this without a guitar in your hands. Now look at your fret hand and form the G, C and D chords. Go back and forth a few times like this. Part of this exercise is so you begin to 'see' the chord form in your mind's eye and you begin to trust your hand on command.

Start by taking any three chords:

  1. Form the chord in the air above the strings
  2. Plant the chord on the strings as one unit as opposed to feeling for each string one-at-a-time.
  3. Switch between chords in this manner without strumming the strings
  4. Begin slowly and don't advance until you are comfortable with the chord formations

I developed this technique as I was teaching myself. It's worked very well for me as well as my students over the years. This will help you to switch between chords quickly and cleanly.

Now take those same three chords and follow these exercises:

  • Play the first chord, C, slowly. Make sure that each string is sounding (you're playing the chord cleanly). Now switch to the D chord and make sure each string is sounding, and the same for the G chord. Continue this pattern, all without regard to any type of rhythm and just using down strokes, 20 times. Pick up speed as you progress, but only as you are able to keep each chord sounding cleanly. Next, try keeping the middle chord as the fourth chord and do the same: C, D, G, D and repeat the pattern.

Remember to always play cleanly and never progress until you can do so. Are you seeing that your fingers are moving to the next chord as a group? Right!

Next, pick any three other chords and do the same exercises. Take C, D, Em for example. Then try C, D, Em, D. Then try D, Em, F, etc. Try as many different combinations as you wish.

Some other great combinations to learn: C, F, G and Am, E7, G and C, Am, F, G7 and D, A, G.

It's called Chord Planting because the tendency then is for you to 'pounce' on the strings, which is the goal. You'll find that you can now switch to other chords very quickly. This will be helpful because sometimes when we want to switch chords we switch to the wrong one. You'll be able to switch to the correct one very quickly, and no one will be the wiser! Not only that, this is going to help you to switch chords within the rhythm of the song. You'll be more than ready when it comes time to switch. It helps because you won't have to give so much brain power to the chord formation, leaving your mind free for making music. You'll find that you are so efficient at switching between chords that you'll be on time, every time.

  • No one will be the wiser that you've chosen to play the chord that you're playing. You can switch to the originally intended chord at your command (and at the blink of an eye).B)
  • This is the beginning of instilling confidence in your playing within a given rhythm. Soon, you won't be stopping when you make a mistake. You'll just plow ahead.

A byproduct of learning this is it helps you develop muting unwanted string sounds with the palm of the picking hand. This also is a part of the equation in becoming a clean player.

I've been using it since 1970, and it's a part of my practice routine that assures me of the ultimate performance. As you learn new chords, new songs, you'll be quite happy that you stuck with this because you will be the cleanest guitar player people have ever heard. I'm not the best or fanciest player, but I am very clean. That makes up a ton of ground as far as talent and scores many points with listeners.

All the best,


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