Episode 26 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you can get better at guitar chords whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced guitarist.
You’ll learn the different ways you can get better at chords and how working on chords in different ways helps you grow as a guitarist. Some of what is covered in this episode will be obvious, while other things may surprise you.
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The episode explains the basic ideas behind the different ways to practice chords. The below guides will help you with the step-by-step details on how to practice chords.
The above guide includes exercises and examples on how to put the exercises into practice.
Start with basic open chords, then you can work your way to more complex variations.
The episode also talks about finding different chord shapes across the fretboard for any chord you know. The best way to practice this is to work on memorizing the fretboard. Once you know the note positions across the fretboard, finding new chord shapes becomes a breeze.
If you want to work on improving your understanding of chords and chord variations, a good starting point is to learn about intervals.
Once you understand the basics of intervals, complex sounding chords will begin to make sense. A solid understanding of intervals can make a big difference in your understanding of chords.
Podcast Episode 26 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 26 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this episode, I’ll talk about how you can get better at guitar chords. I’ll give you an overview of the different ways you can work on chords – some may seem obvious while others may not.
Once you have an understanding of the different ways you can get better at chords, check out the page for this episode where I’ve included a link to a detailed guide explaining step-by-step how to practice chords.
So this episode will explain the what and why in practicing chords, then the guide will cover the step-by-step details.
Faster Chord Changes
The first way you can get better at chords is to work on speeding up your chord changes. This is something all beginners should work on, but even intermediate guitarists might want to spend some time speeding up chord changes.
Whenever you spend time learning new chord shapes, it’s worth spending some time working on speeding up how quickly you can move in and out of those chords.
Working on speeding up your chord changes helps you improve in a few ways.
The most obvious way it helps you is to help you play songs without pausing because you need to change chord positions. If you’re a beginner, you’ve probably noticed that some chord changes are easier than others. Your goals should be to get to a point where it doesn’t matter which chords you need to change between, they all feel easy.
Once you can do that and once you’re able to instantly change between any chords, you’ll find that you can play along with more music. You won’t get stuck changing between chords and can then focus your attention on other things.
Speeding up your chord changes also helps you memorize chord shapes. Chord memorization and chord changes go hand in hand, so if you want to work on memorizing new chord shapes, working on your chord changes is a great way to do it.
If we look at this in a different way, if you find that you have some trouble changing in or out of one or two chords, take it as a sign that you haven’t fully memorized those chords yet.
The last way speeding up your chord changes helps you is with your rhythm and coordination skills. If you’re slow at changing between chord shapes, it limits the type of rhythms and strumming patterns you can play. Faster chord changes helps you improve your timing and rhythm skills. If you want to improve your rhythm skills, spend some time working on speeding up your chord changes.
Hopefully, I’ve made it clear why you should spend time working on speeding up your chord changes. It’s a crucial part of playing chords and it’s something every guitarist can get better at. Even if you’re currently happy with how fast you can change between chords, spend a few days working on it and you might be surprised by the progress you make.
So the first way you can get better at chords is to work on speeding up your chord changes. It’s a simple thing to work on and can make a big difference to your abilities. I talk about how to practice speeding up your chord changes in the guide on the website.
But let’s move on to a different way you can work on your chords.
Improve Your Fretboard Knowledge
Another way you can get better at chords is to use chords as a way to improve your understanding of the fretboard.
For example, many beginners start by learning basic open chord shapes. Most people listening to this will know basic chord shapes such as C, D, Em, E, G, Am, and other basic major and minor open chords.
If you ask any guitarist to play a C Major chord, I’d guess that the majority of them will play the open C shape that starts on the third fret on the A string.
But ask yourself this, how many other C Major chord shapes do you know? How many other shapes and positions can you play C Major? Is it just the one open chord shape or do you know more ways of playing the chord C Major?
If you’re a beginner, you might not understand this question, so don’t stress if you don’t.
Most beginners only know one C Major chord shape – the open chord shape. Most intermediate guitarists will know two or three different shapes if they’ve learned how to play barre chords. They might know the barre chord shape on the sixth string to play a C Major chord there and they might know one starting on the fifth string.
So a lot of guitarists will know somewhere from one to three chord shapes for C Major.
But there’s actually far more ways you can play C Major across the fretboard. The more places you can find those chord shapes, the more comfortable you will feel at playing all over the fretboard.
Working on your fretboard knowledge using chords not only helps you find more chord shapes to play, but it also helps you become an overall better guitarist.
If we look at this in a different way, if you only know one chord shape for C, one for D, one for E and so on, you’re limited in what you can do with those chords. But if you know ten different ways to play C, ten different ways to play D, and so on, you have so much more freedom over the fretboard.
Again, I talk about how to work on this in the guide on the website. But hopefully this short explanation makes it clear why learning different places you can play chords helps you improve as a guitarist.
Learning Chord Variations
The last way you can get better at chords is to learn chord variations. The more variations you know, the more options you have for using chords in your music.
Let’s look at this with a simple example. Imagine you’re an artist and want to make a painting. You have a picture in your mind of a bright and colorful landscape you want to paint. But you look at your paint supplies and you only have red and black.
While it’s possible to paint something that looks like a landscape using only red and black, it’s not going to match the picture you had in your head.
If only you had a few more colors you could paint with, you’d be able to get closer to the picture you had in your mind.
Well, it’s the same with guitar and chords. Every beginner seems to start off by learning a few Major and minor chord shapes. Many guitarists stop learning new chords after that. If you only know a few Major and minor chords, it’s the same as the painter who only has red and black paints.
The more types of chords you learn, such as seventh chords, diminished chords, suspended chords, and so on, it’s like having more colors you can paint with.
This is a really important way you can get better at chords. Learning different variations opens up your music in the same way as adding different colors to a painter’s palette gives them more options.
For example, let’s look at chords based on C. Everybody listening to this probably knows the standard C Major open chord shape. But what about other chords based on C as the root note?
I’ll list a few chords and just think to yourself whether you know how to play them or not.
- C minor
- C suspended second
- C suspended fourth
- C added ninth
- C sixth
- C Major seventh
- C minor seventh
- C dominant seventh
- C ninth
- C major ninth
- C minor ninth
- C diminished
- C eleventh
Okay so I could go on and on listing more variations, but hopefully you get the point. Each of the chords I listed can be thought of as different variations you can use in your music. Sometimes you might want to play the basic C Major chord, other times you might want a C suspended fourth, and other times you might want to throw in a C minor ninth.
The point is that the more of these variations you know for any root note, the more options you have for your music.
It might seem like a lot of chords to learn, but you’ll quickly get a feel for what types of chords you like the sound of and which you don’t.
Even just adding one variation for every chord you already know can have a massive impact on your knowledge and abilities.
So to recap this episode, here are the main ways you can get better at guitar chords:
First, you can work on speeding up your chord changes. Being able to instantly swap between any chords you want helps you play more music, lets you improve your rhythm skills, and helps you memorize chord shapes.
Second, you can work on your fretboard knowledge by learning new chord shapes for chords you already know. If you only know one chord shape for E minor, that really limits what you can do with that chord. But if you know 20 different ways of playing E minor, you can do a lot of interesting things with that simple chord.
Finally, you can work on learning different variations for each type of chord you know. Think of each variation on a chord as different colors of flavors you can throw into your music. If you only know Major or minor chords, you’re limited to those two sounds. But if you know a few seventh chords, suspended chords, diminished and augmented chords, and other variations, you have a big range of sounds you can throw into your music at any time.
Hopefully in this episode I’ve made it clear that getting better at chords doesn’t stop once you know how to play a few chords well. There are hundreds of possible chord variations and shapes and the further you take your chord knowledge, the more you can do in your music.
Check out the relevant guides to help you work on your chords at guitargearfinder.com/podcast/episode-26
Alternatively, you can just jump on the Guitar Gear Finder website and search for chords in the top right search bar. There’s a lot of guides and lessons on the website, so if there’s anything you ever want to learn about pedals, amps, recording, playing, or practicing, you’ll probably find something on my website to help you.
Check out the guide on practicing chords this week and see how far you can take your chords abilities.
Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.