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Old 02-02-2011, 08:15 PM
dlknight dlknight is offline
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Default Beginner here. Chord Changes and Frustration

I started learning last year, I tried G, C, D fhords and could never change chords from one to another without placing one finger at a time. After 3 months I had to take a break because of certification I had to get at work. I have been back at it for one month now. I found Justin Guitars Beginner Course, and he starts out with A, D, E. I know G, D, C, E, A, Amin, Dmin, Emin. He has this thing he calls 1 min changes. You use 2 chords and see how many changes you can make in a minute. They don't have to be perfect. I started at like 14 changes per min. A=1, then D=2, and so forth. After one month I can only do 18 at most. This is so frustrating. So playing any song is out of the question. I am so slow at changing chords that nothing even comes close to sounding like anything. That's if my fingers happen to land on the correct strings and more often than not they don't. By the way, the 3 to 4 months I did last year I actually tok lessons from someone. I practice at least 30 min each day on nothing but chord changes. I practice 10 min on each set, (A-D, D-E, A-E) On weekends I practice more. Does it usually take this long for someone to just make chord changes for only two chords? I kep practicing because I want to play, but don't realy seem to get any better. By the way I am 48 yrs old. So not like I am some kid. Not trying to whine, I just didn't think it takes this long and still not really see any improvment. Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 02-02-2011, 08:51 PM
enalnitram enalnitram is offline
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dl (can I call you dl?), it sounds like you are beating yourself up. everybody is bad at this, at first. it seems to me there are two things wrong with what you are doing. first of all you are not playing a tune, you are playing exercises. get going playing some music, music that is easy to play and that you like. this will inspire you more. exercises sometimes serve a purpose but exercises are not music. "changes per minute" sounds like madness to me. if you don't achieve that, you are left feeling like you have failed, when all that you didn't do is achieve some arbitrary number some guy dreamed up. Justin probably has his merits but I don't think it is helping you right now.

the second thing is that it sounds like you are focusing on chords and not single notes. playing a few simple single note tunes will get your fingers moving on the strings, and it might even be more fun. "dueling banjos", etc. work up to chords, if they are giving you trouble.
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Old 02-02-2011, 09:00 PM
japple japple is offline
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You recieved good advice. Playing music isn't about playing as many notes as you can, it is playing the right notes for the right amount of time. If it was me I would play a chord for 8 beats, at around beat 5 or 6 start preparing yourself for the chord change. I found the largest mistake the people I have helped make is waiting to long to think about the chord change. Be slow and methodical with everything and slowly increase the speed as you become comfortable with each speed.
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Old 02-02-2011, 09:21 PM
dlknight dlknight is offline
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First of all thanks for the advice. And I have been actualy doing 4 beats then change and not so much with the 1 min changes. Also the 1 mean changes are set up to do what you can. When you get to a certain rate like 60 changes per minute then you move on to the next stage where you pick up new chords. So you are supposed to practice chords for 5 min. then do the 1 min changes, I have 3 sets so that is 3 min, then 5 min of practicing songs. He has Three Little Birds, Pegy Sue, and Wild Thing. When I was taking lessons the guy had me start out with Swet Home Alabama, Jessies Girl, Best of my Love, there were a couple of other songs, but only a few bars of each. All I guess he wanted me to do was be able to remember to go from one chord to the next and he didn't care that it took me for ever to change chords, or how bad it sounded.

I was asking because I wanted to know if this was usual for most people. I read so much stuff about people who picked up the guitar for the first time a month ago and they are now playing songs. I can't even change chords. I am not giving up, just asking. I have too much envolved. I have low end Martin as my acoustic and a Gretsch 5135 Corvette as my electric. I want a tube amp, but have no amp for now. It makes less noise which makes my wife happy.
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Old 02-02-2011, 09:59 PM
Texas Dave Texas Dave is offline
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Keep chuggin' Man. It sounds like you've only got 4 months into it all and everyone is different as far as "picking it up" goes.

I agree about not focusing on speed but rather work on proper form and sound. If you practice bad habits, you perfect bad habits.

Slow down, keep your guitar in your hands and focus on proper form and technique. It will come.
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Old 02-03-2011, 01:37 AM
darkvalley1 darkvalley1 is offline
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Location: Sligo, Ireland
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I agree with all that has been said above. If I were you I would concentrate on playing songs or tunes. If you have to pause to change chord, then so what, you are not in Carneige hall just yet, and in time you wont have to pause and for now you will enjoy playing more.
My daughter has been playing for 3 months now and she is still taking time to change chords. She is not so bad on G to C, but if she has to go to D or Dm, there is a long pause. She also only knows those 4 chords.
Don't give too much heed to what you read on the internet by people claiming to be able to play x amount of songs after x amount of months. I'm sure they can and they are enjoying playing those songs and fair dues, but if you or I were listening to them we might think, why is he pausing between those chords?
One thing to try is to form the chord and then start moving your hand up off the chord and then back down on the same chord, lifting your hand further away from the fretboard over time. In effect moving from the D chord back down to the D chord. Bob Brozman suggests this in one of his DVD lessons as a way to speed up learning new chord shapes. I should say I never tried it so don't know if it will help. I prefer to play the song and pause while I make a new chord shape, its more fun that way.
Enjoy playing and keep it up, it does get a lot easier and more fun in time.
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Old 02-03-2011, 03:11 AM
wamahaplayer wamahaplayer is offline
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Ive been playing for a few years and I am getting on to, (58) it does take time but dont get frustrated I still feel slow at changes especialy F to C, so I just take my time some times I wont play the last F (if fast tempo song) and use the missed chord play time to move my fingers into position and away I go and no one ever seems to notice.
I think the main thing is take your time and ENJOY IT dont beat yourself up it will come, I can remember back to a time I thought I would never ever be able to do a whole song, now I do a whole load of stuff (2 hour sets) but it still seems like yesterday when I started.
Good luck dont rush it you will get there.
Regards Wamahaplayer

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Old 02-03-2011, 05:14 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Remember chord changes don't have to happen at lightning speed. What matters is to get the next chord down right on the first beat; you can leave the previous chord early if you have to. It often sounds OK to strum open strings in between - at least if you are in the keys of G, C or D, where all the open strings are in key. (That's one reason guitarists love those keys.)
(Even pro guitarists will often hit open strings between chord changes, usually on the half-beat upstroke between the last beat of one chord and beat 1 of the next chord.)

Playing songs (rather than exercises) is important, mainly because you get more enjoyment that way, you feel you are aiming at something worthwhile and recognisable as "music". (No one else is going to be impressed by 40 chord changes a minute - but they might be entertained by an amateur run-through of a well known song.)

Keep with the exercises. But link them to a song. Ie, pick a song, then look at the first 2 chords. Practice that change; then the next one; etc.
And as I say, practice playing the sequence through IN TIME (with a metronome if necessary). Speed doesn't matter, but getting each chord on the first beat where it occurs does. You might only be able to make one strum (on beat 1) before having to get your fingers ready for the next chord. That's OK - play it that way if you have to, but stay in time. It will get faster.

Of course it goes without saying that you need to make sure your technique is OK: that you're holding the guitar properly, have your hand in the right position, etc.
It might also be worth having your guitar checked out. Sometimes high action or heavy strings make actually holding a chord in the first place harder than it needs to be.
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Old 02-03-2011, 05:45 AM
jasperguitar jasperguitar is offline
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Location: New Hampshire
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I'm a kinda beginner with some music in my background..

I have found it very helpful to play scales, and arpeggios.
and learn the entire fretboard..

I also practice changing chords.. some strumming.. and
its fun to just sit and goof.

My teacher and mentor; Doctor B.
recommended I practice scales, and
play notes up and down the fretboard.
At first I was skeptical, as I read that he lives in or teaches in
Chicago .. and city lacking of virtue. I also worried that
he was a secret mole of the liberal progressive wing of the
community organizer party. Let's face it, even folk artists
get sick of performing "blowing in the wind" ..

But... I put aside my prejudices and I've followed his

Look for a few of my postings, read what Doctor B ..
The B stands for Beaumont, not Hugh Beaumont or
tv fame, but Doctor B Beaumont of acoustic guitar fame.

Seriously.. the playing of scales has really helped.
and besides.. once you learn a little pentatonic
riff, you will be the next Clapton.. or you will get clap

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Old 02-03-2011, 06:32 AM
unimogbert unimogbert is offline
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Fingers are pretty hard to tame, aren't they?

Be sure and practice only perfect changes. If you crank up the speed and lose accuracy then you are burning inaccuracy into your finger muscle memory.

You might try one other much more complex chords as a way to break up the plateau. Don't expect to do it well, just expand the expectations of your fingers. Something like C7 x32310 using all four fingers could inform your fingers of your intention that that they all get into the act and you really mean it :-) Not for speed but for developing the muscles you need to control the fingers.

Oh, and pick SLOW songs to learn on :-)
1972 Nagoya N-28
(and several other not-so-unique guitars)
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:35 AM
cookn cookn is offline
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I had a closet guitar for about 35 years. 66 now. Started trying again 2 years ago. Quit several times because I just wasn't getting it. Started with a teacher 3 months ago and told him I want to play finger style or lead guitar. Cords frustrate me a lot. Anyway he started me on scales and some cords. I am getting better- not there yet but getting a lot better and enjoying it more. My finger movements are a lot faster and I can see that someday I will be able to play. Just keep at it and there are times when you will just get a small part of the big picture and that is great. Just have fun. the teacher thing works great for me.
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:35 AM
Mr Fixit eh's Avatar
Mr Fixit eh Mr Fixit eh is offline
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Yes, it is normal to take some time to develop speed and smoothness with chord changes.

As posted earlier, I would recommend playing songs. Go really slow and use a metronome. When you can change the chords in time - even if it's really, really slow time - then you can increase the speed. Pick simple 2 chord songs - best if you know the song really well, like simple nursery rhyme songs

Another exercize you can use will improve your muscle memory. Start with your hand open and resting lightly on the neck. Go to the desired chord, but instead of placing the fingers down one-at-a-time, try to place them down on the strings simultaneously. Go back to neutral position. Try hitting the next chord - all fingers simultaneously. Back to neutral, etc. If you watch accomplished players, they place the fingers on the chord simultaneously and instantly. This exercize will help you move towards this.

The OP says,
I am so slow at changing chords that nothing even comes close to sounding like anything. That's if my fingers happen to land on the correct strings and more often than not they don't.
Not to worry. Slow and steady wins the race here. You should be spending some of your practice time working with your chord repertoire - make sure all the strings ring out nicely without buzz. But when you're playing songs, just get your fingers on the chords. Go really slow and make the chords sound as clean as you can, but it's more important to keep the rock-steady rhythmn. As the weeks go by, your chords will improve.

And have fun. If you're not having fun and playing simple songs, you will get discouraged and quit.

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Old 02-03-2011, 06:40 AM
porterr68 porterr68 is offline
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If you are not doing so already, focus, really focus, on physically relaxing your shoulders, forearms, fingers, heck every part of your body. It is shocking how physical tension will impede your ability to move around the fretboard. Then move very slowly paying careful attention to staying physically relaxed and loose. Hopefully the muscle memory in this relaxed state will begin to take hold and make the changes smoother and easier.

Best of luck and don't give up.

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Old 02-03-2011, 07:01 AM
MisterZeus MisterZeus is offline
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I don't know if it's usual, but at 56 years old and taking lessons for the past year (half-hour/week) plus practicing a half hour/night I can tell you that I too am lousy at chord changes. I have never played a musical instrument in my life...except maybe a few piano lessons 45 years ago!

Mostly I am learning to finger pick but also am practicing the "Circle of Fifths" for changing chords and a couple of simple songs (for mostly strumming); "Norwegian Wood" and (Dylan/Byrds) "You Ain't Going No where".

It has taken me at least least 3 months to work through my first finger style songs (a dumbed-down version of "Freight Train", "You are My Sunshine", "Black Bird" and I am currently into my 4th month working on Bert Jansch's "Angie".
...and it all takes way more time than I would have thought, but I am making progress...very, very slow, steady progress.

Enjoy the journey or you'll never reach a destination.
Good Luck. You are not alone.
...With a few nice guitars...
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Old 02-03-2011, 12:09 PM
mikerol mikerol is offline
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dlknight -- what kind of music do you like? i'd be happy to suggest a few songs along with easy ways to play them. the folks that have responded are right -- take it slow, focus on accuracy, and speed will come. personally, even if chords frustrate you, you're going to want to be able to play them. otherwise all you can do is play with someone else or sit around and noodle with scales and riffs. if you want to be able to play alone and play songs, you need to play chords. but it's not easy for anyone at first.
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