5 Tips to Improve your Chord Change Speed

The guitar is the most widely used musical instrument there is, popular in everything from country to pop music. One of the most frequent questions asked by beginner guitar players is how to improve chord change speed without missing any beats.

When watching your favorite guitarist play it can seem like they hardly move their fingers as they float between chords. This is partially true, they have mastered minimizing the movement that it takes to shift between chord shapes, increasing both their speed and accuracy.

So, to help you with this problem we’ve come up with 5 tips and tricks that will help you speed through chord changes… it will take time and practice, but you can do it!

5 tips to Improve your Chord Change Speed

Becoming fast and accurate while changing between chord shapes is a practice in eliminating extra movements and repetition. Needless to say, chord change speed is not easy and requires a lot of practice.

To master the art of guitar playing, most musicians will play for years and still find room for improvement. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 ways to help you cut down the learning curve as much as possible.

1. Distance Between Strings And Your Fingers

The first and foremost thing to remember is that you have to be as close to the strings as possible. A distance of no more than half an inch should be between your fingers and the guitar chords. Though a few centimeters may seem insufficient, centimeters will count for nanoseconds saved, and even a centimeter counts for a lot.

While practicing keep your fingers as close to the fretboard as you can. Play slow songs first and bring your fingers back when they drift away. This may seem forced at first but over time the movement becomes natural to you won’t need to worry about it.

Learning to play guitar scales can help with this. You are only playing a single note before moving your fingers to find the next one, not leaving time for your fingers to wonder off!

2. Using Common Fingers

Another thing you’ll be able to take advantage of is common finger placement. If there is a fret on a particular string that is used in both the chord you start with and one you are changing to you can easily take advantage of this.

The G Chord
G Major chord diagram for guitar

The E minor Chord
E Major guitar chord diagram

For example, A common chord change is from G to E minor. Both of these chords require the 2nd fret on the A string to be held down. The G chord shape is most commonly played with your index finger on the 2nd fret of the A string, the middle finger holding the 3rd fret of the low E string, and your ring or pinky finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string.

The hard way to switch from the G to E minor would be to move your index (1) finger from the A to D string and then your middle finger (2) from the 3rd fret of the low E string to the 2nd fret of the A string.

Instead, use the common placement of your index finger and simply move your middle finger!

3. Leading With The Farthest Finger

It is perhaps self-explanatory that you should always try to lead with your finger which has the farthest distance to travel from start to the end point. If you do this your other fingers will naturally transition after it (especially if you practice your air changes.. see tip #5). If you can stay relaxed and don’t over think this action, you would get a smooth flow of movement in the descending order of the distances.

A great example of this concept is the G to D change. In this transition, the index finger only has to move up a single fret from the low E string to the B string. Your index middle fingers have to move down almost the entire neck to find their new position on the third fret of the G and Low E strings, respectively.

If you practice starting this change by moving your middle finger, your index finger naturally should follow suite. At that point getting your index finger planted is a simple movement and the chord change is complete!

The G Chord
Guitar G major Chord diagram
The D Chord
Guitar D major Chord diagram


4. Keep your Right Hand Moving

This is the only technique that focuses on your strumming hand rather than your left hand. Conceptually this is a really simple and extremely effective technique and it focuses taking advantage of your basic instincts.

Your brain is hardwired to detect patterns so you can use that to your advantage. By practicing always keeping your right hand in motion, it can become automatic. By doing this you’ll trick your brain into moving your right hand more fluently and naturally. Once this becomes second nature you’ll be able to essentially put the rhythm on auto-pilot and focus on your chord changes.

This will also be a benefit if you ever decide to pick up a fingerstyle guitar. Many advanced techniques call for a mix between picking individual notes and strumming which requires your hand to always be moving!

5. Air Changes

The last technique to discuss is arguably the hardest of the lot. JustinGuitar teaches this technique that involves practicing moving your fingers to the places they need to be and then placing them down all at once. I highly recommend you check out the video on the technique, as well as the rest of his vast library of lessons!

There is not a fixed technique to speed up your chord changes and nor is one technique superior to any of the others. All of these techniques can be helpful, but it’s likely you’ll find one that is more comfortable and effective than the others. One thing that all of these techniques have in common is needing to be practiced.

There is a technique we did not cover here, which is that of building your chords from the lowest string up. You can find a really good description of that style here at Ultimate-Guitar.

The Final Note

With these 5 tips and a lot of practice we are fully confident you can improve your chord changes.

At StringVibe our goal is to provide you with great guitar information, so check out the rest of our content and if there is something we are missing we’d love to hear from you so we can write an article about it!