newbie chord help


I've just started to learn basic chord shapes (D7, Am, C ect.) and was wondering if there are any tricks to help me along. I just got hit with about 10 different chord shapes and it gets very confusing. Any help would be greatly appericated.


Silver Supporting Member
The hardest thing to get past is letting go of the neck completely on every chord change and therefore basically starting completely over on each chord trying to figure out which finger goes where. You want to get away from that asap.

Instead of thinking of each chord as seperate entity look for the commonality. For some chords it will be fairly obvious while others have more subtle things in common. Play a chord and then slow way down and put some serious thought into which fingers move and how when changing chords before lifting a finger. For instance, open C major and open A minor are very similar and only require one finger to be moved to change between them.

Practice just moving your fretting fingers back and forth between two chords without pressing down much or without even strumming anything.

Practice the chords in groups of two only at first. For instance, practice playing nothing but back and forth between G major and D7 for five minutes. Then practice playing nothing but back and forth between G major and C major for five mintues. Then practice nothing but back and forth between C major and D7. See how I always kept one chord the same when changing to a different group of two chords?

It is a pain in the butt at first and takes a while one way or the other. Hopefully these pointers will save you a little grief though. Also, you might try to sit down with someone who knows them already so you can watch how they move their fingers. That will help as much as anything.


the only thing i would suggest is just working on changes between 2 chords, like G to D. these are 2 chords, in the open position, that cause a pretty serious shift. just go over it again and again. these are the building blocks time and hard work is needed. move to three when you've got the 2 chord change down cold.

over time, and not too much time, you will figure out ways to make it easier for you. these are not tricks per se but ways that will let you move quickly and efficiently. your fingers will, someday sooner than you think, naturally form those chords.

one trick that is not really a trick but something that will help is to warm up before you play. stretch those fingers, pinky too, all over that board. i do scales. spend 15-20 mins. right off and push yourself. this limber up time should help you move those digits better.

it may seem real hard right now but it won't in a couple of weeks. if i can do it, you certainly can. just work and determination.

best wishes and keep the faith,



The 2 chord change practice is an excellent suggestion. Just drill it every day for a few minutes, and you'll have it within a couple of weeks.

The most important thing to remember, IMO, is never to let the frustration inherent in learning something difficult get you down. Keep drilling it. You will be amazed at how quickly it comes to you - usually in one or two quantum jumps. You'll wake up one morning, pick up your guitar, and voila - there it is.

It helps to know that your head and your hands aren't really all that well wired together. What you know how to do in your head has to be learned independently by your hands. The reason for drilling these new hand motions is that you have to establish "muscle memory." It may be mentally tiresome to drill these hand motions, but it's necessary for your hands to learn what your head already knows. You can ease the boredom by doing the drills while occupying your mind with something else (television, for instance). On the upside, once you establish the muscle memory, it will be with you for life, like learning to ride a bicycle.


Tom Gross

OG Forum Member
Gold Supporting Member
Yeah, great advice.

One piece of practicing advice, but only for those like myself who have difficulty with what I think is called "zeitfliesch" - sitting your a$$ in the seat.
I have found that practicing for a short amount of time (even 3 minutes) every day for 2 weeks will allow me to master something. Much better than, say, planning a complex 40 minute practice session, doing it once for 10 minutes, noodling for 20 minutes more, and then never trying it again.
It believe that taking a few minutes before bed to run through things every night for a week of so would stick it in your brain and fingers forever.


Silver Supporting Member
I basically practice off and on throughout the day. I break it up into two simple categories, things I am comfortable with and things I am not comfortable with. I spend at least an hour straight per day working on things I am comfortable with because it helps to really internalize things and helps build endurance. However, the things I am not comfortable with yet only get five to ten minutes here and there. Otherwise I just get burned out and frustrated or it cramps my hand up from overdoing something I am not used to yet. I leave my amp on all day generally and just grab the guitar when I want to so I can work on the newest challenge. I will work on a new exercise in Sheets of Sound that is really kicking my butt for ten minutes and then walk away to do something totally unrelated. I might come back and do some more within a half hour to an hour, maybe not until way later.

Guinness Lad

Senior Member
I don't know if your learning open chords or not but here's a tip. Open chords are normally played within the first 3 frets and some of the notes played would be open strings. While this isn't always the case it's a good starting point.

The trick is this (for example): If you play a open E chord look at the 3 notes that are not held down. This would be the low and high E's and the B (2nd string). This is the hard part, figure out how you can play this chord higher up the guitar. In this case, you would use your index finger to bar across all the strings and then play the other notes as before but switch you fingering accordingly. Normally, I play an open E with my 1st finger 3rd string, 2nd finger 5th string and 3rd finger 4th string. Once I bar the chord with my 1st finger however I use my 2nd finger on the 3rd string, 3rd finger on the 5th string and 4th finger on the 4th string. This is essentially how open chords become bar chords.

Once you have figured this out you now will have 12 new chords for each new shape that you learned. You can do this with any open chord, although some work out better then others. The key is to start off with a couple chords and develop new ones as needed. When I was first learning chords I would try to create songs from the new chords I learned. This way you had some fun while learning rather then just repeating something over and over (although I have done a lot of that).

It takes a long time to learn chords so don't try to learn everything this week, give it time and (REALLY) learn everything about the chord. You should know what note is the root if it has one, what notes are the 3rd's 5th's 7th's etc. If somebody asks you to make it different or you want to you should know exactly what you have changed, I can't stress knowing the notes within the chord enough. The muscle memory will come and once you do have it you probably won't forget it anytime soon, just be patient and have fun, cause that's what it's all about.


Close your eyes and visualize the chord. When you can see it in your head you can place the fingers without counting strings and frets. As you progress play the chords with your eyes closed and feel the spacing between your fingers. This visualization will really come in handy when you start playing scales.

Or, you could quit now and same a lot of time. You never really learn to play the dam_ thing anyway. Everyone here is still learning and they been playng a lifetime. If you keep playng it you learn to love it, then you'll become a slave like the rest of us.

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