3 Easy Ways to Learn Guitar Chords

  • February 7, 2013
  • 6 

Updated: May 6, 2021

Guitar chords can be a serious pain to learn. Confusing finger placements or tired fingers can keep you from practicing as long as you should. No worries, that’s perfectly okay. Everyone starts out where you are right now. In this lesson I will outline a few easy ways to learn guitar chords. There are no fancy tricks or shortcuts. As with anything worth learning, guitar takes practice.

easy ways to learn guitar chords1. Press & Release the Chord

The first trick I want to teach you I call  the “press and release” technique. For this technique you place your fingers down in the shape of the chord, applying enough pressure for all the notes to sound clearly. Then, without losing the chord shape, lift your fretting fingers about 1-2″ up off of the fretboard. Pause a second, then repeat. (Creative name, right?)

Do this about a dozen times, or while you are watching TV, and soon these chords will become second nature. The reason this happens is due to muscle memory. Basically, you’re training your fingers to naturally play the chords through repetition.

easy ways to learn guitar chords2. Learn Guitar Chords While Watching TV

This next technique works well with the previous one. One of the main questions I get sent to me is “how can I smoothly transition between guitar chords”? This is the ticket to that particular train. The press & release technique built the initial muscle memory.  

Practicing while focusing on something else (i.e. TV or a movie) helps drill these chords into your subconscious, making them second nature. Eventually, after I’d say about a week of regular practice time, you should be able to transition between chords quite easily.

easy ways to learn guitar chords3. Visualize Yourself Playing!

This next technique I usually teach students for learning difficult guitar solos or more advanced techniques. However, it’s never too early to learn! Also, if you learn now, your ability to visualize will be much stronger when the time comes to learn Panama. ?

Here’s what you do: Watch what you are trying to learn. In this case, you would watch a video of somebody playing the chord you can’t play. Find it on YouTube or somewhere.

Attempt playing it yourself so you can at least feel the specific sensation from the chord. Then close your eyes and see yourself playing the chord. Visualize your fingers placed on your guitars fretboard, and your hand strumming the strings on your guitar. Really try to put yourself in that vision.

This technique is also quite powerful with chord transitions. The stronger you get your imagination going with this, the more effective it will be.

Visualization 101:

  • Watch Someone Perform Chord, Scale, Solo, Etc.
  • Watch them again..and again..and AGAIN.
  • Try Playing it Yourself
  • Try Playing it Again
  • Visualize yourself playing it (Get INTO it!)

If you already know how to play certain chords (Em, G and Dm for example) but can’t string them together smoothly, this is exactly what you should be doing. Picture yourself stringing each chord together effortlessly. Try and focus in on your fretting hand within that vision. See the different movements; Which fingers move? Which ones can you keep put to make the transition easier?

To recap, the 3 techniques are:

– Press & Release

– Practice while distracted (TV, Movie, Just hangin out talking to friends…)

– Visualize

Another question I’ve been asked frequently are what practice tools I believe are worth while and which are useless. More specifically the grip building tools available. Personally, I don’t believe they are all that helpful. One is much better off building the strength to press the strings down on the real instrument. However, there are some tools out there that will make learning chords easier. Tools that allow you to practice chord shapes in any time, place or situation. Another big plus is if you can do so quietly.

I hope this lesson will make it easier for you to learn guitar chords. As always, it will take effort on your part and there are bound to be some frustrations at first. Don’t worry, though my friends. Just stay focused, pay close attention to your progress, not your mistakes. Soon you will learning to play any song you wish.

Have a question? Stuck with a particular technique or chord? Feel free to leave me any feedback below. I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

I created a video for this lesson to show you everything I am going to talk about, but the audio is out of sync so I’ll have it uploaded as soon as I can figure out how to fix it!

posted February 7, 2013

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  1. Hi, I really want to play a guitar but I dont know how to start practicing it. Well this info can help me in my training. Thanks

  2. I think this was how I did it three years ago, but I got bored of chords and eventaully moved away from them… and now I’m paying the price. I’ve spent literally weeks on the first three chords I’ve ever learned and all because what took me one or at most two weeks to learn in the first place just isn’t quite clicking yet.

    But I think I did a lot of this the first time around, and I’m looking to do it again the next time I play.

    I admit I really only skimmed your article, so if I’m repeating info then I apologize, but my suggestion to all those reading this is LEARN TO A METRONOME AFTER AWHILE. I wasn’t using a metronome all those years ago and when I tried, it was difficult. Now, I’ve been trying to learn to a metronome and that may be part of what’s slowing me down. They don’t call it “rhythm guitar” for no reason, you know.

    Get the technique first, then waste no time in getting out your metronome and practicing playing to a beat.

  3. Hi Andre, I have a post about guitar practice routines that you can find HERE. It is important to only spend a fraction of your practice time doing technique and skill building exercises. Dexterity exercises should always be a small part of your daily warm up, though. Hope this helped. Let me know if I can explain anything any better,

    Good luck!

  4. Interesting! My son is trying to teach himself how to play and I will have to send him here. I really like the concepts you have here to make it seem natural.

    1. Hi James,
      Thank you for your comment! That’s great to hear your son is learning to play. I hope these techniques can help him. I think one of the greatest advantages any musician can have is starting young.

      You’re right, the goal is for the motions to be as fluid and natural as possible. You don’t want to be thinking “Ok. D chord, so my middle finger goes..” in between changes. It should essentially be muscle memory and nothing else. At that point, you’ve got the chord down!

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