Ken K – Littleton Guitar School
Here are nine very helpful tips to consider when playing chords. No matter how long you’ve been playing, it’s possible that you will find some of these tips useful for better sounding chords, improved technique, or developing your own style.
Look at the diagrams below and see which one looks like you…
1) Thumb Position – This is often a controversial subject, but for anyone just beginning or struggling to play clean chords this is a big one. Ideally the thumb should be touching the back of the neck at the joint. It should be pointed upward, not sideways. You’re not holding a baseball bat. A sideways thumb is often the sign of a weak hand that is using the palm for support. This hand position will not help you develop the muscles properly for optimum playing and comfort. The easiest way to get the thumb in position is the…
2) Wrist Position – Never bend the wrist backwards! The fretting hand wrist may be bent at approximately a 15º to 45º angle. As the wrist is bent, the thumb pulls down naturally on the back of the neck. Don’t overbend the wrist, as this could cause soreness. Slightly bending the wrist causes the fingers to be pushed forward, an ideal position for the next tip.ding the wrist causes the fingers to be pushed forward, an ideal position for the next tip.
3) Curl Fingers – – As the wrist bends, the fingers are pushed out and over the fretboard. Curl your fingers as if holding a ping-pong ball with your fingertips. This will give you optimal positioning for the next tip.
4) Use Finger Tips – The best way to get clear notes or tones out of the guitar is to use the very tips of the fingers to press the string. This is especially true with chords with a stretch or that use the lower strings (i.e. C, G, E). It’s easy to “dub” neighboring strings and using the fingertips allows better leverage when pushing the strings down.
5) Squeeze Thumb and Fingers – Once the thumb is pointing upward behind the neck and the fingertips are positioned to press down – just squeeze from both the thumb and the fingers equally. You will find it doesn’t require as much pressure to make clear sounding chords as.
6) The guitar should either be suspended or held so that the left hand is not supporting the guitar. The slightly bent wrist will force the palm away from the bottom of the neck. Hold the guitar against your body to keep it in place.
7) Minimize Finger Movement in Chord Changes – Practice changing chords using minimal finger movement. Avoid taking your fingers off the fretboard between every chord change. Many chord transitions have extremely easy transitions – for instance, C to Am or G to Em. Only one finger moves in each chord change. Take a moment to look closely at what your fingers are doing between every chord change and see if you can optimize the movement.
8) Don’t Press So Hard – Experiment by pressing the string as soft as you can and gradually increase pressure until the notes sounds clear. You should find that you do not need to press down hard on the string at all. Press just hard enough to get a good sound!
9) Anticipation! – When playing chord changes, it is extremely important to “KNOW” what chord is coming next, and to “ANTICIPATE” the chord changes. If you wait until the beat to change the chord, you will always be late – you have to be in the “process” of changing just BEFORE the beat, so that the chord is in place and ready to be played. Be aware of what chords you are playing and which one is coming next!
Record yourself playing chord changes and see if you are making some of these mistakes. If you are still struggling to play clean sounding chords, find a guitar teacher to help you along. Have fun, and enjoy being able to play smooth, fluid chord changes with less effort and great sound.
About the author: Ken K lives in Denver, Colorado where he is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher who helps students enjoy learning and playing guitar. If you, or someone you know is interested in taking guitar lessons in Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Centennial, Lone Tree or other southwest suburbs of Denver, CO – definitely contact Ken!