What You Will Learn
  1. How to change between chords
  2. Tips for making chord changes easier

How to Change Between Chords

The ability to quickly and smoothly change from one chord to another is an essential step in learning to play music on the guitar. Many beginners struggle with changing between chords, but this doesn't have to be the case with you if you pay attention to a few key concepts. Certain chord changes are easier because the chords have notes in common or similar shapes. Paying attention to these similarities will allow you to more easily learn many chord changes.

Changing Between Chords with Notes in Common

If you are changing between chords with a note in common that is played by the same finger in both chords, you can often leave your finger on the shared notes and move your fingers to the notes that are different. C major to A minor is one example of this. These chords have two notes in common that are played with the same finger in both chords:

The only difference between the chords is which note the ring finger plays: the third fret of the fifth string in the C major chord and the second fret on the third string in A minor. You can change between these chords by moving only the ring finger and leaving your index and middle fingers in the same place. This is much easier than lifting all your fingers.

Switching from C major to A minor

This approach also works when changing from C major to F major and from A minor to F major. There are many chords that you will learn in the future where this approach works, so be sure to analyze the chords you learn for situations where you can leave a finger on the same note when switching to another chord.

Changing Between Chords with Similar Shapes

Some chords have similar shapes. What this means is that the placement of your fingers is similar or even exactly the same for these chords. Two chords that have exactly the same shape and fingering are E major and A minor. They are played on different strings, but the shape and arrangement of fingers is the same. Try to retain this shape when switching between these two chords to make the change easier.

Switching from E major to A minor

Some chords have similar shapes for part of the chord, but may differ on one or more notes. A good example of this is C major to F major. The ring and middle fingers play a similar shape in both chords.

Switching from C major to F major

Note that these two chords have the C on the first fret of the second string in common. Leave the finger on this note and flatten the finger to play the first fret on the high E string when switching from C major to F major.

Tips for Changing Chords

Many chord changes won't have notes in common between the chords or similar shapes. These chord changes may be slightly more difficult, but with practice you will be able to change between any chords with ease.

Form the shape of the chord while your fingers are in the air after releasing the current chord. This requires you to finger the entire chord at once rather than note by note. This will be difficult at first, but keep practicing and forming the chord shape in the air will become automatic. It is also important to release any excess tension when changing. Any pressure you were applying to fret one chord should be released while your fingers are switching to the next chord. This is essential for getting the changes smooth and fast.



The chord switching exercises shown below gradually reduce the time allowed for switching between the two chords. This is done by giving a period of rest after each chord to give you time to get into position for the next chord. Make sure you are counting during each exercise. Each chord should only be held for its written value. Immediately start switching to the next chord once the chord has been held for its full value.

All of the exercises are shown with C major and A minor chords. However, the chords changes shown in the chart below should also be practiced. The chords are labeled "chord one" and "chord two." Chord one should be used in place of C major, while chord two should be used in place of A minor.

Chord one Chord two
C major F major
C major G major
F major G major
F major D minor
E major A minor
A minor D minor
G major D major
D major A major
A major E major

Practice each exercise with a metronome. Set it to 60bpm (each click will be a quarter note). If this is too fast, the metronome can be set slower. Gradually increase the speed of the metronome until you reach 120bpm.

Exercise 1

This exercise gives you three full beats of rest to switch. Make use of this time to think about where each finger should go for the next chord. Don't linger on the first chord too long. Immediately stop fretting it once the first quarter note is over and start switching to the next chord.

Chord switching exercise 1

Exercise 2

Exercise 2 reduces the time to switch to two beats. This should be relatively easy if you are able to play exercise 1 already.

Chord switching exercise 2

Exercise 3

The time allowed for switching is reduced to a single beat here.

Chord switching exercise 3

Exercise 4

Exercise 4 doesn't include any rests that you can use for switching to the next chord. Because of this, you need to make the switch very quickly. It is permissible to release the first chord slightly before you have held it for its full value, but not too much before. The change needs to be almost instantaneous.

Chord switching exercise 4