How To Learn New Guitar Chords [Even If You’re Advanced]
Posted: August 26th, 2013 by Ashley Saunders
I’m going to cover how to learn new chords and how NOT to. I’ll show you step by step the process I use. While there’s is no best way to learn guitar chords fast, there are a few steps you can take to improve your guitar playing today.
How NOT to learn new chords
If you think that you will learn a new chord by just trying it out once or twice, then you won’t achieve anything and your chord dictionary, will most likely stay the same size.
The same is true if you discover a new chord, write it out and file it away. It’ll make your file look that little bit bigger but won’t do anything for your knowledge!
So, how do you learn chords?
It’s a two part process. The first part is learning the chord. The second is using the new chord.
So we’ve found a new chord – it’s an E chord:
Nice and simple!
Step 1: The new chord
Firstly, we need to check where the notes are on the fretboard. Do we have any open strings? Can we bar a finger to cover two or more notes? Is there a preferred set of fingering? Is there more than one set of fingers we could use to make this chord?
With our E chord – we have three open strings: the 6th, 2nd and 1st. We can’t use a finger to bar across two or more strings or notes. There is a preferred way to play this chord and with our four fingers we have two ways to play it. We could play it with our 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers or we could use our 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers. Either set of fingerings work and we should try to learn the chord with both.
Step 2: Getting the notes right
Next we need to check that each note is as full sounded, strong as they can be, that means we have no fluffy sounding notes, no extra or wrong notes and definitely no buzzing. If you have a buzzing sound on one or more of your notes then you probably aren’t using enough pressure.
The best way to learn chords it to do it by adding one note at a time. Start with the lowest string, get that sound good then add the fifth string, get that right – again NO buzzing, NO wrong or extra notes. Then keep adding strings. If you get buzzing, remove the string you’ve just added and check that what you have just had is right.
Why should we add one at a time? If you play all six strings and it sounds ok all together you’ll move on – even though the third string is buzzing and your first finger is muting a string that should be open. If you add/play them one by one you’ll hear when you’re off and therefore you won’t be lying to yourself. Trust me, it only takes a little more effort to get it right!
If you get buzzing when you’ve added all six – then you need to locate the problem by playing each string separately, figure out the buzzing one and then strip what you’re playing back down so that string is the last one you’re playing. For instance, you locate the problem is your first finger on the third string, then you need to stop, and only play the bottom four strings until your confident that you have the problem solved. When you’re at the point where it all sound good again, then add in the remaining strings.
I know that sounds like a lot but trust me, once you’ve got it right and follow the other steps here you’ll likely to never have to re-learn that chord again – learn it right once and you’ll have it for life!
Step 3: One Touch Method
So we have it together, it sounds great, now you’ve got to get it under your hands and into your brain!
Introducing the One Touch Method – all this is, is trying to get to the chord as quickly as possible without looking and then removing your hand just as fast as you placed it down. You’re trying to grab the chord in one touch, hence the name. This will help you to solidify the chord in your thinking and help you to build your muscle memory.
Remember to correct yourself if you get it wrong and then pay extra attention to how you hand feel before you move it off the fretboard. Go on! Give it a go!
Step 4: Use it in a song
To really remember this new chord, we need to use it in a song. Pick a song with this chord in, play the song for as long as you can. Find another song with this chord in it and play that.
By apply this new chord, you are passing it between your short term memory to your long term memory, this means you’re more likely to remember it and that it will be easier to drag out of your memory to use.
Step 5: Tag it to a style and use
Certain chords can only be used sometimes. Like E7 for example, while this is not the place to teach you why, you just need to understand that this happens. Luckily for us, our E chord can be used every time we see an E chord.
The other consideration you should think about is – does this chord have a special use or is it just a general chord I can use all the time?
Most of the chords you’ll ever learn will be general, every day chord that can be used all the time. However there are some that will be great for one application but won’t work for other – so we need to think about what I call tagging to a style.
On this, I have a set of chords I’ll use for wide, open, big sounds – these chords use open strings to great effect and work great for slower songs or the instrumental break in the middle of fast songs where you want to create space and some light/shade to add depth into the song.
For a style like Bossa Nova, I have a set of chords which are typical of the chords commonly used in this style.
As you can tell, I only use the set that is relevant to the style I’m playing. I wouldn’t use the Bossa Nova set if I was playing funk, nor would I use my simple country chords for playing metal! This comes from knowing a range of chords, styles and what’s typically used in that style.
Step: 6 Congratulations you’ve learnt a new chord!
You will have learnt a new chord in the right way. You might have missed a few of these steps out in the past bur now you should have a clearer idea of how to learn a new chord properly! The more new chords you learn, the fast you will become at following the 6 steps.
Let me know what chords you’ve learn using this process?