Learning Guitar Chords – Top 10 Mistakes

Today I propose you to read another article from the Instant Guitarist that I copy below for your convenience

Adam Summers | May 24, 2009

Learning guitar chords is one of the most frustrating times for new guitarists. Your fingers are new to the fretboard and the strings, just getting the correct fingers into the correct position can be a chore, but I can assure you all the effort, cursing and determination is worth it.

Take a look at what I’ve learned from my students who have all gone through the stage of learning guitar chords, I present their struggles so that you can learn from them and hasten your own success in this area.

1. Giving up too soon

Like anything you learn you’re going to suck at it when you first start out, and this goes for everyone, I don’t care if you’re Jimi Hendrix or Joe Blow from down the street, you are going to have a hard time when you try to learn guitar chords but you absolutely have to stick to it.

The critical time is when you’re almost there, you know how to make the shape of the chord, and can sometimes strum it cleanly and you’ve been practising for the past 7 days but haven’t seen any improvement… well that’s the worst time to give up because you’re so close, you just need to get over that next rise and you’ll see how it all comes together.

2. Not visualizing success

When you are forming a chord it’s really important to visualize where each finger is going to move to, and how it’s going to happen. I guarantee you will speed up your chord changes if you follow these simple steps:

Look at where your fingers are now, visualize where they need to be and figure out the shortest distance you need to move them in order to form the new chord.

Sometimes you won’t have to move half your fingers because they’ll be used in the other chord. Keep looking for these ways to speed up your playing

3. Making it too hard for yourself

Changing from one chord to another is without a doubt the best way to learn guitar chords. However if you make it too hard and pick some nasty chords it can really put you off the idea. Make sure you pick some easy ones like G to A, E to A, D to G.

4. Not working on your fingers

It seems really obvious to me that you use your fingers to form these chords and to strum them, so you need to exercise your fingers and build up some finger strength. This can be done using little finger weights, pushing down hard on the strings, doing wide scale exercises (stretch those fingers and use that pinky!), and doing good old finger press-ups (not so popular).

5. Looking at your hands too much

I always say you should be wearing a blindfold once you can play each chord. You need to be able to form the chord without looking at it. You can drive a car without looking at the steering wheel and foot pedals all the time… as the saying goes ‘practice makes perfect’.

6. Only practicing one chord at a time

This is a bad habit some people get into, and it’s not really their fault, it’s just they way their tutors have been teaching them or that they’re reading a book or tutorial that doesn’t really convey a solid learning process.

By practicing 3 chords at once you’ll find you learn the fingerings for each of them a lot faster than if you learn just one at a time. It has to do with how your brain works,  giving your brain 3 different patterns to memorize in varying orders strengthens the pathways in your brain so that when it comes to remembering that chord your brain is able to bring up the information a lot faster.

Just try it! It works.

7. Leaving your pinky out of sight

This is a weird one, but I see people doing it all of the time! Your fingers should be hovering over the strings of your guitar ALL OF THE TIME. Meaning that when you form a D chord your pinky finger should be hovering somewhere over the high E string or B.

A lot of the time people will tuck their pinky fingers under the fret board or some other weird place, and it really makes it difficult for them to learn more advanced chords later on.

8. Not understanding to root note

The root note of a chord is its bass note, it determines which string you should start strumming or picking from. An E chords root note is an E which is played as the open low E string on your guitar, this means you start strumming or picking from that note.

9. Not picking the chord

Sometimes by strumming the chord you will notice you are hitting a lot of dead notes, however most beginners will stop there and keep strumming until they get it right. It’s kind of like a brute force way to learn guitar chords.

As a more learned student (and reader of my blog) you will know it is better to pick each note separately so you can quickly analyze what string is giving you the dead note. You can then apply more pressure or move the finger slightly to get it into a better position. This can save you a lot of time and heartache.

10. Not using all your senses

I believe the best way to learn is to engage all your senses in the activity, you should be seeing the guitar chord in a photo (of someone playing it) in a diagram (of where your fingers should be) and even in a video so you can see how the person gets their fingers into position.

Although sight is a great way to learn, when trying to learn guitar chords you can’t get very far without being able to hear the guitar chord being strummed or picked so you can compare yourself to a professional. Getting information into your brain from every angle is the best way to succeed at learning how to play guitar chords in the shortest amount of time.

Look for tutorails and courses that use a multitude of ways to teach you, not just text!


I haven’t put these tips in any particular order; they’re all solid gold tips to being able to learn guitar chords faster than anyone else. I’d suggest writing down each method onto a piece of paper and start using it in your daily practice, you’ll be surprised at how fast you can see results.

Check out my full guide to learn how to play guitar chords.

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