How to teach guitar chords

Stop teaching guitar chords with ineffective methods

What tools are you using to teach guitar chords to your students? Are you using chord charts? What about chord dictionaries? Do you print off pages and pages of chords?

Most teachers use the above methods because that’s how they learned chords when they were learning. Unfortunately, the above methods are extremely ineffective for you as a teacher and for your students to learn. Would you like to learn a new language by studying a dictionary or chart? It doesn’t sound too appealing does it. Luckily, there’s a more effective methods that has stood the test of time – flash cards.

You may remember flash cards from early school years to learn simple words, arithmetic, shapes etc. The reason schools still use flash cards is because they are extremely effective. As a guitar teacher, you can apply the same tool to teach guitar chords to your students. Check out the guitar flash card below:

Teach guitar chords using guitar flash cards

As a guitar teacher, look at the various forms of information available to you to use. Apart from the standard chord diagram, there are other benefits to using this card:

Guitar TAB: On the left of the card is the Guitar TAB layout for the chord. Even if you teach your student Standard Notation, it’s important they learn to recognize guitar chords in Guitar TAB format. Having the Guitar TAB on the cards will help your student learn to recognize the 0-2-3-2 pattern as D Major anytime they see it in TAB. This helps you as a teacher as you won’t need to keep explaining the chords when using Guitar TAB.

Chord formula: For beginners the main goal is to learn how to play the chord. For more advanced students, you may want to discuss the theory behind chords. In this card you can see the breakdown of the chord’s notes: “D (1), F# (3) & A (5)”. When you discuss intervals and scale theory, you can explain what the 1, 3 & 5 intervals mean then compare this card to the D minor card so the student can clearly see that the chord formula changes to 1, b3, 5. Such a simple feature can make a big difference to you as a teacher.

Chord quality: The large ‘M’ tab on the right of the card signifies a Major chord. There are tabs for minor chords and other chords such as suspended chords. This makes it easier to sort out the various chords so your student can focus on and compare the different chord types.

Tips: Each card contains tips for your student. This tip explains how your student can use a type of mnemonic device to memorize the chord by it’s shape on the fretboard. You can use these tips as a teacher to add extra insights.

The flash cards contain all the information you need as a teacher but the real advantage in using flash cards isn’t the information on the card – it’s what you can do with the cards.


How you can use flash cards to make your job easier

Flash cards give you as a guitar teacher a lot of control over how you teach. Instead of having a chart and saying ‘here are the chords’, you can customize your lesson to suit your student’s learning style. The most effective teachers take advantage of the flexibility flash cards offer.

Here are a few strategies and best practices other guitar teachers are using to take advantage of the flexibility flash cards offer:

1. Teach guitar chords using Drip Feeding

Imagine handing your student a list of 50 guitar chords and telling them to work their way through the list. It won’t happen. It will feel like a massive task and they will avoid the necessary practice. Alternatively, imagine handing your student 3 flash cards each lesson and asking the student to study and practice these three chords as much as possible during the week. Suddenly, the task seems a whole lot easier to the student.

By drip feeding the guitar chords to your student, you’re breaking down the massive task of learning 50 chords into small tasks that are easily achievable. Any student can easily memorize three chords in a week. This strategy also helps memory retention as the student is focused on a few chords at a time instead of spreading their attention over a large number of chords.

Bonus: this method provides an extra bonus that benefits you as the teacher. If you hand your student 3 flash cards every week, they will start to expect the cards and look forward to learning new chords. Many teachers use this strategy as a way to retain students. If they feel a student is losing interest in lessons, they begin the drip feeding strategy. The student will start to look forward to future lessons and the teacher will save losing a student.

2. Reward for practice or good behavior

If you teach kids or even older students who don’t seem to practice enough, you can actually use the flash cards as a good behavior incentive. Kids are greatly influenced by incentives so setting up an incentive program with the flash cards is simple and effective. You can tell your student that if they practice every day, in the next lesson they can have three new shiny cards to keep. Give them a standard trading cards display book and your student can ‘grow their collection’ of guitar chords the same way other kids have collections of trading cards.

The added benefit is that the student’s parents will see their child excited with new additions to their guitar chord collection and feel like they made the right decision with you as their teacher.

3. Games

Flash cards offer the flexibility to play games with the chords. Students memorize more when they see the task as a game instead of a job they have to do. We’ve put together a list of games you can play with your students or they can play at home as a form of practice. Check out our Tips and Games Section here for ideas on how you can get the most out of the flash cards to teach guitar chords.

Bulk Discounts for Guitar Teachers

Our popular guitar flash cards provide guitar teachers with an excellent method to teach guitar chords to students. If you want to try them out with your students, grab a pack today from our online store – we ship worldwide.

As a teacher you will probably want to give a pack for each of your students, so we’ve set up a partnership with Live and Teach Guitar to offer significant discounts on bulk orders. Live and Teach Guitar is a website dedicated to providing guitar teachers with resources, guides, training courses and advice on how to improve the success of your guitar teaching business. Live and Teach Guitar Members receive a discount of 20% off their order which is a significant saving when purchasing in bulk.

Check out the Live and Teach Guitar website to see how they can help you succeed as a guitar teacher.