TIME TO COMPLETE: 15 minutes
WHAT YOU NEED: 50 Essential Chords Pack, Instruction Sheet (download link towards end of lesson)
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner
For beginners, learning the basic open chords on guitar is the first major milestone that will allow them to play countless popular songs as well as even start writing their own songs. So many songs use the same open chords so learning and memorizing these chords is a worthwhile goal. In this lesson we will look at a simple method you can use to memorize 50 basic open chords in the shortest time possible. If you really work hard at this method you could memorize these 50 guitar chords anywhere between two weeks and two months with as little as 10 minutes practice a day.
NOTE: Don’t be put off by the length of this lesson. The actual method is pretty straightforward. This lesson simply goes into quite a bit of detail on how to perform the method and why it works. There is a simple summary towards the end that shows the simplicity of the method. If you don’t want to read through the explanations you can use the instructions summary. Included is a handy PDF file you can print out with step-by-step instructions for the method.
BASIC IDEA OF THE METHOD
The method is split into three parts to help you learn the chords in three different ways. The first part is to memorize the chord name and shape. The second is to memorize the position on the fretboard and the third part is for you to learn to change between the chords. By splitting the process up into three parts we can really focus on each aspect properly rather than trying to learn everything at once (which takes longer and more effort). All three parts are important so don’t skip any one thinking that you won’t need it. Many students have used this method to great success so if you focus on what you need to do you will have success with it too.
The total time to complete the practice session will be around 10 minutes. At first it may take you a bit longer to get through it but after a couple weeks of practice you will feel so confident 10 minutes will be more than enough. The 50 Essential Chords Pack is used in this method and is highly recommended. The pack is an incredibly effective way to learn and memorize guitar chords and other resources such as chord charts or dictionaries won’t give you the flexibility you need.
STEP 1: CHORD NAMES (3 minutes)
The goal of the first step is to help you memorize the chord names and shapes. So if anybody asks you whether you know how to play Asus2 or Gmaj7, your brain will be able to instantly recall those names and match them up with chord shapes.
For this step you will take your pack of 50 guitar chords and shuffle all the cards. Place the deck on a table and draw out the first card. Read the chord name out loud then spend a few seconds looking at the chord diagram. Focus on how many strings the chord uses, which fingers are used and the shape of the chord. Read this lesson here to learn a few tricks in memorizing chord shapes. After looking at the chord shape for a few seconds, draw out the next card and repeat the process. Work your way through all 50 cards. The first few times it should take your roughly 3-4 minutes to work though all 50 chords. Don’t rush through the cards and don’t worry if you spend more than 3 minutes on this step. Eventually you will naturally speed up as your brain memorizes all the chord features. After a while by the time you draw a card you will already know everything about the chord just by looking at the chord name.
NOTE: The great thing about this step is you don’t need to have the guitar with you. So you can take the pack with you and practice the step whenever you have a spare minute. Spending 3 minutes in the train/bus/doctor’s waiting room/lunch break can be a great way to learn even faster.
STEP 2: CHORD POSITIONS (3 minutes)
The goal of this step is to help your fingers memorize the chord positions on the fretboard. The first few times you practice this step it will take quite a bit longer than 3 minutes to work through all 50 chords but eventually you will effortlessly be able to work through them all. Again, don’t rush to try to get through all the chords. Make sure everything is done perfectly.
With your guitar ready and the pack of cards still in front of you from the first step, place your fingers in position for the first chord. The first week or so will take a long time to do this so don’t stress if your fingers don’t magically fall into place the first go. If you come up with a chord and you really can’t stretch your fingers into the right place, don’t worry: just continue on to the next chord. Eventually you will get them all. Once you place your fingers into the correct position, strum the chord once and listen to how it sounds. Take your hand out of the position and draw out the next card. Place your fingers into the position and strum that chord. Continue through all 50 chords slowly.
There are a few things to keep in mind for this method. First, make sure you use your fingertips when placing your fingers into position. Also make sure your thumb is placed in the centre of the back of the neck pointing up. Second, make sure that your fingers don’t accidentally touch adjacent strings. Third, make sure you only strum the strings that are meant to be played. The third point may seem silly but many students forget it and strum all six without thinking.
NOTE: If you are new to guitar you won’t be able to play all 50 straight away. You may even find you can barely play half the chords. That’s okay. The thing with this method is that it will take a while for any progress to be made then all of a sudden (after a couple weeks of quality practice) you will find that everything comes into place. I’ve personally seen many beginners reach this point after a few weeks of struggling then all of a sudden be thrilled because they can now play almost every chord perfectly. If you continue to work at it you will get there.
STEP 3: CHANGING BETWEEN CHORDS (4 minutes)
The third and final step’s goal is to help you learn to change between the guitar chords. Please note that this step will be quite a bit harder than the other two for people new to guitar.
With the pack of cards still in front of you from Step 2, strum the first chord and hold your hand into position. With your right hand draw the next card from the deck. Your left hand should still be in position from the first chord. Strum the chord again then attempt to change your hand to the next chord and strum that as soon as you think it is in proper place. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to change chords because over time this change will happen in an instant. After strumming the second chord, hold your left hand in place while you draw a new card out with your right hand. Again strum the same chord then change to the next chord. Continue this 1-2 process all the way through all 50 chords. Don’t worry if this step alone takes you more than 5-6 minutes to work through the chords. After a while you will be able to breeze through the step in under 2 minutes.
NOTE: If you are just starting to learn guitar, it may be wise to leave out this step for the first month. Practice Steps 1 and 2 until you start to feel like you can easily place your hand into the correct positions. Then you can add in Step 3. If you aren’t ready for Step 3 don’t try it – you will only end up frustrated.
SNAPSHOT OF THE METHOD
Here’s a quick rundown of the method and the steps involved to memorize guitar chords in 10 minutes a day. You can download and print out this summary here (PDF) to keep with you to get quick instructions on how to work through the method. It is recommended you print the summary out to ensure you follow the steps correctly.
- Shuffle the pack of cards and place it on a table in front of you
- Draw out the first card
- Read out loud the chord name
- Spend 3-5 seconds studying the chord diagram (look at the strings, finger numbers, shape)
- Draw out the next card
- Repeat points 3-5 until you finish all 50 cards
- With the guitar in hand, draw out the first card
- Place your fingers into position
- Strum the chord once
- Draw out the next card
- Repeat points 8-10 until you finish all 50 cards
- Draw the first card
- Place your fingers into position
- Strum the chord once and hold your left hand in position
- Draw out the next card with your right hand
- Strum the chord again then change your hand to the next chord
- Strum the second chord and hold it in position
- Repeat steps 15-17 until you finish all 50 cards
IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
You may feel that 10 minutes is not enough time to practice this method and you may want to do it longer. Try to resist the urge to do a long practice session in one hit. In other words – don’t practice this method for longer than 15 minutes in one sitting. Aim to finish the routine off within 10 minutes then if you really have the urge to work on it some more, have at least a half an hour break then you can repeat the routine for another 10 minutes. It’s really important to split the practice up into very short sessions rather than spend a lot of time working on it. By having very short practice sessions and having them often, it gives our brains time to think about what we have been doing and memorize the chords, names, shapes and finger positions. This point has been covered in the article on bad practice habits so it might be worth a read of that article again so you fully understand why you should aim to have short rather than longer sessions. Ten minutes a day is all you should need with this routine.
Make sure you download the PDF Instruction Sheet here!
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