Let’s say that we want to move to the next chord we are going to play—the C major bar chord at the 8th fret:
The primary problem that most students have when changing barre chords is failing to reduce the chord grip tension in their fingers. By not releasing the tension in the left hand prior to attempting to move to the next chord, it is very difficult to maintain the desired hand shape and move quickly and smoothly. Failing to release the tension in the left hand also results in extreme tension and fatigue in the left hand—fatigue and tension are technique killers!
The solution lies in a simple four-step process. Let’s look at a 6th string root major chord—the G major barre chord located at the 3rd fret:
Make Your Barre Chord Changes Smooth
by Paul Kleff
In order to make a smooth, tension-free transition, use the following steps:
1) Grip- Play the G major chord at the 3rd fret
2) Release- After playing the G chord, relax your grip on the chord. Make sure that your left hand fingers are still touching the strings and remain in the G major chord shape! This is key!
3) Move- Move your left hand to the next position (the C chord at the 8th fret.) Keep your relaxed left hand in the chord shape during the move.
4) Grip- When your left hand arrives at the new chord position at the 8th fret, grip the new chord.
The “release” part is key. After you release your grip on the G chord while still allowing your fingers to maintain contact with the strings, it becomes very easy to slide your hand to the new chord position. At this point, don’t worry about string noises that may come from changing chords with your fingers still in light contact with the strings.
The key is learning to change chords without tension in the left hand. Moving without tension allows your left hand to move quickly since you don’t need to fight your grip pressure when sliding and it also keeps the left hand shape from “collapsing” as you move. If your hand collapses, it forces you to rebuild the basic left hand chord shape each time you change chords—this will slow you down and create frustration and fatigue.
You may find it helpful to actually say the words “grip, release, move, grip” in your head or out loud as you begin to use this technique. Practicing your barre chords with this method will quickly help you begin to make smooth barre chord changes in just a short time. Ingraining these motions will eventually become automatic for you.
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