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The Power of Visualization for Faster Chord Switching

April 12, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 176

I love to teach guitar. Since I've been teaching guitar I've come across several little-known - and even more little-addressed - issues students have with learning to play or learning to play better guitar. It comes as no surprise to me that probably 90% of my students are beginners with very little to absolutely no experience playing anything on guitar.

One of the recent little tricks I've come across while teaching my students is the a technique called "visualization." It's an easy concept to grasp, yet it's one of those things that you never really think of until someone - in this case, me - points it out and you say to yourself, "Whoa, why didn't I think of that?"

Here's how it works: Let's say you're playing a G Major chord and strumming in 4/4 time; 4 strums per chord. We're not talking about a specific song; I'm just using this as an example. So while you're strumming the G Major chord, let's say your next chord is a C Major chord. What is the typical thing most people do when switching chords? From my experience, they stop strumming and then try and locate where to put their fingers for the C chord. The problem with this is that when you stop playing, your timing goes out the window and you have to "reset" your strumming and start all over again. But with the aid of visualization, it speeds your chord changes significantly.

Now, instead of stopping and switching to the C chord, let's say you start with the G chord and begin strumming. Only now, instead of staying focused on the chord you're currently fingering, what if you visualized the next chord you wanted to play? Think about it, if your fingers are already where they need to be for the chord you're on (the G Major chord), why do you need to spend the brain power thinking about it? Why not focus on the next logical step and visualize the next chord (the C Major chord), thereby lowering the time it takes to process the switch, thus resulting in faster chord changes?

Think of it like this, it's sort of like staying a step ahead of the music. One of my favorite Bluegrass guitarists, Tony Rice, likened it to playing billiards; it's like setting yourself up for the next shot. If you've ever read music notation, you probably know about sight reading. That's where you read ahead on the musical score so you can arrive on time for the notes you need to play.

The power of visualization is a powerful tool that I believe will tremendously help increase your progress in your guitar playing. Why not try it today? Simply forget about the chord you're playing when you land on it and think about the next chord you want to switch to instead. Do this for each chord. If you have problems, try it without strumming at all. Most likely, you're not used to strumming in time if this is happening and you just need to focus on one thing at a time - in this case, your chord fingering instead of strumming. Or you can just use a basic strum and just play one down strum four times per chord. Keep in mind, you can also use visualization in soloing, phrasing, or other areas of guitar playing.

If this works for you, let me know what you think by sending me a message via e-mail at For now, thanks for taking the time to read and as always...

Best wishes and keep practicing,

Eric Beaty

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