How To Effectively Teach Beginner Guitar Students To Play Chords
By Tom Hess
You know what's true anytime you teach beginner guitar students?
All beginners need help with changing chords quickly, fluently and musically.
This skill helps them play songs and feel like they can really play guitar.
There are 2 things you can do to teach beginner guitar students change chords more easily:
- Get your students to believe in themselves & in you.
Your beginner guitar students need to believe in their musical potential and feel your commitment to helping them improve.
- Understand the exact reason(s) why your beginner guitar students struggle to change chords and take the right action(s) to correct the problem.
This video shows how to help your students see their potential:
Question: “Tom Hess, what does it mean to teach beginner guitar students to practice chords correctly? Isn’t it enough to simply explain to them how to practice?”
Answer: There is a big difference between understanding what to do and being able to do it.
Just because your beginner guitar students understand what you tell them to do, does NOT mean that they will do it correctly at home between lessons.
To make sure your beginner guitar students practice correctly at home, train them how to practice during their lessons with you.
Invest some time during every lesson to watch your guitar students practice, give them feedback and coach them.
When you teach beginner guitar students to practice effectively it gets them to progress MUCH faster than anything else you can do as a guitar teacher.
(Want to learn how to teach beginner guitar students to practice? Take this free guitar teaching test and learn how to help your students improve really fast.)
Use these 3 powerful strategies to help you teach beginner guitar students to master chord changes.
Strategy #1: Teach beginner guitar students to move their strumming hand in time, even if the fretting hand cannot keep up. The strumming hand should not wait on the fretting hand.
Your students need to practice to a metronome and get their strums to fall exactly on top of the beat.
Tip: Ask your beginner guitar students to play very simple open chords (on the top 3 or 4 strings) where the fretting hand finger frets only one note. This makes it very easy to change chords and keep the strumming hand moving in time.
Here are some of the chords you may have your students play:
Practicing this way prevents a lot of other rhythm and timing problems for your beginner guitar students in the future.
Strategy #2. Teach beginner guitar students to quickly change chords with their fretting hand only, without using the strumming hand at all.
Doing this helps your students to master fretting hand motions in isolation.
Tip: Remind your students to press the notes down as close to the frets as possible.
This helps the chords to ring out clearly and avoid buzzing.
For this step, your students can play more advanced chords (and fret more than one note), because they only need to focus on their fretting hand.
Strategy #3. This strategy has 2 steps:
- Ask your beginner guitar students to fret any chord they struggle with by gripping the strings hard. All fingers should move together.
- Ask your students to relax their fingers without lifting them away from the strings. All fingers should relax together.
The goal here is to teach beginner guitar students to move and relax all fingers together (instead of one at a time). Repeat this exercise until your students can do it well.
When your beginner guitar students can easily do steps 1 and 2, ask them to take their fingers off the strings (during the relaxation step). They should keep the chord shape formed, while their fingers are hovering above the strings. Then press down on the strings and fret the chord again.
Tell your students to gradually move their fingers further and further away from the strings. They will eventually learn to form the chord shape easily from an open hand.
Important: Remind your beginner guitar students to move their fingers at the same time, not separately!
Question: “Tom Hess, will this strategy cause me to teach beginner guitar students to play chords with too much muscle tension?”
Answer: No. This strategy helps your students to learn the difference between gripping the strings hard and being completely relaxed. With this awareness, they learn to play chords accurately and effortlessly.
Question: “Tom Hess, what is the best way to teach beginner guitar students to play barre chords?”
Answer: You should not teach barre chords to complete beginner guitar students. Wait until your beginner students become comfortable with playing open chords first.
Once your beginner guitar students are past the simple basics, help them learn barre chords faster.
Ask your beginner guitar students to play barre chord shapes with the top 2 strings ringing open. This improves your students’ fretting hand dexterity, while keeping the chords very easy to play.
In the tab below, the first measure is an A major (triad) barre chord. The second measure is the same A major chord fingering, but with the top 2 strings ringing open (its proper name is A major add 9).
You now know a lot more ways to teach beginner guitar students to play chords than most guitar teachers.
The next step is to learn how to teach beginner guitar students to practice all other musical skills. When you know how to do this, your students become awesome guitar players quickly and tell all their guitar playing friends.
Take this free guitar teaching test to learn how to become the best & most successful guitar teacher in your area.
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains guitar teachers from all over the world how to earn 6-figures per year teaching guitar, while working less than 40 hours per week.
Learn how to effectively teach beginner guitar students.