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Guitar Chord Troubleshooting

When you’re first learning to play chords, it can be very difficult to get your fingers to cooperate.  After a few days of practice your fingers will start remembering where to go. It’s important to spend a little time everyday with these chords until you are comfortable with playing them.

Your fingertips on your fret hand will become sore and tender to the touch. If it becomes too painful, by all means stop practicing for the day and try again the next day. With steady practice you will develop calluses on your fingertips and this won’t be any more problem.

If you’re hearing a buzzing sound or the sound of the notes being played sound dull, then your not pressing hard enough on the strings, or one or more of your fingers is catching a nearby string. When you strum the chord each not should ring out clearly. You may find it hard at first to press all of the strings down firmly against the frets. If this is the case, don’t fret. Your hands will build up the strength in no time with practice.

Chord Tips:

  • Don’t let your fingernails get too long! They will prevent you from fingering the fret board correctly.
  • Make sure your fingers are standing straight up and down. Otherwise they may mute other strings.
  • When playing chords your fingers should be arched at the joints so that your fingertips come in contact with the strings and not the flat fingerprint part of your finger.

Your fingers should make contact with the strings slightly behind the frets if at all possible. The further your finger is from the fret the harder it is to apply the proper amount of pressure, hence the more likelihood that you’ll get a “buzzing” sound.

The size of your hand and the width of your instrument’s neck can significantly affect which fingers you use to play the chords. All of the chord charts on this site use the most commonly used chord fingerings. These fingerings will work for 95% of all guitarists.

You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate fingering

Press-Down Exercises

The most important thing to remember when playing chords is that each note in a chord must be pressed down as a unit, not separately.

Exercise 1

This exercise will help you establish the habit of pressing down each chord as a unit.

  • First, press down an C chord.
  • Next, lift your fingers off the strings about a half-inch as a unit, keeping the chord formation.
  • Then press your fingers back down onto the strings, firmly and quickly, keeping the formation.
  • Strum the chord. If any of your fingers miss the proper position in the chord, correct them and repeat the drill.
  • When you feel comfortable with the C chord, do the same exercise with the A, G, E, and D chord positions.

Exercise 2

Now we’ll practice the press down exercise while changing chords.

  • Start with C, lift, and press down the A chord.
  • Release, then press down the G chord.
  • Release, then press down the E chord.
  • Release, then press down the D chord.
  • Keep it slow and practice any mistakes as you go along.