There’s a mistake I see new students making all the time. They go through the process of learning the 12 repeating notes on their keyboards, and they begin to get familiar with chord formulas. But then when they have to put that knowledge together, they start having trouble with chord transitions.
Moving between the chords is meant to be smooth, without hesitation or tempo changes. But sometimes it’s just not that easy when you’re new to piano. And I get a lot of students who email or message me about this issue. So let’s take a look:
The Key to a Confident Sound
Even if you’re playing a basic version of chords, you may be struggling with playing smooth chord transitions. If that’s why you’re here, today is your lucky day: I have a simple trick that can really help you face this problem and overcome it.
Smooth chord transitions, even for beginners, are a key to sounding like you know what you’re doing. No matter what stage you are in your learning process, getting better at transitions is going to really improve your sound.
Even if you are playing very basic chords in very simple songs, it’s important to get to the point where you can move between chords while staying on beat and not freaking out. 😉 As creator of Piano In 21 Days, I’m excited to share with you an extremely helpful exercise that is going to make a huge difference. It’s ridiculously simple, but I promise it works!
What’s the Secret?
So, what is the exercise that is going to help make your transitions silky smooth? Here it is:
I know, I know. Can it really be that simple? Well yes, it can be.
When you find yourself struggling to transition between chords in a song, the very first and most effective thing you can do is to slow yourself down. Play as slowly as you need to, as many times as you need to. If it feels slow but you still can’t do the transitions smoothly, you’re still not playing slow enough! 😉
After (and only after) you’ve got it while playing slowly, then incrementally work your way towards speeding back up. Even if this means you have to practice at an obnoxiously slow speed for a while, that’s okay. This is a personal process, meaning that you get to do this at whatever speed makes sense for you, no matter how slow.
Putting it Into Practice
Let’s see how this exercise can work on a real chord progression. If you’ve spent any time with my resources already (especially my 5-day workbook), you probably have already heard of the “4-Chord Song,” aka a progression of 4 basic chords that are the basis of a huge number of popular songs you probably already know and love.
The chords are C major, G major, A minor, and F major. (If you don’t know how to play those chords, start here.)
Okay, are you with me? We’re going to go through these chords in order, but we’re going to do it slowed way down. Don’t worry if it feels silly. You’re doing this to develop consistency.
Feel free to use a metronome if you want to, but it’s okay to keep time by ear if that’s what you’re used to. Begin going through the 4-chord progression, keeping things basic and slow. No frills, no improv. Just stick to playing each chord on the beat with your right hand, and simple octave notes in the left hand.
Listen and observe how it sounds as you go through the progression. Does it sound choppy? Slow down. Does it sound smooth? Don’t be too quick to speed up yet!
Focus on consistency as you move chord to chord. If you can repeat the progression on-beat, nice and smoothly for a while, then you have my permission to speed things up a tad. 😉 But that doesn’t mean you should jump up to full speed right away. Do this incrementally, and slow back down anytime you catch yourself hesitating or playing choppily.
Now I know you might be wondering…
How Long Should I Practice This Way?
It might take a few minutes, or a day, or a week to get the hang of this. But that’s okay! Slowing things down is the number one thing you can do to move forward with more confidence and conquer your hesitation for once and for all.
So let me ask you: are you willing to slow things down and do the work now so that you can play with ease for years to come? If the answer is yes, then the answer to the question of how long you should practice this way is simple: as long as it takes.
Want to Learn More?
If you found this exercise helpful or want to learn more about how I teach piano, I have a free 5-day workbook with your name on it! Make sure you sign up for a tasted of the fastest, easiest way to get into piano. There’s no magic pill, because learning a new skill does take work. But piano can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be too hard. And now that you’re here, you’re already a few steps ahead of the game! Have fun, and don’t forget: it’s okay to slow down. 😉