Air Changes (aspire to this!)

Save time using air changes and play sounds without interrupting the rhythm. :)

View the full lesson at Air Changes (aspire to this!) | JustinGuitar

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Is this something we could expect to develop naturally the more we play as the shapes are internalised?

I’ve noticed I already do this for the chords I find easiest to play, but not for the chords I find more difficult. I’m just wondering if I should dedicate some of my practice time to this exercise on the chords I do struggle most with or just carry on and expect it to just come to me at some point.


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Hi @Rkr87
Ryan - I wrote something like this in reply to someone struggling with C chord recently.
This takes the idea of air changes and stretches it out a little.

To improve any chord formation, try this:

  • Hold your fingers near to but not touching the strings.
  • Touch the fingers where the chord is but do not press.
  • Once you have all three touching at the correct place then press them down.
  • Do not strum - this is a fretting hand exercise only.
  • Release the pressure after a few seconds but keep touching the strings.
  • Then move your hand away from the strings by a small amount. All fingers away.
  • Repeat the process.

Then, to improve changes to and from that chord and other commonly grouped chords, repeat the above process with one alteration. After the final step of lifting all fingers away, the next cycle would be over the chord that you are changing to. Once that chord has been done and fingers are lifted away, go back to the first chord of the pair.

Wash, rinse, repeat.
Make this exercise last about five minutes.
Examples for C major chord - and commonly played chords associated with it.

1 minute - C alone
1 minute - C & Am
1 minute - C and G
1 minute - C and D
1 minute - C alone

Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator


Does anyone else have a problem with air CBORD changes? I’m still placing my fingers in order just really quickly. Justin made it seem easy in the video. Im working on forming the chord slowly. Did anyone learn this quickly?


Welcome to the community Chianti! I know there will be others with much more experience than I who will also respond but as a relatively newbie myself I can offer what helped me. During my first run through of grade 1 chord changes I worked on getting my changes up to 60 per minute and was either looking at my fretting hand or my strumming hand. As I’m about to start Grade 2 I’m going through the Grade 1 changes again but this time without looking at my hands. I use the metronome to count for me, so if I’m just starting I’ll set the bpm to 25-30 and make the change on the beat with the goal of getting to 60 changes per minute without looking. Admittedly it’s a little slower going but every time I practice I’m getting more confident and my muscle memory is coming more into play. I do have a tendency to place the fingers down one at a time on the harder chord changes but the speed is improving. As with all things it just takes a little practice but when I think about where I was when I started to where I am now, the extra practice is well worth the effort. Keep up the journey!


As weird as this sounds it took me about a year to get through grade 1. I’ve self-taught with other instruments and I wanted to avoid bad habits as much as possible. It’s helped but there’s still a lot of stuff I don’t get. I’ve also jumped ahead a lot mostly more advanced chords and songs just to keep from getting bored.

I can do 60 minute chord changes by putting my fingers down one at a time no problem even without looking. That’s still slow though. If you watch the “air changes”, example video he changes chords slightly faster than that. He also arpeggiates or hammers in between strums.

I’m just wondering how long it takes to be able to form the chord shape without touching the strings. I can’t tell if I just need to practice more or if I developed a bad habit.

Fretting one finger at a time makes it easier. It’s easier to move the third finger if the second finger is already stuck to the feet board. I noticed that I can’t stretch my third finger for G, D or C chords until my second finger is down. He seems to do it in the air. Then there are the barre chords…

It’s hard to tell how long it should take to learn something. It could be five minutes or five months.


A year on grade 1 isn’t weird at all. I started last March and just now am starting into grade 2. Mostly because I wanted to have the basics solid and good practicing habits. Me personally, if I got to 60+ changes per minute without looking at my hands, even if I still put one finger down at a time, I’d consider that a success. I remind myself often that Justin has been playing for 30+ years and what is easy to him will take practice for me and the time it takes will depend on how I practice. I have a similar thread where I stated that I had been playing the E chord for months with a different fingering than what Justin taught and didn’t realize it. I was reminded by the community that just because it isn’t what Justin taught doesn’t make it “wrong”. I got it to work for me and Justin’s lessons are to get us playing guitar. How we develop our skills to get through the lessons and play the songs we want successfully is for us to decide. I say you should be encouraged. If you are at 60 changes per minute without looking at your hands, no matter what your fretting hand does to get the chords, you have been successful. I remember watching the air changes lesson and if I recall he said the whole point was to get us to stop looking at our hands so we didn’t look like complete beginners. I chuckled at that but he made a great point. Stay encouraged, if you need to put your fingers down one at a time for some chords, so be it. If that doesn’t hinder the music you want to make then you passed the lesson. :smiley:


I was wondering about this too. I’ve been working on the air changes, and some involving C and G just seem impossible, like I’ve irreversibly trained my fingers to go down in a certain order. I can air change from some of them to C, like E/‘Em to C and a couple others. But D to C, G to C, it’s finger 1, 2 then 3 no matter what. And every chord to G is always 4th finger first, no matter how hard I try to change it :confused:


I really honestly would not worry about air changes. Placing fingers is fine and those “air” changes will to a degree come naturally as you speed up and that muscle memory kicks in properly. There are still times I’ll place fingers and I’ve been playing for 8 years now ( self taught with Justin).


I had a similar issue, especially with the C to G change. I would always start the G by placing my fourth and then third fingers. When strumming I could get away with this because I could just focus my first strum on the G chord towards the bottom 4 strings and then hit the top 2 on subsequent strums, once I had them placed.

Recently I have been working on some finger style stuff where the first note after the transition to G was hitting the base note on the 6th string and I found that I was always late or else ended up with a muted or buzzing string.

I spent the past week trying to reprogram myself to place the second finger on the 6th string first and then adding the second finger on the 5th and finally the third and fourth fingers. I’ve had to do this painfully slow and in many ways it feels harder to do this than it did to learn the G-chord in the first place.

After a week of this focused practice (maybe five minutes a couple times a day), I’m starting to be able to place the first two fingers first and I’ve notice that when I’m playing and I don’t think about it, I am sometime placing all four fingers at the same time.

Earlier in the week tried to just do air changes and I found it to be impossible. After spending a week focusing on placing the first two fingers first (and doing it really slowly) I can now see a path towards doing air changes from C to G.

Also, I expect that this C to G transition is something that I will have to come back to again and again in the coming years because I spent so much time doing it the other way, but at least I feel like I know what to do to fix it.


@Heatherxx try this.
Play either the C or G chord and just lift your fingers off the fret board then place them back
down all at the same time. Play the chord
Don’t take your hand off the fret board just your fingers.

When you can do that start taking your hand off the fret board and then back again play the
Like a One Minute Change but with only one chord.

When that easy take your hand right of the fret board and touch your knee(if your sitting down)
then back to the chord and repeat until you can place all your fingers down at the same time.

Do this with all the chords you are having trouble with. A few minutes a day and air changes
will be second nature.


I think I figured it out. I actually started doing air changes without thinking about it. I spent a lot of tine on the first beginner course so I got really good at the Am, Em and Dm chord changes. So much so that I don’t have to look lost or the time.

I was practicing the newer chord changes without looking because they sounded ok. I went back to looking especially for the C and G chords and it ended up changing my technique even though I just learned them. It’s all repetition though.

Once your chord changes get fast enough you’ll be able to do them in the air. You have to look at your hands when you first learn them to get both the voicing and the changes right though. I started doing slow chord changes as part of the chord perfect practice too. I think I’ll be able to do air changes once I get to 60 changes per minute or faster.


One suggestion that I got from someone else was to mix up the order you put your fingers down. If you typically put them down in order 1-2-3 then try 3-2-1 and then 2-1-3 or 3-1-2. After a bit, your fingers start to all go down at the same time. Just an idea that seems to work for me.


Air changes are an aspiration and not an expectation especially for grade 1. If anyone is able to do it even within a few weeks I woud be surprised.

As usual, Stitch’s exercise is one of the best I’ve come across in learning to train your fingers to learn finger placement in the air as they approach the fingerboard. It’s not always the actual change you need to look at, it is often helpful to progressively and slowly build just one chord at a time using the method he suggests. It really does pay off.


I think he forgets how easy it is for a professional guitarist to play sometimes. I know about 10 chords. I can only play three of them at speed without looking though. Some lessons take him a few days or weeks to create but will take us weeks to learn. I could be overthinking. I really want to get good though. :sweat_smile:


I just feel guilty because I’m 40 and still don’t know the caged system. :sob:


Months or possibly years to perfect some things. As I have said many times learning to play the guitar is not a sprint, its not even a marathon its an Ultra. The biggest attribute to help you learn is patience. And he knows only too well how hard it is as a beginner, just check out his lefty learning videos nitsuj. Keegan you are doing Grade 1 you do not needed to even think about CAGED at the moment. Its all about foundation building.


I know. I know. I’m conversant in my second language so understand how long this will take. Still I can’t help but be saddened by the fact that I probably won’t live long enough to get this good.

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Those are some flying fingers there :smiley: I guess the lady has some classical guitar playing background.

I’ve been playing for more than 2 years now and I tend to find changing to and from C/G/D easier as they have a unique shape. However, changing from a 6th string root barre major chord to a 5th string root barre minor chord at a different fret requires some effort even when looking despite the similarities between the grips.

Personally, I wouldn’t stress too much about it as muscle memory comes with time. Unless you practice 6-8 hours a day (which very few of us can manage), air changes and playing “blind” will become a habit much later.


Yes, this was a big game changer for me. It helped break my slow one finger at a time habit that couldn’t get faster.