Beginner - Should I look at frets or strings?

Hi all, got a guitar a month ago and decided to let Justin be my guide. One thing I didn’t expect is that not all chords are played with all 6 strings. So I’m learning chords A, C, and E in lesson 2. I’m getting a little better each day, but when changing chords I still look at the frets and finger placement, then the specific strings that I need to strum. By the time my eyes look at the frets then the strings I need to strum its tough to stay in time. Any suggestions?

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Hi Robert,

After a month, I wouldn’t worry too much about not being “fast enough”. Depending on how much time you have for music, it may not be a very long time that you have spent with your instrument so far.

As Justin mentions quite often, you should practice even the simplest chord changes at first slowly enough to get it right. Then when you are comfortable with the given chord should you increase your speed.

An advice that could be useful for you was posted by @stitch in another thread:

Bear in mind that after only a month air changes should not be your priority yet. However, this exercise will help you develop muscle memory that is important in becoming a more fluent player.


You may have to slow down a little. Your building that muscle memory so instead of your brain saying ok put this finger here then this one here and this one there, your brain says make an A chord and your hand knows what that shape is and where to put it. :grinning:

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Just be patient. Yes, at one month you’re going to need to look at frets, strings, fingers. All of them will eventually resolve themselves, and one day you’ll realize that you just made a chord change without having to think about any of those things. I still remember the shock I experienced the first time I realized I had just made the chord change without looking, and thinking “maybe I’ll eventually be able to do this thing!”


I’d say pick one and focus on it. Watch your fretting for a few strums and changes without worrying about getting your strums perfect. Then when you feel like your fretting is a bit better, shift focus to the strumming with the same idea of not worrying quite as much about your fretting being perfect. Trying to watch both is going to trip you up.

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It takes time and practice. You are getting better each day, enjoy the progress!

Its hard at the start because your fingers are not used to moving how and where they need too, your fingertips are soft, you dont know where the frets are etc

This all comes with practice, but at least at the start you can only play for so long.

Follow Justins advice, make sure you are using the right fingers on the right fret for each chord, dont worry about changing quickly just yet that will come


Robert, as well as agreeing with what others are saying about slowing down, I suggest that every now and then, once you’ve got the chord grip right and have strummed it a couple of time, that you close your eyes and try feeling your way across the strings with your pick or thumb or whatever you’re strumming with. Do this a few times. This will begin to build your connection with the strings and make their placement more familiar, so you won’t always need to look at each one.

You might also like to try lifting your fingers off the chord grip and placing them down again, feeling where they are. Just a couple of times is enough.

The added benefit of playing a few chords with eyes closed is that you begin to tune your ears to what sounds good It’s a way of teaching your ears too.

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Thanks to all for the replies! I will implement your suggestions. I love the community engagement.


Justin has a good video on this. There’s info below the video as well…

Playing Without Looking

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PS. The video I posted is in Grade 2, module 14. So it’s for further down the journey, but still worth a look.

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I would also add what has not been said here, that you need to start getting the chords down accurately before you start using them in songs. So take your time and look at the frets to make sure you have the chord shape down and the fingers as close to the frets as possible. Then look at the strings so you can ensure you are strumming the correct strings. OK E not and issue as its all strings. But make sure you are looking when you start the A on the 5th string and the D on the 4th. You are teaching both hands and your brain to do this to start with and it needs to be done repetitively and correctly for it to sink in. Always remember the Chord Perfect Practice, when learning new chords. If you add playing songs too early, that is somethings else for the brain to take one board, so one of the others or all three are likely going to give if you are not quite ready. I am not saying don’t start songs but keep doing the CPP exercise to train your hands and head until you can consistently hit the right strings. Take your time and get it right. You’ll learning that this journey is a mega marathon and the best approach is often the slow approach and that will serve you well on this never ending road of learning. :sunglasses:


One thing to remind yourself of is that at this point you do not really have “a month” of experience with your guitar. If you’ve been playing for 30 minutes a day that means you have about 15 hours total with your hands on the fretboard. So if you were to reframe that time and imagine you have just started a new job (a job you LOVE, mind you!), your one month of guitar learning would be the same as going to work on Wednesday morning of your first week. So at that point, you know where the break room is, where the bathroom is, and where to pick up your printouts. So it’s only Wednesday morning - it’s perfectly normal to have to look at your fretting hand, your strumming hand, struggle with placing your fingers - all of that!


Yup, rate of progress is the combination of frequency, duration and quality of practice. Shorter more frequent better than longer sessions less frequently. And as others have said, make sure to practice things correctly, slowly. It may seem tedious and frustrating, but will serve you well to lay a solid foundation.


Hello @rss7 welcome to the Community.

Robert, you’re in Grade 1 and your practice schedule will include / ought to include the strum-pick-strum exercises on chords.
Form the chord with fingers. (look at your fretting hand)
Strum the chord. (look at your picking / strumming hand)
Pick the notes individually. (look at your picking hand)
Adjust any fingers if the notes aren’t clear. (look at your fretting hand)
Pick again if you had to make adjustments.

This is training you to look at the appropriate hand. And the strum / pick part is done with fretting fingers already in position so you can absolutely concentrate on looking at your strum hand to make sure you hit only the appropriate strings. Thus training your strum hand what to hit and when.

In chord changes, rhythm trumps everything. Your fundamental aim is to play rhythmically. Not to stop or have long and erratic gaps between chords. As you work through the early stages of guitar learning this will often come at the expense of strumming accuracy. You are definitely going to play D major chords and hit more than four strings. That is something you need to cure over time and make right. But keeping the rhythm steady is key and is not the sacrifice to make to achieve it.

The best thing to sacrifice is speed. Slow things right down, really slow. You will be better able to maintain rhythm and make changes and hit the appropriate strings.

The separate practice exercises Justin teaches all connect and feed in to each other.

Hope that helps.
Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator


Lets say I’m changing from D to Cadd9 and finger #3 is going to stay on B string, 3rd fret. When I move fingers 1 and 2 to the correct frets for Caad9, do I stop pressing finger #3 (that is not moving to a new fret)? Lots of buzzing on finger 3 B string during the change.

Hi rss and welcome to the forum. Depending how quick is the change, on average I wouldn’t stop pressing it as I am able to comfortably change over from one chord to other. However slightly letting it off and pushing back B string when you refret your other fingers shouldn’t sound too bad overall.