How to get past muddy chord changes while playing songs

I started playing guitar six months ago. I’m in the middle of Beginner Grade 2, and holding. While I didn’t expect to be expert in that short time, I am feeling stuck. It’s about chord changes while playing songs. I’ve learned several chord grips, can find them without hesitation, until I’m trying to play a song. It starts ok, but in about a minute into the song my fingers fail to get to the right position, resulting in that muted, muddy sound that results from almost but not quite getting there. I’ve tried practicing just two chords at a time, and that works fine, but as soon as I try to apply that to a song my chord changes fall apart. So, I get the feeling that I’ve missed something critical in the lessons or in my practice. My hand doesn’t feel tired or fatigued. It’s difficult to describe. I practice regularly, but it feels like I’m getting nowhere with chord changes.

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slow down until you can play it fine, then speed up


The same happened to me so as Rod said I slowed the song down now I can have it at the correct speed.
I’m now having the same problem again as I’m putting up strums in so I have slowed the speed down again until I get better.

Hi @newstrings,

I don’t think you have missed anything critical, however I do wonder if you have moved through the lessons too quickly. Middle of grade 2 would mean you have done around 10 modules and 100 different lessons. In 6 months this works out to be a new lesson every couple of days and a module every couple of weeks.

I think if you slow down, maybe even go back to grade 1 consolidation and build those skills. Practice the songs slowly and build up. Pratice the songs with just downstrums or even one strum per bar if you need to.

Keep doing that and you will get there.

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To some extent, this is my experience a few years into the journey.

For me, I try just to work on one thing at a time.

  • Work on the song flow and rhythm - to hell if it’s a bit ‘muddy’ today I’m just working on getting through. I think Justin calls this “forcing the changes” may come up in a lesson soon…
  • Slow it down - like others have said, work on getting it clean and forget about the flow for a session or two. When I’m learning a new riff, I first just start with getting the notes in order, it can be difficult to relate to the original sometimes but once you get the order you can then more easily fit it to the rhythm.
  • One minute changes- if there is a particular chord change that is holding things up, work through a few one minute change sessions.

And just in general, I can usually ‘play through’ a new song in a few days or so, it takes weeks / months to get it ‘tidy’ - try not to sweat it too much it will get easier with time :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi Skip,
I had a similar blip as I progressed through grade 2 where I was constantly stumbling over D of all chords in songs. For a time I couldn’t switch to it cleanly and my positioning on the frets went a bit haywire resulting on bad sounds a lot of the time. Honestly I think it just happens and you have to ride it out, plough through the songs or indeed slow them down if you think there’s something technical going on. But in my experience if you’ve done your foundational OMC and PFC exercises it’ll be a blip.

My take is that we’ve taken on board so much over those grade 1 and 2 modules that your brain is constantly sorting and organising the movements so they are permanent, as you learn something else new the old stuff has got to be repositioned in your brain’s filing system which breaks it a little bit.

Probably absolute guff that last bit but it made me feel better about it at the time!! :wink:

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Skip - what strumming pattern(s) are you using to play the songs? Is this perhaps a factor in your difference between making changes stand-alone vs making changes within a song?

Plus …

When you created your introductory post in February you wrote:

… by which I take it is as Grade 1 Module 2. Six months on you say you are in the middle of Grade 2. I must say your problem may have arisen due to accelerated progress of building your tower upwards without ensuring the solidity of the base and supporting walls are firm and broad.

Go steady and learn the basics fully and consolidate. Here is an overview of Grades 1 and 2:


And here are Justin’s recommended practice routines - to be done several times a week for at least a week for the first few modules and longer than a week as the course progresses.

Realistically, taking an estimated average learning and practice route of 30 minutes per day, increasing (after 3-6 months) to 60 minutes per day on core learning, several times per week, Grade 1 is likely to be about a 6-month or more learning course. More if you really devote time to learning, practicing and playing many songs - as you should.

I wrote this recently in this topic.

Beginner Grade 1 has 75 lessons plus essential consolidation. Each lesson requires at least one day of practice time but by the end of Grade 1, in Modules 5, 6 and 7, I would say that to do the learning justice and really get solid in the basics, each lesson should respectfully be given several days or a week or more, each of the seven modules probably starting at one week for module 1 up to several weeks for module 7. I would even (albeit exaggeratedly to make a point) go so far as to suggest treating each module number as a guide to the weeks required.
Modules 1 to 7 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 28 weeks. That is more than six months just there.
Grade 2 has 68 lessons. And as the learning ramps up the technical challenge and skill, each lesson and each module will require extended time to really get to grips with. I would suggest a similar approach.
Modules 8 to 14 = 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 = 77 weeks. That is more than a year.
Okay - those cumulative totals are on the high side. But I would rather encourage that over the opposite of not taking enough time and hitting a brick wall of frustration. As many have done. As you have done.

My recommendation - revisit the basics, build a thorough consolidation routine of Grade 1 material with level appropriate songs, be disciplined about chord perfect, one-minute changes, simple strumming patterns in songs (lots of songs), do things slow and correct knowing that speed will take care of itself.

Did I say learn to play simple versions of songs Learn songs, learn a large number of songs [ learn songs, learn songs, learn songs :slight_smile: ] within and at the edge of your skill level and take some backward steps to consolidate.


I never imagined that I was going through the lessons too quickly. In fact, somewhere I got it into my head that it was not a good thing to wait too long before moving on to the next lesson, whether or not I had mastered the previous lessons. Ok, so I’ll apply the brakes, starting now.
Thank you all for you insight.


I have this same problem sometimes. I find having a good stiff drink is helpful before practice. lol. No kidding though for me. At my age my wheels need a little grease.

To give some perspective I played a lot as a teenager before, started with JG beginning of 2022 and still on level 3 beginner, took a year over level 1 and 2.

It’s not a race :slight_smile:


I had this issue too and it was because i was using my thumb to mute top strings and realised that it was harder to transistion between chords while muting strings with thumb ,now i started training without thumb over the top and i change chords smoother .Hope this helped you

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Just curious… how old are you? I’m 72, with some tremor in both hands. The trouble, for me anyway, is that I can’t drink a glass of wine, but… I can drink a whole bottle. And that’s great, except for guitar practice. :))

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Not sure how muddy the changes are but mine just sort of got better as I learned. I had buzzing and missed and muted strings. I did the reccommended quick changes between the chords, then the perfect changes, then the blind changes. I can now play mostly without looking it is usually clear.

However, my biggest gains were playing songs I like. I play them as slow as I can to recognize them still and slowly buimd speed. I forgive my errors but try and try again. I usually miss a lot at first. It is frustrating. I just keep playing. I enjoy it and sometimes forget to practice. But this is where I got the rythm, the strum, the picking, the clean note transitions, even a slightly better voice. This isn’t practice but where you take your practice and use it.

At your level, I reccomend the app. The playalong functionality is awesome. Try to slow it down and play through mistakes to keep the rhythm. It helps to force changes, that helps you learn to get faster.

Somebody here told me that learning the guitar is learning one seemingly impossible act followed by another. I never thought that I would be able to get a clean sound from the F chord but now I have and there are more seemingly impossible things on the horizon.

Another piece of advice I got which I have embraced is to go slow. Not just play slow but to let the lessons soak in before you move to the next lesson. Your brain and body learn things at different speeds. You need to let your hands catch up with the brain.

Best advice that I can give you is to record yourself playing. You can post it here for GREAT advice as to what you can fix but even if it is just a personal video, you can look at it in a month and see just how much you have improved. I am behind on that myself. I compare this to working out. If you look at the mirror daily, you see little progress. But if you take a picture and look in a month, you are gonna notice big improvements.

Best of luck on your journey. Be patient with yourself.


You recommend 'the app." Which one is that? One problem for me is that I live in Thailand, so many of the apps are not available for download here, especially if the app must be on a cell phone.
I do try to go slow, but judging from some of the other comments I have been going through the lessons too fast. On the other hand, however, I have plenty of time to practice, usually two hours a day, but in 2o to 30 minute segments. Maybe that’s why I tend to think I’m ready to move on. I should also add that now it seems that I’m not the only one who has gone through this type of difficulty, so… that makes feel feel less like a dummy! :slight_smile:

I think we’re in a similar boat. I don’t think you’re going too fast if you can record yourself playing back what you’re supposed to have learnt and still sound good enough. I’m about 7 mths in and spend around 15hrs/week hands-on the guitar.

Currently in Grade 3 but really taking my time consolidating as I’ve found the difficulty ratchet up significantly (targeting only bass notes, strumming and targeting strings, Greensleeves etc.). I sounded bad enough to decide to buy a new audio interface and decent mic last week for learning purposes.

I’ve noticed some really bad fundamentals - simple stuff like chord changes to most G variations where I tend to press my pinky first, not learning slow enough (especially with the metronome tempo), and not testing myself adequately for consistency and mistakes (I thought being able to play through a tune or scale once without any major mistake was good enough).

I’ve since made a conscientious effort to record most of my practice and review most exercises. I find it elevates my concentration and desire to play cleaner, pick out obvious mistakes/patterns, while also normalising the stress that comes with being recording. In just 2 weeks I’ve noticed my normal chord changes and fingerstyle (Blackbird, Greensleeves etc.) are much cleaner sounding now (though still with mistakes). Oh - and for now - I find the reviews a nice intermission from playing.

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