Chord Warm-up Exercises for Guitar

Chords are a big part of guitar playing, but the motion involved is somewhat different from playing single notes. If you’re going to practice chords, it makes sense to warm up with chord-based exercises, such as the ones in the following figures.

When playing chords, the fingers each play separate strings, but they move all at the same time as you switch chords. So while single notes involve individual fingers coming into play one after another, chords involve three or four fingers all remaining still and then moving at the same time.

The first exercise uses the basic major chords E, A, D, G, and C. These are sometimes called open chords, because they use open strings. Play each chord one beat apiece and focus on getting the left hand to move swiftly and accurately between changes. Just use a simple strum or pluck on the strings. As you are practicing, focus on getting clear notes and clean fretting (with no buzzing or muffled strings).

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The following exercise is a major barre chord warm-up (again starting with the basic E, A, D, G, and C chords). It’s devised to get you practicing all over the neck. After you play the first measure of 5/4, notice that the progression “starts over” one fret (or one half step) higher than the starting chord. This shift upward changes the letter name of the chords in the second and subsequent measures, but you use the same chord forms as you did in measure 1.

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