8 Chords, 12 Hours, 403 Drills and 9320 Transitions Visualized

I like spreadsheets. Give me something to crunch, calculate or forecast and I’m a happy camper. Want pretty charts and a Power Point presentation? Even better.

So I like tracking things. Sleep, steps, finances, weight, fertility, productivity – I’ve got a pulse on it. And as for guitar practice, well, let’s just say I took note-taking very seriously.

guitar practice

Call me a nerd, but I’m in heaven, I tell you, HEAVEN! Take a look at this:

guitar by the numbers

Pretty cool right? I can poke around and learn things like when my best practice happens (in the morning or early afternoon), that E is my favorite chord to practice, or that after 15 minutes of practice, my brain and fingers cease to function properly.

The One Minute Change

The hardest part about learning guitar is transitioning between chords. They have to happen quickly and sound good, which is something that I cannot seem to make happen.

And I practice so much! I’m constantly with Charles (my guitar, in case you forgot), a timer and notebook doing these stupid drills over and over. I even play this game called “one minute changes” (recommended by JustinGuitar.com) where I have one minute to complete as many chord transitions as I can. The goal is to get to 60 per minute – consistently.

You can see that I have yet to get to 60… and I’m not even close:

One minute changes

The thing is, I can play great sounding chords, and my averages are improving, but when I go for speed, things become sloppy in a way that can only be described as noise, and it’s not the pretty kind. Here is video proof:


Am I doing something wrong?

I looked at a lot of things, but I’ll show some restraint and highlight one: the D chord. It was the first chord I learned and it’s a fairly simple one, but boy do I struggle with it. When I dug in, it was clear that I progressed significantly faster when it wasn’t involved.

one minute changes d chord vs non

I figured I just needed more practice, so I decided to double down, and finally, somewhere around round 55, there it was. An upward trend. Keep in mind this is an average of three different chord combinations: D to A, D to E, and D to E minor, so we’re really looking at around 150 rounds, or just under 2.5 hours trying to get the darn thing sounding good.

The D Chord

The funny thing is, in practice, I don’t feel like I’m improving. Round 68 will feel just as disappointing and sound just as horrible as the previous ten, but when I stop to review the trend lines (and review the video – did I mention I record myself every day?), it’s clear that I am getting better.

I guess the only thing I was doing wrong was not being patient enough.

Is it the Right Way to Learn?

I’m not entirely certain that I’m going about this the right way. Had I committed to perfecting my three initial chords instead of tackling eight, I’d probably be rocking on any number of three chord songs. But the monotony of repeating the same chords was getting to me, so I opted to keep things varied and fun in order to stay motivated.

And I’m fine with slower progress because I’m doing the work, improving and, most importantly, enjoying the process. Practice isn’t painful the way that sitting down to write my novel was, and I can say, without a doubt, that there will be plenty of guitar in my future.

That said, I’m shifting strategy to focus on a few songs that I’d like to “perform” before the end of the month. Fewer chords, select transitions, lots of practice and a video or two of me, on guitar, hopefully sounding better than the few measures of of Silent Night (sorry, no singing) that I’m leaving you with.

Total practice time at this point: 12 hours. Enjoy!

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *