top of page

Why (You Think) You Suck at Guitar Chords

-By Eric Dieter














The learning curve on guitar is long hill that can be difficult to climb. What makes guitar so difficult? The amount of coordination required to get a sound at all, let alone the desired sound. When it comes to percussion instruments and instruments like the piano, getting the instrument to sound is as easy as using gravity and a semi-blunt object. Do not misunderstand, these instruments are not easy, but they tend to start easy then get harder as the student progresses. Generally speaking, the guitar has the opposite curve- it is very difficult to start then gets significantly easier.


Your Diagnostic Tools Are Too Broad


In my experience, the biggest motivation killer of students is their own assessment. Essentially, they don’t know what skills need to be developed, all they know is that the things they’re doing don’t sound like music. The problem is that there are so many skills involved in something as fundamental as changing chords that students actually are making progress, they just don’t recognize the progress because they are only using one diagnostic tool: their ear.


What Are the Right Diagnostics?


Taking the right measurements is crucial to solving any kind of problem. So knowing what skills are involved is an obvious first step in developing these skills.


  • Finger independence (ability to move several fingers in separate directions at the same time)

  • Use of finger tip (vs the finger print) placement

  • Fretting hand location

  • Arched fingers (prevents muffled string)

  • Left hand speed

  • Ability to visualize chord in advance

  • Proper pick grip

  • Proper picking movement

  • Pick accuracy

  • Left Hand/Right Hand synchronization


Each one of these skills needs to be correct consistently and at the same time in order for any 2 chords to sound like music. Any one of these things can ruin an otherwise fine chord.


This is why beginners feel like they aren’t getting any better. They are very often making progress in some of these areas, but don’t see or hear the progress. Sometimes they to focus on the wrong skills first. Or they just get so frustrated with themselves that they quit.






We can see that until all of these things hit a perfect balance, the beginning guitarist is going to sound bad. Very often, the student is sitting on the verge of a breakthrough but lacks the professional guidance to point this out to them.

The Solution


I have 2 solutions for that are very simple and work best when done together. 


Solution 1: Track your speed and accuracy with every chord in your chord vocabulary. Practice them in small groups. Write your progress down. This written log is going to be your proof of progress, because your ear isn’t going to notice this progress.


Solution 2: Research and hire a qualified guitar teacher near you. Hire an expert that can help you focus on the right things. Stop writing your own curriculum by piecing together bits from the internet!


About the Author


Eric Dieter is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher in Lancaster, PA. He has appeared on dozens of international albums as a session guitar player and tours with the synth-pop and prog-rock band. Eric has studied guitar at Millersville University and Berklee College of Music. Additionally, he holds a degree in psychology and a certification in hypnosis, making him uniquely qualified to train the minds and hands of aspiring musicians. Contact Eric if you are looking for guitar lessons in Lancaster, PA.

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 6.22.50 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 6.22.24 PM.png
bottom of page