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How NOT to Forget Chords

Use bite-sized chunks to maximize your short-term memory.

There is a lot to remember when you’re first learning to play guitar. It can be overwhelming. Chords are particularly hard to recall when you're switching quickly between them in the middle of a new song.

Learning depends on being able to move information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. But your short-term memory sucks. It has a limited capacity of only four or five bits of information.

Chunking refers to the strategy of breaking down large amounts of information into small manageable chunks. It takes advantage of the limits of your short-term memory.

Follow these chunking guidelines to help you retain more information as you learn to play:

  • Break larger amounts of information into small manageable units. If you’re working on a 4-measure riff, just focus on 1 measure. If you’re learning a chord progression with 6 chords, just focus on getting one or two correct before moving on to the next step.

  • Take similar ideas and try to learn them together. When learning chords, you’ll find that they have things in common. For example, G and Cadd9 chords share a pivot finger. Em and A chords have similar shapes. Learning concepts in pairs helps you to store two things in one single memory.

  • Stop if you’re overwhelmed or aren’t learning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or it’s just not clicking, stop. Take a break and do something else for a while.

Your brain has a limit to how much information it can process so it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Just chunk it. Learning how to play works better if you take it slow and in small manageable bites. To learn more about chords, browse Fender Play's chord library, discover other chord types, and find tips on how to master them..

Want to learn some beginning chords in minutes? Watch this video. And if you're not a member of Fender Play yet, click here for a free trial!