Floating into the Blues

One of the most valuable techniques my teacher Jim Goelitz has taught me is his “trademarked” method of learning chords, which he calls “float and drop.” The goal is to learn the chord shapes as a grip that your hand remembers with precision. To practice chords, you very slowly position your fingers just above the strings (float) and frets you want to press for a chord. Then you very slowly drop your fingers to the strings and strum the chord to make sure it sounds clear. You repeat this process with the next chord.

I find this is an especially helpful way to practice two or more new chords when I’m having trouble getting reliably from one chord to the next. Recently, Jim had me demonstrate “float and drop” for a couple of chords that were bothering me. He noticed that I was moving too fast. He stressed that the movement needs to be like slow motion in a movie. This helps ensure accuracy and precision. Before your fingers touch the strings, they need to be in the exact position for that chord.

It may seem obvious, but in working on a transition from one chord to the next, I realized it helps to notice the most direct path your fingers can take between the two chords. Perhaps a finger stays on the same string and just moves up or down. It’s more effective to practice following this path in slow motion with “float and drop.” It may take a lot of repetition, but eventually it leads to improvement.

Once I’m starting to get familiar with a chord grip or transition, I find it helpful to practice it with my eyes closed. The ultimate goal is to “find” the chords without looking.

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