When you have to play C Major on the guitar, and open-position fingering pattern will get the job done in many cases, but for some situations, nothing can beat a sturdy barre chord. Sure, it's a bit tougher to pull off, but being able to do so will grant you more versatility as a player, and bring your playing to new heights (provided you're able to form and execute a bar consistently).
Beyond that, once you know one set of barre chords, it's just a simple matter to move that fingering shape up and down the fretboard to form new ones. With that in mind, let's tackle the ways you can play C Major using the barre method, along with a few variations that you might find useful down the line.
Ask any guitarist worth their salt, and they'll likely point you to one of two main ways to play a C Major barre chord. One voicing will be at the 8th fret, using what's commonly called the "E Shape," while the other is at the 3rd fret, employing the "A Shape." Take a look:
Notice some similarities between this shape and an open-position E Major chord? You should, because in essence, what we've done is taken that E Major chord and moved it up the fretboard to make it sound like a C Major chord. With that in mind, you should probably be able to guess what the "A Shape" version of the C Major barre chord is like:
Voila! A Major, transformed into C Major using the power of the mighty barre chord. These fingering patterns will come in handy when you need to get to C Major quickly, and the simple shapes make them easy to remember in a pinch. While it's true that learning to form a proper bar will take some time, we've got some tips that will help you in that regard. Before we get to those, however, let's take a look at some other ways we can play around with C Major in barre format.
We mentioned earlier that the "E Shape" and "A Shape" were the two most common variants for creating major barre chords, but that doesn't mean they're the only ones around. Behold, a C Major barre chord using the slightly trickier "G Shape." Hope you're ready to stretch:
That should work like a charm, but if you're the type who's not accustomed to stretching your pinky over to 1st string like that, you can put a subtle twist on the G Shape that will make it easier:
Did you know that there are also variations of the A and E shapes you can try? Use these when you want to give some of your fingers a break:
Not a true barre chord, sure, but it's in the same ballpark, and if you're feeling particularly lazy (or you're still working on making your barre chords strong), you can forego the additional fingers:
And before we get into our tips, let's take a look at one more barre shape that will come handy, the "D Shape" on the 12th fret:
This is pretty high up on the fretboard, so there are just a select few circumstances you'll be using it (in a funk jam, for instance). Still it's good to know it and not need it than the other way around, so be sure to practice C Major in the D Shape along with all the other variations we've shown you. Now, if you've been struggling to perfect your barre chord sound, keep reading, because we've also got some tips for you that'll help you hone your technique.
There's an old guitarists adage when it comes to getting better at bar chords: "practice more." While technically true, it helps to know what you're supposed to be practicing, which is where we come in today. Generally speaking, there are 6 tips you'll want to observe while playing any barre chord on your guitar...
The position of your elbow might not seem like a big deal at first, but in truth, you'll achieve a better sound when you have your elbow close to your body, as it will allow you push on the headstock of your guitar with greater force, creating a tighter barre and more amazing chords.
If your index finger is bent, you won't be able to cover the strings properly, and a few will sound muted when you play your chord. This is no good, so remember to keep your finger straight when you're playing your chords, and use the edge of your finger (as opposed to the flat, fleshy part) so you can apply more pressure to the strings.
Again, for maximum pressure on the strings, you'll want to place your index finger close to the fret divider (but not on it). Shooting for the middle of the fret makes it harder to bar, so don't do it!
With your index finger applying pressure to the guitar neck from the front, use your thumb to apply some pressure from the back. Pushing up right in the middle of the guitar neck should give you the right positioning you need for a great barre.
Why should your fingers have all the fun? Pull with your arm to generate some pressure on the strings and give your fingers a little break.
Your wrist also plays a role in how nice your chords sound. Don't bend it too much while you're playing barre chords, as you'll tire out your hand and lose strength as you continue to play.
Got all that? Good. Now it's time to put these valuable lessons into practice. Start slow and memorize all the different C Major barre chord shapes, applying them to the songs you're playing when you have the chance. In time, these will be like second nature -- a part of your essence as a guitarist. As always, good luck, and happy practicing!
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