Barre chords, also known as Bar Chords, are the bane of many a new guitar player. Which isn't to say they aren't useful, mind you -- bar chords are an important part of every guitarists' arsenal. If you're looking to put a unique sounding twist on some of the open-position chords you know, playing said chords in "bar form" is a useful trick.
In addition, learning the basic bar chord "shapes" will allow you to quickly move around between certain chords -- provided you understand the fretboard. We could go on, but the point is that bar chords to your arsenal will provide many benefits for you down the line. The only issue is that they can be tricky to learn.
If you're willing to put in the work and refine your technique, though, we suggest you continue reading. In our guide today, we're going to cover the basics of playing bar chords, and give you a few examples you can use for practice.
The problem most newbies encounter is that they aren't used to holding down all six strings with one finger. This results in muddy, muted chords that don't sound so great. This, in turn, can shatter a novice player's confidence, dissuading them from learning further. To avoid frustration, we suggest starting slow and building strength in your fingers first, then moving on to learning bar chord shapes.
To begin, let's work out your index finger. This will be the biggest hurdle you must overcome, but once you're capable of holding down all six strings with this one finger, everything else will seem like smooth sailing.
Starting too close to the head of your guitar will prove difficult at first, so to train yourself, let's instead head to the third fret.
Newbies often have a tendency to press down with the meatiest part of their finger. It's a comfortable (and natural) way to start, and it's fine if you have a strong grip and powerful fingers. For those with smaller hands, though, that wee bit of finger flesh might not be enough. In these cases, you should try using the edge of your finger instead, It's often "bonier," and will make for a tighter press on the strings (resulting in a better sounding chord).
Needless to say, you might not get your bar sounding correct on your first try, but with time and dedication, you can whip your fretting hand into shape. Start by making your bar on that third fret, strumming, then removing your hand from the fretboard. Repeat this process until you start to see improvement in the strength of your bar and how quickly you can get your finger into position.
To supplement your hand strength, you might also try working out with a grip trainer. These are good for challenging your fingers to produce more force, and will also provide a worthwhile bit of forearm exercise to boot. Be patient, though. Strength doesn't come overnight, and you might find it takes you a few weeks in order to develop a good sounding bar. Once you do, however, it'll be time for you to start making bar chords with your other fingers.
At last, the moment of truth is here. It's time to see if you can learn the finger positionings necessary to create a solid bar chord. For this, we'll head back to the third fret and try a G Major bar chord on for size:
Here's how it's done:
Now, here's the great thing about bar chords. With this arrangements of fingers memorized, you can move that bar chord shape to any other fret on your guitar and play a major chord. We'll head up to the 5th fret, with an A Major chord, to demonstrate:
Play the chord like this:
Notice how the relative position of your fingers remains the same? All you've done is change the fret you're barring your index finger with, but you're now playing a whole new chord.
What happens, though, when you change the position of your other fingers? The answer is simple -- you get another chord. We'll stay on the 5th fret, but instead of playing A Major, we'll play an A Major 7 Chord:
Do it like this:
As with your Major Bar Chord, you can move this shape up and down the fretboard to achieve different chords. Remember that your root will be the note you're barring on the 6th string, so, for example, if you're barring the 3rd fret, you're playing a G Chord, if you're barring the 5th fret, you're playing an A Chord, etc.
You can also create barre chords that use the 5th string as your root. This time, we'll use our 10th fret chord, D Major, to demonstrate:
You'll play as so:
It sounds a bit different than your open-position D Major Chord, but it's a D Major Chord all the same. Having the ability to play bar chords and use the basic bar shapes all over your guitar is vital to great playing, so be sure to hone this skill to its razor's edge and incorporate bar chords into your playing when you can.
Learn to play the guitar fast with an expert guitar instructor. You can take lessons locally or online. Want to see the instructors near you?