Barre chords are key to playing the guitar. For most beginners, it’s a hurdle that they must cross. In many cases, guitarists struggle with the barre chords because of the way they’re taught. Mastering barre chords is a skill that’s relevant to guitarists of all levels. They will allow you to play any major or minor chord.
Do you want to learn how to play the barre chords? Then, you’re at the right place. In this article, we’ll share the step-by-step guide to playing the barre chord. All you need to do is to be patient and keep practicing them!
What Are Barre Chords?
Barre chords also go by the name, bar chords. Essentially, barre chords are movable chords. That is, they are chords that require pressing multiple strings at once with the same finger. The shapes of barre chords remain the same, but the positioning of your hand on the guitar neck changes depending on what chord you’re playing.
Learning the barre chord forms lets you quickly switch between chords, allowing you to play more songs. Barring also gives the chord a distinct sound.
The fingering shapes of these four chords serve as the foundation for all of our barre chords: E major, E minor, A major, and A minor. Finally, they also allow you to be able to sight-read chord charts much more quickly. This is why barre chords are seen as a “game-changer.”
Now, let’s take look at the types of barre chords.
Types of Barre Chords
There are four main types of barre chords: E Major, E Minor, A Major and A Minor. Let’s discuss each of them briefly.
These chords, often known as 6th root bar chords, have roots on the 6th (low E) string. That is, your finger should extend across all six strings, ending on the low E. When performing this barre shape, you should strum all of the guitar’s strings.
- Index Finger: barre it over each string on the first fret.
- Middle Finger: set it on the third (G) string and the fret below the bar.
- Ring Finger: place it on the 5th (A) string and the 2nd fret beneath the barre.
- Pinky Finger: put it on the 4th (D) string, at the same fret as the ring finger.
To play the E Major chords, place your index finger on the desired fret and the other fingers as stated above.
- C – barre the 8th fret
- C# – barre the 9th fret
- D – barre the 10th fret
- D#– barre the 11th fret
- E – barre the 12th fret
- F – barre the 1st fret
- F# – barre the 2nd fret
- G – barre the 3rd fret
- G# – barre the 5th fret
- A – barre the 5th fret
- A#– barre the 6th fret
- B – barre the 7th fret
Because their root is on the fifth string, these are known as 5th root bars. They are based on the open A chord.
- Index Finger: barre it to the 5th (A) string at the indicated fret
- Middle Finger: place it two frets below the bar on the 4th (D) string.
- Ring Finger: set it two frets below the bar on the 3rd (G) string.
- Pinky Finger: place it on the second (B) string, two frets below the barre.
To play the A major chords, arrange the bar as follows:
- C– barre the 3rd fret
- C# – barre the 4th fret
- D – barre the 5th fret
- D# – barre the 6th fret
- E – barre the 7th fret
- F – barre the 8th fret
- F# – barre the 9th fret
- G – barre the 10th fret
- G# – barre the 11th fret
- A – barre the 12th fret
- A# – barre the 1st fret
- B – barre the 2nd fret
The root of the 6th root minor barre chord is on the 6th (low E) string.
- Index Finger: barre it over each string on the desired fret.
- Ring Finger: place it two frets below the bar on the 5th (A) string.
- Pinky Finger: set it two frets below the barre on the 4th (D) string.
The E Minor Chords are played as follow:
- Cm– barre the 8th fret
- C#m – barre the 9th fret
- Dm – barre the 10th fret
- D#m – barre the 11th fret
- Em – barre the 12th fret
- Fm – barre the 1st fret
- F#m – barre the 2nd fret
- Gm– barre the 3rd fret
- G#m – barre the 4th fret
- Am – barre the 5th fret
- A#m – barre the 6th fret
- Bm – barre the 7th fret
The roots of these barre chords are on the 5th (A) string.
- Index Finger: bar it to the 5th (A) string at the desired fret
- Middle Finger: place it on the fret below the barre of the 2nd (B) string.
- Ring Finger: set it two frets under the bar on the 4th (D) string.
- Pinky Finger: press down on the 3rd (G) string, two frets below the bar.
To play the A minor chords, place your bar as follows:
- Cm – barre the 3rd fret
- C#m – barre the 4th fret
- Dm – barre the 5th fret
- D#m – barre the 6th fret
- Em – barre the 7th fret
- Fm – barre the 8th fret
- F#m – barre the 9th fret
- Gm – barre the 10th fret
- G#m – barre the 11th fret
- Am – barre the 12th fret
- A#m – barre the 1st fret
- Bm – barre the 2nd fret
Other types of Barre Chords
We have discussed the four main types of barre chords. Here are some other types of barre chords namely:
- E Major 7th Shape
- A Major 7th Shape
- E Minor 7th Shape
- A Minor 7th Shape
- Esus4 Shape
How to Play Barre Chords with Small Hands
A popular question among guitarists; I have small hands, can I play barre chords? Yes, you absolutely can! Here are the steps to take to play the barre chords with small hands:
Step 1. Sit on a Firm Chair
A dining room chair is good enough. A firm chair will provide adequate support for your torso, shoulders, arm, and hand. It will help keep your back, neck, and shoulders from being tired. Also, avoid soft seating, such as a couch or lounge chair.
Step 2. Place the Guitar Correctly
Set the guitar neck at a 45-degree angle so that the head of the guitar is about eye level. This will provide you with better leverage when pushing the strings and will keep your wrist more naturally positioned with your arm, reducing wrist and arm pain.
Step 3. Position Your Arm Rightly
To find the proper arm posture, simply stretch the left arm down and let it hang loosely from the shoulder. Bring your arm up slowly until you are holding the guitar neck loosely at the fifth fret. When you apply pressure to the strings, you will endeavor to maintain this position.
Step 4. Play on the Side of Your Finger
Play using your index finger on the side closest to your thumb. Because the bone of your finger is closer to the surface of your skin, there is less soft flesh and more hardness. This gives the string a more firm contact area to drive into the fretboard.
Also, by using this section of your finger, your elbow will automatically move closer to your body, relieving tension in your back, neck, and shoulders.
Step 5. Adjust for Your Particular Hand
Finally, no two fingers are the same. Examine the side of your index finger. You’ll see that it’s not a perfectly smooth surface. There are several minor wrinkles and dips. A chord will not sound clear if one of its strings slips into a low area or wrinkle. To compensate for this, you may need to move the barre up or down slightly.
Furthermore, different barre chords may require minor adjustments as a result of this. To easily determine if an up or down adjustment is required, sound each string separately to hear if they ring clearly. If not, try adjusting the barre such that more or less of the fingertip crosses the top of the barre.
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How to Play Barre Chords: Placing Your Finger Correctly
Before learning how to play barre chords, the first step is to get your finger positioned correctly. Here’s a guide on how you can do this:
Step 1. Place Your Index Finger on a Fret
Place your middle finger on top of your index finger when you start learning barre chords to get familiar with the required pressure against the strings. Besides, you should use the harder part of your finger, near the thumb.
Also, the string tension is lower at the eighth fret. This will provide a more comfortable starting point for your fingers.
Step 2. Place Your Thumb on the Back of the Guitar’s Neck
Imagine crushing a beetle with your fingers on the neck of a guitar. To create the cleanest sound, apply pressure from both sides.
Step 3. Practice Your Major Chord
This chord is played in standard tuning (EADGBE). If you already know how to play an E major, place your index finger below your middle finger. The eighth fret is set as follows:
- First, barre the eighth fret with your index finger
- Then, place your ring finger on the tenth fret of the fifth string (A).
- Also, put your pinky finger on the fourth string (D) at the tenth fret.
- Lastly, place your middle finger on the third string (G) on the ninth fret.
Remember, this will not be easy at first but know that the struggle isn’t peculiar to you.
Step 4. Play Barre Chords like Jimi Hendrix
You are probably wondering how you could play barre chords like Jimi Hendrix. Don’t worry, we got you! Jimi played barre chords in a different way. He used the thumb over technique.
This means that instead of using your index finger to bar the lowest string, you can use your thumb. Imagine holding the guitar neck like a microphone or a drum stick.
Everyone has their preference. Some people may advise against this technique, but you can argue that “this is how Hendrix performed.”
How to Play Barre Chords: Building Your Skills
Now that you know how to place your fingers correctly, it’s time to build your skills! Here are a few things you can do to build your barring skills:
1. Start a Practice Routine
Here’s how you achieve this:
- Practice each component before mastering your barre chords.
- Spend 10-15 minutes per day exercising your index finger on the eighth fret.
- Pluck each string and listen for a distinct sound from each one.
2. Move Down to the Fifth Fret
Next, you move down to the fifth fret. To do this:
- Barre your index finger but apply more pressure to it. This is because the strings are tenser at the fifth fret than at the sixth fret.
- Try to achieve complete clarity from all strings at least 90% of the time.
3. Practice Holding the Guitar’s Neck while Moving between Frets
Keep in mind that as you move further from the neck, the tension on the strings will reduce, making it a bit easier to hold.
4. Practice for Two Weeks
You will notice a difference in two weeks if you practice these steps for 15-20 minutes every day. If you’re not getting better, try increasing the duration of your practice and reevaluate your progress after a week.
5. Apply Chord Shapes
You can add other fingers to make true chords when you’ve developed your index finger into a comfortable barred position. (although barring the eighth fret only is a Cm7add11).
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How to Play Barre Chords: Mastering the Skill
Knowing the basics of barre chords can get you to play a song, but that’s not just enough! You need to hone your barring skills. Here are a few things you can do to achieve this:
1. Explore the ‘A’ Barre Chord
To play this:
- First, bar the third fret or any other fret starting with the fifth string (A string),
- Place your index finger across all of the strings except the low E.
- To play a major chord in this form, place your ring finger on the fifth fret and barre the D, G, and B strings. This is a C major chord.
2. Learn the Different Types of “D” Barre Chords
As with other barre chords, you can start on the D string as the root. By barring the D string to the upper E string without plucking the E or A strings, you can create a simple, funky sounding chord.
3. Learn A Song
Putting these lessons into practice is a terrific way to apply the form and skills you’ve learned. Choose a song that you are familiar with and google the title of the song as well as its chords, such as “In My Life by The Beatles chords.”
4. Explore Tutorial Videos on YouTube
On YouTube, there are many lessons available for learning how to play barre chords for beginners. Also, there are a lot of videos for learning popular songs that spend time showing you everything.
How to Play Barre Chords without Muting the Strings
You can play barre chords without muting the strings. Here’s how to achieve this:
Step 1. Slant Your Fingers
When playing guitar chords, you should angle your fingers so that they go up and then down the string. The aim is to press the tip of your finger as far down into the fretboard as possible. To be more precise, it is somewhat behind the tip rather than the very tip.
Step 2. Place the Pad of Your Thumb at the Back of the Guitar’s Neck
The pad of your thumb should be behind the guitar neck. One way to look at it is that the tip of your finger and the pad of your thumb would press together if the guitar neck wasn’t between them. This will provide you with the most leverage and the least amount of strain.
Step 3. Relax Your Shoulder and Arm
Your elbow should be straight down and relaxed, as should your shoulder and arm. So relaxed that releasing the pressure between your thumb and finger would cause your hand to fall.
Step 4. Keep practicing
The only way to get better at playing the barre chords without muting the strings is by regular practice. Over time, you will form a habit that will serve you well for many years to come.
How to Play Barre Chords without Pain
It’s normal to feel pains when you start with barre chords. However, there are a few steps you can to play barre chords without pain. They are:
Step 1. Position the Barre to Find the Sweet Spot
Here are the steps to find the sweet spot to put your finger while playing barre chords:
- First, place your index finger across all six strings at the fifth fret.
- Then, snug your barre finger next to the fret wire.
- Place your barre finger flat against the string. It’s quite inclined towards the nut, so you’re using more of your finger’s side.
- Ensure the sixth string is fretted with the pad of your fingertips.
- Lastly, keep adjusting till you find the sweet spot- where you feel no pain when playing barre chords.
Note that: different people have a different location of the sweet spot.
Step 2. Exercise Muscle Memory
Lift off and reapply the barre to work on this muscle memory.
Try adding and releasing pressure with the fretboard barre – it’s like performing push-ups for your finger! Fret the strings, release, fret, release, and so on.
Step 3. Test Your Barre Movement and Include Other Fingers
Here’s what to do for this:
- First, barre your index finger on other frets, both up and down the neck.
- Move your barre finger between random frets and practice lifting off.
- Then, add the other fingers in the shape.
- Lastly, move the full shape up and down the neck. You can create your chord sequence for more fun.
Step 4. Repeat Step 1-3 for A and C Shapes
For A and C shapes, repeat the same procedures from 1-3. Remember to keep your thumb in line with your index finger. Even if you use your ring finger as the barre for major A form chords, your thumb should still be in line with your index finger.
Step 5. Practice Changing between Barre Chord Shapes
This is where you establish your muscle memory. Play around with different barre chord shapes and periodically toss in some open chords (or any other chord shape you know). Keep it fun by making a little tune out of the chord changes.
How to Play Barre Chords on a Guitar
Do you want to play barre chords on a guitar? Here’s a guide on how you can do this:
Step 1. Place Your Index Finger Correctly
To get the best chords, ensure that your index finger is straight and close to the fret.
Step 2. Apply Adequate Pressure
Maintain as much even pressure as possible over all of the strings, and experiment to see how much pressure is required to clear the chord without overworking your hand. Find the right balance.
Step 3. Build Your Finger Strength
Learning to play barre chords can be as difficult as learning to fret notes before you had calluses. The key thing is to persevere. With this, you’ll be able to play any barre chord.
Step 4. Adjust Your Finger Positions
To check if you can correct any buzzing or muted strings, move your index finger slightly up or down.
Step 5. Keep Practicing
Devote some of your practice time to barre chords. Make it a point to practice each song with them regularly. Start by replacing a barre for an open chord, then progressively increase the number of barres in the song. Also, learn how to transition from one barre chord to the next.
Step 6. Break down the Barre
Break down the barre chords to bits that are convenient enough for practice. You can work out a routine by starting with your index finger on the first string and first fret till you work your way to the twelfth fret. Also, you keep repeating the sequence till you get better.
Step 7. Try the Ultimate Barre Workout
To achieve this, here’s what to do:
- First, stand with your hands hanging relaxed.
- Extend both hands’ fingers out, then close the fingers into a fist. Simple, isn’t it?
- Then, work your way up to performing it 200 times rapidly, making sure to snap your fingers open and closed all the way each time.
Step 8. Start Higher Up the Neck
Try barring on the fifth fret if your fingers are really weak. Because the tension isn’t as high, it can be much easier than starting on the first fret. Experiment with several positions on the fretboard to see where you feel most at ease, gradually going closer and closer to the first fret
Step 9. Lower Your Guitar Action
Many guitars have high action, making it difficult to produce barre chords. If you feel that your guitar has poor action, take it to your local guitar shop and see if they can tune it to increase comfort and playability. Check the string gauge as well. Barring will be more difficult with heavy strings.
How to Play Barre Chords without Hurting Wrist
Essentially, wrong postures can cause you to hurt your wrist while playing barre chords. This makes holding the guitar properly more difficult.
Here are the steps to take to avoid hurting your wrist when playing barre chords:
- Reduce excess pressure by lowering your elbows and shoulders while remaining relaxed.
- Avoid bending or moving your wrist too far forward.
- Also, you can tilt your upwards for a better posture.
- Make sure that there is sufficient space between the neck and your palm.
- Lastly, ensure your guitar is comfortable enough to play barre chords.
Why Should I Learn Barre Chords?
Essentially, learning barre chords bridges the gap between beginner and intermediate guitarists by improving their technique and musicality.
Besides, the barre chords help to move the open strings on the fretboard so your fingers can move freely. With one form, you can play every major chord by simply moving your fingers down a fret for each step.
What Is the Easiest Way to Hold Barre Chords?
The easiest way to hold barre chords is with just enough pressure. Besides, it takes practice to figure out how much pressure is required to produce a clean chord sound. Anything above that is a waste of energy.
It’s also easier if you let your index finger roll to the side. Moreover, the outer edge of your finger, which is firmer, can make a better bar than the palm side of your finger.
Do Capos Replace Barre Chords?
No, they certainly don’t! Although the barre chords allow your index finger to operate as a capo. However, unlike a capo, a bar chord shape can shift up and down the neck in a single song. A capo can be used to modify the key of a song while still allowing you to play familiar open chord forms.
In summary, barre chords are a key part of playing the guitar. However, learning how to play barre chords may not be one of the easiest things for beginner guitarists.
But, if you can give it the required time and practice, you’ll master it in no time. We hope this article has provided you with enough insights on how to play barre chords and their functions. On the last note, keep this in mind- no pain, no gain!
Have fun practicing!