Barre Chord Forms

author: UG Team date: 08/31/2003 category: for beginners
rating: 7.6 / votes: 27 
This is a subject that I thought a lot of others would be interested in too so I'll start by describing what a barre chord is. A barre chord is created when you use one finger to fret more that one note at a time. For example your first finger may be required to barre across all six strings to help form a chord. I'm going to show you some barre chord "forms" as well as give you some tips on how to make sure you play them properly. I've seen several names assigned to these forms but I like to call them after their "open chord" form since that's what they're based on. The two forms I'll discuss here are the E form and the A form. Now, once you understand these two forms, you'll be able to play any major, minor, dominant 7th, minor 7th, suspended 4th etc... chord because you'll be barring them up and down the neck depending on which one you play. OK... here's our basic open E major chord. Your finger numbers are in parentheses.
E --o------
B --o------
G --1-(1)--
D --2-(3)--
A --2-(2)--
E --o------
Now you can also create an F major chord with an E form barre chord at the first fret like so.
E Form F Major Barre Chord
E --1-(1)--
B --1-(1)--
G --2-(2)--
D --3-(4)--
A --3-(3)--
E --1-(1)--
One important thing to know here is the names and locations of the root note of the chord you're playing. We know that the sixth string open is E, therefore the sixth string played at the first fret is F. Consequently, an E form barre chord at the seventh fret is a B major chord like so:
E Form B Major Barre Chord
E --7-(1)--
B --7-(1)--
G --8-(2)--
D --9-(4)--
A --9-(3)--
E --7-(1)--
Got it? Cool. Now as long as you know your other E form open chords like Em, E7, Em7 etc... you'll be able to translate those chord shapes up and down the neck at different frets. Ok, let's have a look at an A form barre chord. I remember when I was learning this one and having to practice a lot to get it clean. Here's our basic open A major chord. Again, your finger numbers are in parentheses.
E --o------
B --2-(3)--
G --2-(2)--
D --2-(1)--
A --o------
E --x------
Can you see what's coming? You're going to have to be able to barre the three notes on the D, G and B strings as well as the root note two frets lower. Again, you'll need to learn the notes on the fifth string in order to know what fret to make your A form barre chords. Here, I'll use the A form, E major barre chord at the seventh fret like so... A Form, E major Barre Chord:
E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
You may be thinking right about this time that I'm nuts but I can actually play this chord nice and clean... but I started out by only playing it this way...
E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
... and worked my way up from there. As a matter of fact, I never even practiced fretting the first string with my first finger... it just kinda fell into place after I got the third finger to barre the D, G and B strings properly. So try working up to this chord a little at a time in three steps:
1.
E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------


2.
E --x------
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------


3.
E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
When you're ready to try the final chord above, use your first finger to barre strings five thru one, then try resting your third finger on the first string (barring all four strings with your third finger). Then slowly raise the part of your third finger that's on the first string until it's ringing freely at the first finger barre. Again, the A form barre chords can be played just like the open forms... Am, Am7, Asus2, Asus4 etc. You can also use a D shaped barre (or any open shape really). This is a Dsus2 open chord:
E|--0------
B|--3-(3)--
G|--2-(2)--
D|--0------
A|---------
E|---------
You can slide this shape around also, as shown:
F#sus2 barre chord, Dsus2 Form
E|--4-(1)--
B|--7-(4)--
G|--6-(3)--
D|--4-(1)--
A|---------
E|---------
Another thing I'd like to point out is the action of your guitar. "Action" is how easy (or hard) it is to press the strings down to the neck to get a clean fretted note. If you're just starting out with barre chords, you should use a guitar with low or "easy" action. This will save you from frustration as well as physical pain from pressing down so hard while your hands are getting used to this technique. Once you get the idea, I suggest practicing on a higher action guitar just for strength training. Heck, to this day, I still warm up on my classical guitar so when I get on my electric, it's like slicing butter! I hope this helps a little in your quest for barre chords. They are absolutely an essential part of your technique. - Will Landrum.
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