#1
I took up the electric guitar a couple months ago. I've progressed to the point where I've begun to learn barre chords and have run into what I think might be an uncommon problem.

I was almost immediately able to successfully play most chord shapes (A, E, D, etc...) with a barre on the 1st fret. I was pretty happy about that, because I know alot of new folks have difficulty there.

But I'm finding barring further up the fretboard much, much more difficult. The problem seems to be worst with chord shapes that require more than one finger on the same fret. For example, I can barre an E-chord shape up until about the 9th fret, but can't barre an A-chord or Minor-Dominant 7th chord shapes past the 3rd fret!.

I'm particularly worried because all the stuff on the web seems to suggest that barring is hardest near the nut and that the chords should become easier as you progress up the fretboard. Not for me. And I'm now pretty worried that "I'm not built right" for guitar playing.

This may be somewhat hard to describe without a picture, but the problem seems to be that when my index finger is positioned properly to form the barre (i.e. when my index finger is rotated towarads the neck such that the bony part is pressing down on the strings), the fingers forming the chord shape really want to be spread out - preventing me from playing the chord at all.

I've tried a fair number of things (e.g. making sure my thumb is low, trying to swap the position of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers when making the chord shape, angling the guitar neck away from my body, even holding the guitar "classical stye" so my forearm isn't bent so severly inward) - with no success at all.

I should probably mention that my fingers are quite short, as is my thumb.

Anybody run into this same problem and have specific tips for resolving it?

For whatever reason all the barre chord technique videos on the web that I've come across only depict barring along the lowest frets.
Last edited by ald10 at Sep 16, 2011,
#2
Practice is always the answer.

If you've only been playing a couple of months, it sounds like you're doing OK so far, so you shouldn't worry if there are chords you can't get right yet.

If you're struggling higher up the fretboard, think about how low down you hold your guitar. People may think it looks cool to have it down by their knees, but in reality that is often the cause of issues like this.

Try holding your guitar higher up your body. The higher you hold it, the easier it is to reach further up the fretboard.

Small hands aren't the issue, loads of great guitarists only have small hands, I actually hear of more problems because people with big hands can't fit their fat fingers into some of the chord shapes.

EDIT - just noticed you tried changing how you hold the guitar. So long as you aren't holding it too low, find a position which is comfortable and stick with it. You'll find it easier to pick things up if you aren't always changing how you hold it.

Like I said to start with though: Practice is always the answer. Barre chords take a long time to get right, if you keep working at it you'll get there eventually.
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Last edited by GaryBillington at Sep 16, 2011,
#4
Quote by ald10
I was almost immediately able to successfully play most chord shapes (A, E, D, etc...) with a barre on the 1st fret. I was pretty happy about that, because I know alot of new folks have difficulty there.
The "difficulty" you refer to about playing barre chords at the first fret, is simply brought on by the force required to do so. A lot of it depends on the depth of the string grooves in the top nut. Strings that hang high above the fret board require more force. So, your experiences at this position simply indicate that you're strong enough to get the job done..

Please DO NOT attempt to do anything about it, based on this post. It's strictly an FYI observation.

Quote by ald10
But I'm finding barring further up the fretboard much, much more difficult. The problem seems to be worst with chord shapes that require more than one finger on the same fret. For example, I can barre an E-chord shape up until about the 9th fret, but can't barre an A-chord or Minor-Dominant 7th chord shapes past the 3rd fret!.
Barres way up the neck are to a certain extent aided or abetted by the size of your hands. Someone with fairly large hands will have more trouble compressing their fingers into the smaller fret area.

However when you practice, make a concentrated effort to drop your wrist well under the neck, and keep your index finger parallel with the frets. If you don't do this, and your index finger falls at an angle to the fret you're barring, all you other fingers will be out of position as well, and most of the sound you get will just be buzzing.

Quote by ald10
I'm particularly worried because all the stuff on the web seems to suggest that barring is hardest near the nut and that the chords should become easier as you progress up the fretboard. Not for me. And I'm now pretty worried that "I'm not built right" for guitar playing.
You're just straight up way over thinking this, and drawing conclusions based on factors that have absolutely no correlation

As a beginner, you should be concentrating on getting your wrist under the neck, keeping your fingers bent, and lining up your index finger parallel with the fret you're barring.

A lack of strength and attentiveness can cause a person to fail to do these things correctly, and they can make life long bad habits that will stifle progress.

As a previous poster pointed out, trying to wear the guitar too low, will automatically cause a failure in proper mechanics, especially with a less experienced player.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Sep 17, 2011,
#5
Quote by ald10
I took up the electric guitar a couple months ago. I've progressed to the point where I've begun to learn barre chords and have run into what I think might be an uncommon problem.

I was almost immediately able to successfully play most chord shapes (A, E, D, etc...) with a barre on the 1st fret. I was pretty happy about that, because I know alot of new folks have difficulty there.

But I'm finding barring further up the fretboard much, much more difficult. The problem seems to be worst with chord shapes that require more than one finger on the same fret. For example, I can barre an E-chord shape up until about the 9th fret, but can't barre an A-chord or Minor-Dominant 7th chord shapes past the 3rd fret!.

I'm particularly worried because all the stuff on the web seems to suggest that barring is hardest near the nut and that the chords should become easier as you progress up the fretboard. Not for me. And I'm now pretty worried that "I'm not built right" for guitar playing.

This may be somewhat hard to describe without a picture, but the problem seems to be that when my index finger is positioned properly to form the barre (i.e. when my index finger is rotated towarads the neck such that the bony part is pressing down on the strings), the fingers forming the chord shape really want to be spread out - preventing me from playing the chord at all.

I've tried a fair number of things (e.g. making sure my thumb is low, trying to swap the position of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers when making the chord shape, angling the guitar neck away from my body, even holding the guitar "classical stye" so my forearm isn't bent so severly inward) - with no success at all.

I should probably mention that my fingers are quite short, as is my thumb.

Anybody run into this same problem and have specific tips for resolving it?

For whatever reason all the barre chord technique videos on the web that I've come across only depict barring along the lowest frets.


use your third finger to barre strings 2,3 and 4 when playing A shapes and use your index just to fret the 5th. Most people find it easier that way, easier than E shapes even. Im not sure how you play them but I never have more than one finger in a fret when i play Dom7 chords.