#1
Barring technique has been something I have struggled with for several years.

I am a professional classical pianist, and I have never had any kind of problem that even comes close to this level of difficulty in creating a pure and good tone of sound.

For starters, the upper 3 strings do not ring out when I bar.

The only way I can even get a weak tone is to REALLY clamp down hard with my thumb, and this causes so much pain that I'd prefer to not play that way.

Any tips?
#2
Playing barre chords is more than clamping as hard as you can and killing your hand, and it takes practice and patience, so don't expect to master barre chords in a month.

To help with the technique here this two valuable videos:

E shape barre chords:

http://justinguitar.com/en/IM-111-EShapeMajorMinorBarreChords.php

A shape barre chords:

http://justinguitar.com/en/IM-131-AShapeMajorBarreChords.php

with this you can start playing barre chords with the right technique without bad habits.

And you should check your guitar action, if it's high then it will be much harder to play.

Good luck
#3
When you start playing barre chords it can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn't be painful. You don't need a HUGE amount of pressure to make the notes ring out cleanly, but it needs to be consistent and well placed.

You first finger should be just behind the fret wire, with your thumb on the back of the neck more or less opposite the barring finger.

Here's an article I recently posted on here about playing barre chords, take a look, you might find it helpful.

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/music_theory/oi_youre_barred_-_an_introduction_to_barre_chords.html
#4
Your main problem is that you are using your thumb to apply the pressure needed, when it should be your fingers. You're pushing the neck of the guitar into the strings instead of pushing the strings towards the neck. Your thumb is only there to support the neck. It sounds confusing, and it is quite a fine line, but there is a difference. Once you get used to it, you will start to wonder how you ever had problems with barres. In reallity though, everyone does at some point, so don't worry.

Also, I think you may be using more force than is actually necessary.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#6
well if you're under 21 you can't do bar chords. Try restaurant or food court chords until then.
#7
I will say this, I've been taking lessons for roughly 3 years and I still have trouble with this, so its some sort of weird barrier for me.

Thanks for the advice, I will scan the articles also.
#8
I've been playing for almost 9 years now, and full bar chords still give me problems. Eventually you 'll learn the correct way, but if you don't do them all the time then they tire out your hand real quick if you have to use them alot.

A good setup and strings of a light enough gauge that you can handle makes a world of difference.
#9
If your action is too high, that will make barre chords much more difficult. Is this on an electric guitar or acoustic? I still have to work fairly hard on acoustic guitars, but it's doable (then again, I've never owned a nice acoustic guitar...it's pretty easy on higher end models). Like others have said, it really shouldn't require a tremendous amount of strength. I do barres all day long with my electric which is strung with .13-56s. A proper setup should help.
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Last edited by KailM at Feb 10, 2014,
#10
Are you pressing with your finger flat? If so, try rolling your index slightly on its side towards the headstock. It makes things easier.

Also if you are trying for an F barre on the 6th string 1st fret, that's probably one of the toughest to play, try further up the neck, like the 5th fret (A).
#11
As mentioned above, first see if your action is too high. I initially gave up playing guitar because fretting was such a struggle, particularly bar chords, then took my guitar for a set up and found out the action was really high. When it was lowered, everything was a lot easier (though it still took time to get any good at bar chords).

Second, you might want to look into funk guitar playing. It involves squeezing on bar chords with the fretting hand to create a staccato sound (i.e., instead of letting the chord ring you, you relax your fretting hand but still have contact with the strings, which mutes them). This squeeze/release on the bar chords is an excellent way to build the strength for bar chords, and you may find it is easier to fret a bar chord for just an instant, then relax it, rather than trying to hold a bar chord for a period of sustain. I mean, the squeeze/release will tire you and make your hand ache pretty quick, too, at first, but you build up and get better at both the funk style and holding bar chords. And I find the A-barre was much easier, sooner than the E-barre, since the E-barre shape adds an added string (and the heaviest gauge string and the furthest from the palm muscles) to hold down.

I eased into bar chords very gradually. I tried avoiding songs that used barre chords. But that was too limiting, and I started trying to learn songs that used just one barre (the Bm barre), like American Girl in key of D, which is Am-shape, which I found easier than the Amaj-shape. Then I added in some songs that used F#m (Em barre shape). I slowly added in some songs using Bmaj-bar and then started using Gmaj-bar in lieu of open G, which used Emaj-barre shape. Gradually I started using these bar shapes more, and it was probably 12 months or more from that point that I realized I was using barres up and down the fretboard without much problem.

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#12
Try playing it without the thumb. This way you're know what it feels like to press down
on the strings. Then put the thumb back on.

You'll also notice it'll release tension or strain on your forearm and hand.
If you have a death grip on it all the time, itll just cuase more strain.
You need to let you muscles flex/relax between chords or strums.

If you're play an electric. Strumming it harder isn't going make it sound any louder.
You need to let the amp do it's job. You don't attack notes all the time.
You play some notes/strums softer than others.

I don't really aynolize how I hold my pick because it shifts all the time.
Bu when I strum somehow the pick sticks out more and it's over the side
of the first joint of my index finger. It flex more.
When I pick solos notes, The pick dosnt stick out as much. it gose
to the tip and the bottom of my index finger.
It's always on the side of my thumb...though
It happens fast and naturally. I think my middle finger helps rotate the pick, as needed.
I also tap . So the index finger cups the pick. I tap using the other fingers.
I don't really know how the pick ends up there. It just dose...
Last edited by smc818 at Feb 10, 2014,
#14
Mastering barre chords will come with time. Its also a case of building strength in the fingers and being able to slide between frets with ease without having to drag the fingers out of position, this can happen if you press too hard on the strings, so its best to build strength. Its also important to build speed of changing chords, this will also develop with regular practice.
#15
I've been playing for about 8 months, and I found the best way to build strength for barre chords is to watch TV or keep your mind distracted and practice strumming an F chord (or whatever other barre chords you know) and just strum it until you build the strength you need. It took me about a week to learn barre chords just doing that.
#17
Here's the thing about barre chords- they're repetitive. Typically you'll be playing the root, 5th, octave, 3rd, fifth, octave. To me, thats not really necessary. You can convey similar ideas without expending so much energy by just playing the same chord elsewhere. Or by leaving off those additional octaves and fifths, which literally add no character to the sound.

However, if you go against logic and actually use barre chords, you'll want to know how. First of all, like has been said, push with your fingers and not your thumb. That is very important. Second, do your best to make sure you aren't accidentally muting any strings with your fretting hand.

And finally, do not play with tension in your hand. Tension can literally ruin your hands. You don't want to end up with tendonitis or carpal tunnel.
#18
Here's the thing about barre chords- they're repetitive. Typically you'll be playing the root, 5th, octave, 3rd, fifth, octave. To me, thats not really necessary. You can convey similar ideas without expending so much energy by just playing the same chord elsewhere. Or by leaving off those additional octaves and fifths, which literally add no character to the sound.

However, if you go against logic and actually use barre chords, you'll want to know how. First of all, like has been said, push with your fingers and not your thumb. That is very important. Second, do your best to make sure you aren't accidentally muting any strings with your fretting hand.

And finally, do not play with tension in your hand. Tension can literally ruin your hands. You don't want to end up with tendonitis or carpal tunnel.
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#19
Here's the thing about barre chords- they're repetitive. Typically you'll be playing the root, 5th, octave, 3rd, fifth, octave. To me, thats not really necessary. You can convey similar ideas without expending so much energy by just playing the same chord elsewhere. Or by leaving off those additional octaves and fifths, which literally add no character to the sound.

However, if you go against logic and actually use barre chords, you'll want to know how. First of all, like has been said, push with your fingers and not your thumb. That is very important. Second, do your best to make sure you aren't accidentally muting any strings with your fretting hand.

And finally, do not play with tension in your hand. Tension can literally ruin your hands. You don't want to end up with tendonitis or carpal tunnel.
You make very little sense sir.

Apart from the last bit it's pretty much all nonsense.
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#20
Quote by steven seagull
You make very little sense sir.

Apart from the last bit it's pretty much all nonsense.


Well, no. You don't see many Jazz players using full barre chords. In fact they rely on other instruments such as the bass, piano, wind etc to hold down root and fifth, whilst they comp using the 3rd and 7th and whatever "colouring" notes (9th, 11th, b5, #5 etc) they want to use to add to the sound.

I rarely use full barre chords these days when playing. But of course I can play them. I did learn them and occasionally they are useful mainly when fingerpicking, but when comping I mainly use partial barre's or no barre chords. It depends on what other instruments you are playing with and what effect you want.

But he's correct to say full barre's are redundant. Take a full barre E shape, you have three roots, on the 6th, 4th and 1st string, a fifth on the 5th string and 2nd string, and a single third on the 3rd string.

But I would always advise a beginner to learn how to play them. They are useful for learning the positions of notes and of course some styles of music use them much more than others.

The way I learnt - and the way I build up strength again if I have to lay off playing - is to tune down my acoustic by a whole tone and play barre chords on it for a few weeks, then tune up a half step for a few more weeks, and then finally back to pitch. Nice and easy does it.
Last edited by deano_l at Feb 17, 2014,
#21
Barre chords are pretty easy with a proper technique. It's not about strength at all. You can do barre chords without your thumb even touching the neck. They should take no more pressure than regular chords. Having said that I know it's really tricky as a beginner to get the right hand position.

It does help to roll the barring finger so you fret on the tougher side of the finger and have it slightly bent. Also if you need a little more pressure on the strings then don't press harder but use leverage to put more pressure on. Do this by making sure your thumb is a few frets further down the neck than the barre. Try to keep your wrist straight and use arm muscles for leverage.
#22
Quote by wiggedy
Exactly how NOT to do it, watch the video. (you might learn something)
Oooo

I'm sorry I was trying to help and that's the way I was taught and it works perfectly for me. I've seen a lot of professional musicians barre the same way too. I guess we're all wrong then.

I'll not jump in with advice about things I clearly don't understand in future.

Good luck to the OP and I hope you find something that works for you soon.
#23
^^ Same could be said about you.
Out of curiosity, I tried the technique in the vid. It didn't work well, because of my strat's curved fretboard - the top and bottom strings buzzed out a bit. If the fretboard was flat, it would of worked out fine; however, I don't like having my fingers splayed out all over the place; it feels r e t a r d e d.
Last edited by J-E-M at Feb 18, 2014,
#24
Barre chords are a bit harder to play on a thinner neck. A fatter, rounder neck is MUCH easier. I don't know what kind you have, but it might help.

Playing a barre chord on my Ibanez is painful after a few minutes, but on the Les Paul it's easy and painless.

Just an idea...
#25
I didn't read all the posts, so I apologize if someone already said this, but try fretting the note on the low E string with your thumb. It is SO much easier once you get in the habit of doing them this way.
#26
I've read that Jimi Hendrix used to use his thumb. I don't think I've ever seen any pics or footage of Jimi using the barre position. Its useful as it allows independence for changing bass notes with the thumb if desired.
#27
Quote by Stephen Quinn
I've read that Jimi Hendrix used to use his thumb. I don't think I've ever seen any pics or footage of Jimi using the barre position. Its useful as it allows independence for changing bass notes with the thumb if desired.

Hendrix had his thumb over the neck because his hands were absolutely massive. He had no choice. His hands were so big that having his thumb behind the neck simply wasn't an option. Anyone with normal sized or even large hands shouldn't have to do it. You should only have your thumb over the neck for bends, vibrato, and a few chords that need it.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#29
I think both Sephiroth976 and Celebelena identified the solution. The strength of the index finger applied "flat" to the finger board is weak (but perhaps enough for classical guitar a la wiggedy and the video). The strength of the index finger on the finger board when rolled toward the nut (so the index's side surface closest to the nut is touching the finger board) is quite strong. Similarly, for the barre chords that use the ring finger, roll that one the other way toward the bridge.
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