#1
So, I've been working on it for about 20 minutes a day for some odd six months and I'm still not mastering the barre chords. I've seen most youtube videos, read most how-to's, including a few on here, and I still can't lick it. AND my guitar has very low strings (close to the fret - I realized this after playing my old nylon string which has its strings a good centimeter or more from the fret).
I guess there isn't much more to do than keep on working at it, but if anyone here ever had the same problem - what made you crack it? I've tried using the side of the index finger and all... The only way I can sort of do it is if I bend my thumb on the back of the fret and really squeeze. That sort of makes it sound OK, but not the way it's supposed to.
For some reason I can just barely make a Fm chord, perhaps because the not-barre formation is so easy, but Bb and Bm - which are the ones I want - are out of reach...

L'ill help? Pointers?
#2
Hey, I'm an amateur but when I was first starting out I used to do partial barres. Try barring EB/EBG and leave the thick E string out then slowly work your way up to a full 6 string barre. It's really just muscle memory and repetition. Goodluck!
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#3
The problem is that the barre chords you get introduced to first are the hardest ones to play which kind makes them seem even harder.

Practice the technique on the higher frets, around the 5th or 7th is good, then as you start to get the hang of them there gradually move down the frets.
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#4
Thanks guys. Already tried practicing at 7th or 9th fret, but heck I can even do that right... But I guess what y'all saying is: keep at it, slick? And I'll try that EBG-whatchamacallit too.
#5
.
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Sep 13, 2016,
#6
I never saw Doc Watson, John Fahey, or Merle Travis use a barre chord. I'm not saying they never used barre chords or couldn't do barre chords, I'm just saying I never saw those guys use a "conventional" barre. And those guys were amazing guitar players. Merle used to thumb the neck in lieu of barres. Fahey...I've seen doing something similar to a barre, but since he used so many weird tunings I hesitate to call it a proper barre.

Barres are just a tool in the box, like musical theory, scales, etc. If you try to use them, you will improve. It's that simple. It might take forever, but you'll eventually improve. That being said I suck at barres. I find it so awkward switching between barres and opens. I only know a couple barre chords also: the C9, and the E ("fancy F chord"). I'm improving on the E barre, but the thing holding me back is the middle finger. I can put the barre down very well, and the ring finger, but the middle gives me problems.

Anyway...there's nothing wrong with Cowboy style. I can play some really pretty stuff without barres. On the other hand I've improved my ear enough that when I improvise sometimes I'll know my next chord should be "higher", if that makes any sense, but because I'm limited to cowboy style I'm unable to, um, "complete" the improvisation (also due to my ignorance of musical theory), whereas if I was using a barre I'd simply slide it up the neck. Don't know if that makes sense.

I'd recommend just sliding the F barre up and down the neck of the guitar and playing it. Just the 4 string F chord. Then when that gets boring easy....make it a 5 string F and repeat. Then 6 string. Practice makes perfect, they say.
Last edited by TobusRex at Sep 9, 2016,
#7
Maybe this will sound strange but barre chords are not only muscle memory but also strenght. I remember when i first got the hang of them i could only play one song before my forearm and hand were really sore. Now i dont feel it at all not even after 10 songs. So yeah my advice would be to stick with it, dont take the easy route and you'll get there eventually. All the best!
#8
Quote by JDtooshort
Maybe this will sound strange but barre chords are not only muscle memory but also strenght. I remember when i first got the hang of them i could only play one song before my forearm and hand were really sore. Now i dont feel it at all not even after 10 songs. So yeah my advice would be to stick with it, dont take the easy route and you'll get there eventually. All the best!


Yeah, that's another issue. After "practicing" barres for a half an hour, my hand is sore, close to cramping and my finger throbbing. It can't be right to have to press the finger that hard against the fret, and pressing the guitar itself against my stomach, but I guess that's how you practice.
Again, it werd that I can manage Fm, but maybe that's because that chord sounds sort of... discondant-y anyway?

What I can't wrap my brain aroumd, is watching guitar players one youtube, they do barre chords and it looks like they're not even pressing down hard at all. They seem to just hover the index finger over the fret, but I guess that's just an illusion. And they're playing electric, which - I gather - is easier to play barre chords on.
#9
Quote by AnrBjotk

What I can't wrap my brain aroumd, is watching guitar players one youtube, they do barre chords and it looks like they're not even pressing down hard at all. They seem to just hover the index finger over the fret, but I guess that's just an illusion. And they're playing electric, which - I gather - is easier to play barre chords on.


Ah yes i remember that 2. Everyone else could do it effortlessly and i seemed like i was working out or something. But it gets better. Just stick with it, soon you,ll be one of those guys on youtube effortlessly pressing it down!
#10
I honestly never thought I would be able to do a barre in my life, I almost quit with frustration but I got it in the end, I still have minor trouble with C# and Eb in certain positions but if I can't play it I simplify it by inverting it or changing key.
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#11
Quote by SirEngelbert
I honestly never thought I would be able to do a barre in my life, I almost quit with frustration but I got it in the end, I still have minor trouble with C# and Eb in certain positions but if I can't play it I simplify it by inverting it or changing key.


How long did it take you? Was it less than 2 years? And what is the key? (pun intended, as I'm sure "minor trouble" was too) Pure strength? Dexterity?
#12
Quote by AnrBjotk
How long did it take you? Was it less than 2 years? And what is the key? (pun intended, as I'm sure "minor trouble" was too) Pure strength? Dexterity?
It took me nearly a year, but I didn't really practise as much as I should have, it just sorta clicked one day y'know? For practicing barres I recommend using an acoustic, it makes electric feel like childs play.
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#13
Quote by SirEngelbert
It took me nearly a year, but I didn't really practise as much as I should have, it just sorta clicked one day y'know? For practicing barres I recommend using an acoustic, it makes electric feel like childs play.


Well, I've been trying for at least two years. Practicing every day, more or less, for six months. No go. And, like I said, I use acoustic, steel string, with extremely low strings (close to fret). Never played electric in my life, though it's the big dream to do so.

BTW I tried playing barring EB/EBG and it sounded more awful than not barring (i.e. just pressing down low E on second batt instead of barring the entire fret on a Bm)
#14
Quote by AnrBjotk
Well, I've been trying for at least two years. Practicing every day, more or less, for six months. No go. And, like I said, I use acoustic, steel string, with extremely low strings (close to fret). Never played electric in my life, though it's the big dream to do so.

BTW I tried playing barring EB/EBG and it sounded more awful than not barring (i.e. just pressing down low E on second batt instead of barring the entire fret on a Bm)
Hmm... It sounds like you're having more of a technique problem? Either that or you have extremely high gauge strings. I'm sorry that I'm not much help, but don't let this discourage you. I know people who taken months to yearrs to be able to hold a barre properly.
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#15
AnrBjotk

I've just learned barre chords so I can share a few things from my experience with them if that helps at all. I've only been learning guitar 8+ months all together and started focusing on barre chords about 2 months ago. I don't feel like it's a matter of super strength to accomplish barre chords, but have you tried pulling in with the bicep rather than clamping harder with your hand? You may also want to pay attention to the angle of your elbow. For example, when I play a barre closer to the body of the guitar, I find I need to move the elbow slightly away from my body to get a little leverage, particularly with the Em shape, because I need more pressure on the ring and small fingers than on the index finger barre. I also have found it helpful to focus, not on DOING the barre, not on the motion I'm trying to do, but, rather, on the sensation of the strings against my fingers. If I pay attention to the feel of strings, I can then detect small places where, for instance, my barre isn't really straight, or my fingers have released pressure too soon or whatever. I find it's making those tiny adjustments that make the notes sound clear, not pressing harder. One other thing that may help is to try to let the weight of your hand do a lot of the work. In other words, relax your shoulder and arm more so that your fingers almost hang off the neck, rather than trying to clamp onto the neck. You may find you have a lot more strength using gravity than you do gripping. Once you can do them, it's really awesome, because then you have all chords at your disposal. Good luck!
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Last edited by sunrader2000 at Sep 14, 2016,
#16
I would have the guitar set up by a pro who understands "the barre chord problem" .. for an acoustic..even after a pro set up..use a capo..

ok..this problem should not take months to conquer (much less years) ..

things to realize: barre chords are using your first finger to bar..fingers 2 3 4 are foming an "E shape" chord with the 5th in the base.. voiced -- 5 1 3

so lets rip apart the problem and solve it..lets start at the 5th fret with the goal of forming an "A" Barre chord
lets get that E shape chord first-use fingers 432..just rest your fingers on top of the strings DONT depress them on the fret board yet.
now..slowly..depress them and release the pressure..(don't strum yet) note how much pressure you are using vs what is needed to really depress the strings..make adjustments..
now..just bounce on the strings but don't take your fingers off them..press release..now same exercise..move up and down the neck until you feel comfortable to do this..when you feel comfortable..return to original position..relax your hand (flex your fingers-open and close them-relax neck and shoulder muscles..deep breaths)

ok that's the hard part..and you have HALF of the barre chord beat..now with the TIP of your first finger add it to the chord..don't depress any note yet..just rest on top of the strings..now..slowly..depress and release the four notes..do this until you can feel how much pressure is necessary to depress the notes..ok now bounce-press release but keep fingers on the strings..move this up and down the neck and return to original position..(we are not strumming yet)
now..a slight adjustment to the exercise..this time you are going to use the PAD of your first finger to barre strings E A D..use the top joint of your finger.you may bend it back slightly at the joint..now..press and release the strings (don't take your finger off the strings)..then bounce..then move up and down the neck..return to original position..RELAX all muscles..breath..

ok if your comfortable at this point..do ALL the exercises after each one relax breath take a small break..you are now only two notes away from a full barre chord..feel good at your progress (this is actually an intense exercise forming this "bitch" of a chord...allow an hour for this practice)

ok..final part..just using your first finger - using the pad part..this time DONT bend but just barre it flat on strings E A D..now just rest you first finger flat on the strings on the 5th fret..don't depress yet..just rest .. now slowly..just depress and release..again pay attention how much pressure is required to depress the strings-adjust...(at this point your thumb-wrist-hand position should be comfortable to you..not straining you -- don't need to tense your upper arm/shoulder/neck)..breath as you do this..move up and down the neck..return to original position..relax breath..

the end..again just your first finger.flat on all the strings at the 5th fret..bounce up and down ..NOW..when you depress on the bounce..play just the high E string (the A note)..repeat until it rings clearly..if it does .. move up and down neck return to original position...same routine relax breath..
same exercise--only this time play just the B string (E note)..same routine..do this until you get the note to ring true.

now...form a full bar chord..just rest on top of the strings...then bounce..then move up and down the neck relax breath...

ready? form full bar bounce up and down..this time on the down strum all the strings ..

hoping you can hear each note with out trying to push your fingers through the fret board..do practice this routine for a couple of weeks until it becomes second nature..

hope this helps
play well

wolf
#17
wrist behind the fretboard, not below it! that way, some of the fretting is accomplished just because the bottom portion of your barring finger is being pulled so close to the fretboard by your wrist position.
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#18
When you are good at barres they shouldn't be any more difficult than an open chord. It takes a while to perfect, but shouldn't take you too long to get them down good enough for strumming along. I play fingerstyle so sometimes I'm literally forced to place the chord down perfectly, all fingers at once.

Strength? Cramping? Nah. I don't buy it. I can play them on a steel string acoustic without hardly any fatigue. You will be surprised how little strength you actually need. A few tips that got me going.

1. You will need to find the optimum position for the index finger. Roll it to the side. Move it up toward you. Move it down toward the floor. Experiment. You can also curl it so it looks kinda like a backward C, cus sometimes you only really need to be holding down the 6th, 2nd and 1st strings (or even just the 5th and 1st if you're doing a barre on the 5th string). If you have skinny fingers like me then it's likely that the index finger will need to bar in different positions depending on the type of chord (E shape, E7 shape, A shape ,etc...).

2. Try keep the other fingers as close to their respective fret as possible. This reduces the pressure required.

3. Place the thumb in the centre behind your middle finger for the best leverage.

4. Use the weight of your arm to pull your fingers down onto the fretboard. Let your elbow drop and allow gravity to apply the pressure. On an acoustic I still need to pinch the thumb and index slightly, but on nylon or electric you can sometimes get away with ONLY using the weight of your arm. This means absolutely no cramping or strength is required! Pretty amazing.

And when you are practicing be sure to think about tension at all times. Do your fingers feel really tense? Bad. A good way to test is to hold the chord then lift the middle finger, place it back down, lift the ring, place down, lift pinky. This ensures that you have free movement of each finger and it forces you to have a light touch. If you're really pressing down hard your fingers will lock up and making these movements is very difficult. Another good approach is to place the chord but don't push down on the strings, just touch the strings... then a couple of seconds later, push down and sound the chord, then lift to mute, and repeat. The idea is to really learn and feel the difference between the two, it really highlights how little pressure is needed (after all, you are only pushing some strings down by ~1mm).
Last edited by gweddle.nz at Sep 13, 2016,
#19
Thank you so much for your in-depth tutorials and replies, especially wolflen and gweddle.nz.

In fact, wolflen, with your step-by-step, I managed to make a pretty decent F (proper barre) chord. But the darn thing is my Bm still sounds like shite. Or a cat getting its tail stuck in the door. Explain that... I can't. Perhaps it's the farther distance from the index finger. When trying to do a Bm (the holy grail) the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers get all tangled up and end up muting the strings (i.e. I cant manage to just use the tip of the fingers)

I'm still completely confused about what to do with my thumb. As I've mentioned, I can almost make barres if I bend my thumb at the back of the fret (so it forms a backwards seven) as if, somehow, then the index finger is clamped into place, but if I try and straighten it it becomes a awful noise again.

I might quit my job and make mastering barres my full time occupation. Would still take half my life. Or at least it feels that way.
#20
AnrBjotk

You can sound a barr chord without any use of the thumb. You can lift it off the back of the neck and still play a bar. It's not particularly enjoyable to play that way but it highlights how little thumb pressure you need. Again, remember the bar doesn't need to press down on every string. With a Bm it only needs to press down the 5th and 1st string on the 2nd fret - so don't go applying more pressure than necessary.

I do tend to do a backward bend in my thumb too at times, which is fine, just so long as you aren't pressing too hard and locking it up.

But bear in mind, no matter what you do, eventually it gets easier. You do something a million times over and you are bound to improve.