Barre Chords

By learning a few basic forms, you'll be able to play any song in any key. For those guitarists that have been stuck playing "easy guitar" versions of song.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Barre Chords Denny Straussfogel For those guitarists that have been stuck playing "easy guitar" versions of songs or not playing certain songs at all I guarantee that learning barre chords will be the single biggest leap you will ever make in playing ability, and it's no where near as difficult as some folks think. (I'm really not overstating this! By learning a few basic forms, you'll be able to play any song in any key. So when you see all those C#m7, you'll think "no problem" rather than "I can't play that.") The key to playing barre chords is developing the ability to "barre" (fret) all six strings of the guitar with your index finger. Of course, you have to do this "cleanly" and get a good tone out of all six strings. I suggest you start by holding the guitar in the "classical" position with the body of the guitar on the LEFT knee (I'll assume you're playing a right-handed guitar) and the neck held up at a 45 degree angle. This puts your left hand in a much better position for everything. (You'll be amazed at how much more speed and "reach" you'll have and you can always return to playing with the guitar in some old familiar position once you've mastered this technique. ) Since everyone's index finger is shaped a little differently, you may have to experiment a little to get a good tone. Usually contact is made towards the side of the index finger rather than right on the flat part. You have to have your thumb pushing against the back of the neck, not wrapped around it. Just pinch the neck between thumb and index finger, with your finger covering all six strings (at the fret of your choice) and work until you get a passable tone from all the strings. This might not happen all at once; you need to build up alittle strength, and toughness on your finger. (I've never developed a callous there, as on the fingertips, but it has gotten a little tougher. ) Anyway, this is usually the most frustrating part of learning barre chords. Don't give up if it doesn't sound great at first, it will with practice. Now to the chord forms. The only theory you need to know is that the frets on a guitar are analogous to the keys on a piano. Since you'll be fretting all six strings you can move the entire chord for an F chord up one fret and you'll be playing an F# chord. One more fret and you'll be playing a G chord, one more a G# chord, and so on until you run out of fretboard. So you can see, by learning a single form, you can play as many chords as you have frets. There are two basic forms, and they can be converted into minors and/or sevenths by simply raising a finger. One form requires a finger rearrangement to do the minor, so you could call it a different form. Okay, so there are three forms. By learning these three forms, you can play any, yes ANY major chord, seventh chord, minor chord, or minor seventh chord. (B-flat minor seventh? No problem! ) Major sevenths and major ninths are easy too once you get the barring down. So here are the forms. Let's barre the 3rd fret and look at the form for a G chord there ("I" indicates fretting with index finger, "m" with middle finger, "r" with ring finger, and "p" with pinky. This might be an unusual diagram format, but it's what you see when looking over the top of the neck)
G chord 
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
to form a seventh, simply lift your pinky
G7 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
to form the minor, put back your pinky, and lift your middle finger (You can use your middle finger to help with the barre until your strength increases. )
Gm chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
to get a minor seventh, raise both middle and pinky fingers
Gm7 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
Now remember the utility in this is that if you slide everything up one fret you'll be playing a G#, G#7, G#m, and G#m7, respectively. Slide up another fret and you've got A, A7, Am, and Am7, and so on right up the fret board. In the opposite direction if you slide everything down one fret from the "G" position, you'll have F#, F#7, F#m, and F#m7. One more, fret down and you'll have something that should be somewhat familiar, at least on the four high strings, an F, F7, Fm, and Fm7. Actually, if you slide one more fret down, using the nut of the guitar as your barre, you're back to an E, E7, Em, and Em7, which you probably already know, using different fingers. Okay, now the second form. Again, barre the 3rd fret and a C chord is played as
C chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
to get the seventh, raise you ring finger
C7 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
Note: The sixth string (E) is not fretted or played. The fifth string (A) is the root note of the chord. The minor is the same basic form with the second string dropped a fret, but the fingering needs to be rearranged, hence, a third form which is really an extension of the second. Also, you'll notice this is similar to the "G" form given above, with the fingers all moved up a string.
Cm chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
and the minor seventh by raising your pinky
Cm7 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
And finally, major seventh, and major ninths played out of this form as
Cmaj7 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
Cmaj9 chord
e||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
As in the first form, by moving the whole thing up or down the fret board you can play as many different chords as you have frets. One last word. Persevere. It may be a little frustrating at first, but if you force yourself to practice and play using the barre chords, your strength will increase, your hand will stop cramping, and you'll be able to play all songs in the book. Good luck. Denny Straussfogel Postscript for the adventurous: To play a ninth chord (not a major ninth, just a ninth) you need to barre the three high strings with your RING finger. These chords are found in a lot of mellow jazz pieces. The form for a C9 is
C9 chord
e||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
D||---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
The first (bass) string is muted (not played). As usual, move it up or down the fret board and you've got any ninth you want.

124 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Supadude
    Great lesson! When I was forced to learn F i thought OMG im never gonna be able to play nice songs! But after you struggled with it you'll learn all you noobs!!
    justwannasay
    i got a question: how to play a barre chord with 2 strings? i always hit a other string with my finger please help nice tut anyways
    toomuchair1989
    I'd just like to say that I used to HATE barre chords, but now thanks to this lesson, I got much better at them. Thanks a lot!
    muse77
    I was hoping I could find this lesson somewhere!!! I almost felt too stupid to ask... now my hand really hurts but at least I can play a decent tune. Which is good coz all my favourite songs want me to play ones with my fingers everywhere, and that just annoyed me.
    sjoerdje
    Thanks for this great lesson, it really helped me out on the barre chords!
    Brad204
    wow, great lesson. before i read this i just played the chords that they showed on the tab...and now i know thier names! huzzah anyway good lesson
    Lotrean
    wait, what's the difference between C and Cmaj ??? I thought thats the same.. help?
    ihatethischord
    Lenn0n wrote: ive been tring barre chords for ages now and still cannot fret every string. it is really starting to get annoying. can somebody out there PLEASE help.
    you have to have a stronger wrinst for barre chords i finally got used to them
    Lenn0n
    ive been tring barre chords for ages now and still cannot fret every string. it is really starting to get annoying. can somebody out there PLEASE help.
    Lenn0n
    I've been trying barre chords for a long time now and still cant fret the A string. Can somebody please help? Are there any tips for me please. I have tried every finger position and if I fret the A then another string wont fret.
    guitar98765432
    This is the best lesson on the site Ive ben having trouble wit bar chords for a while and now i can finally do it cheers
    bandgeek10
    I was wondering, is it considered wrong to play Bb, B, C, etc. bar chords like this: eI-35-I BI-35-I GI-35 -I DI-35-I AI-35-I EI- ---I Where this is a C bar chord and you are puting your index finger to bar on the 3rd fret, and your ring finger to bar on the 5th fret...That's how I play them, at least on my electric guitar, and I've seen a lot of other people play them like this too. Though it is somewhat frustrating playing them like this on an acoustic guitar.
    btk
    i need one of those pipe over the finger thingy's due to being such a wuss! lol great lesson tho, how many times i've looked at chords, even as simple as Fmaj and thought a.) i don't have enough fingers and b.) that must be a typo! fantastic to know it's achievable. Pass the bandaids.
    sethnuva
    what about chords like G# and other sharp chords how would you do that
    joseph_khalkho
    tell me if i will use my pinky fingure only in chord c like this C chord e||---|---|-i-|--- |---|---|---|---|---|---| ---|--- B ||---|---|-i-|- --|-p-|---|---|---|---|-- -|---|--- G||---|- --|-i- |---|-p-|---|---|---|---| ---|---|--- D||---|---|- i- |---|-p-|---|---|---|-- -|---|---|--- A||---|--- |-i-|---|-- -|---|---|---| ---|---|---|--- E||---|- --|-x-|---|---|---|- --|-- -|---|---|---|--- is it true or not ?
    Bozza
    thats cool man i can see me getting a bit of ues out of this good stuff
    airlinemusic
    For those who like charts, some chords for various keys: Key of E Key of C Key of G #: CDFG #:F E EG#B EGB Em Em EGB F#m F#AC# FAC F F#dim F#AC G#m G#BD# GBD G G GBD A AC#E ACE Am Am ACE B BD#F# BDF Bdim Bm BDF# C#m C#EG# CEG C C CEG D#dim D#F#A DFA Dm D DF#A Key of D Key of A Key of B #: FC #: FCG #:FCGDA Em EGB E EG#B E EG#B F#m F#AC# F#m F#AC# F# F#A#C# G GBD G#dim G#BD G#m G#BD# A AC#E A AC#E A#dim A#C#E Bm BDF# Bm BDF# B BD#F# C#dim C#EG C#m C#EG# C#m C#EG# D DF#A D DF#A D#m D#F#A# It all has to do with the chord formula: KEYS: I ii iii IV V vi vii viii C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C D Em F#m G A Bm C#dim D Note widths are Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half for these major scales. A half note separates EF and BC. The notes: 12345678 CDEFGABC The chords: C(CEG), Dm(DFA).... Cma7 (CEGB) If a song used E5 A5 and B5 the key is E (I IV V). If the Whole(W) and Half(H or 1/2) pattern is not WWHWWWH the the chord is a minor (a half note in wrong place) or diminished (two half notes in the pattern). C (CEG): C W W E H W G W W B H C Dm (DFA): D W H F W W A Em (EGB): E H W G W W B F (FAC): F W W A W H C G (GBD): G W W B H W D Am (ACE): A W H C W W E Bdim(BDF): B H W D W H F All guitar frets are 1/2 note separations, piano black keys are 1/2 above note at left ( called a sharp (#) ) or 1/2 below note at right ( called flat (b) ). Chord notes are counted as root(1), 3rd and 5th thus CEG and the rest. Which came first I don't know but Pythagoras put down many keys after finding tube chimes or strings sound the same if cut in half but give a different sound with a 2/3 length. The rest is history.
    patar
    thanks for the help. i've learned so much in just 30 mins. by the way. u have to pay for my broken hand. just kidding!
    adamdg89
    thanx i used to have trouble barreing now i can do it yeeah go me!great lesson
    bigandy
    awesome lesson - looked at it ages ago but still got one problem; thumb cramp. i play a fair bit but i still/always get cramp after half a song on barre's. anyone else get that?
    Dirtmerchant
    dude, i can barre now! thanx oh, and lol @ Shaggadellicfuz. just bc u can play a certain type of chord, doesnt mean that u can write songs anywhere NEAR the level of Nirvana
    Creve
    far out dude!!! u have no idea how much this is gonna help me...
    M-ilos
    I have a question. It's kind of hard to explain but what I want to know is if you are able to play a C or G chord as if you were playing with a capo on third fret (G). I've been trying to move up the C barre chord to all kinds of positions but I can get the sound I want. The reason I want to know is because, if this is possible you wont, technicaly, need a capo to play the songs who should be played with a Capo. So if anyone knows if it's possible or how to do it please respond Btw. Nice lesson I think this lesson can help many guys out there
    Clandestine1
    Once you master this, you're officially better than Kurt Cobain. And Billie Joe Armstong.
    so learning barre chords immediately imbues you with more songwriting talent than them? :O anyway, nice lesson.
    the5thlibertine
    Thanks my friend, i'll just practice with the side of my finger instead of attempting the impossible by using the base! Thanks a lot. And to be honest Shaggadellicfuz, you cannot amount yourself to seminal genius such as Kurt, simply because you have mastered the barre chords.
    jamessims
    for those who don't like the way the publisher of the lesson has explained barre chords is it better to learn them like this the basic tablature version of the A# barre chord..... E|-5- G|-5- B|-6- D|-8- A|-7- E|-5-
    smoky_2_
    -bat-parade- wrote: Did anyone else notice C#m7 isn't a barre chord? It's E|-4- B|-0- G|-4- D|-2- A|-4- E|-x- That 's C#m7
    thats the open form.. you can barre it by changing those fret positions..
    SRV16
    awesomeness, people you like u are a great benefit to us self taught players
    emily forsberg
    alright so ive only been playing about a month, and im learning really proficiently, but i cant seem to get barre chords or anything. and right now im learning this great song that requires F, is there any easy way to play it besides the barre chord way?