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.

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124 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Jusb
    G chord e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- B||---|- --|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- G||---|---|-i-|-m -|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- D||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|--- |---|---|---|---|---|--- A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---| ---|---|---|--- E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|- --|--- Is it possible to play Gmaj7 in this form?
    Trit
    Awesome lesson, thank you very much! My next goal with guitar is to really start using Barre chords frequently, and you've made me happy, because they aren't as hard as I had thought!
    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..
    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?
    dylennon
    When doing a G barre chord, what is it called when you lift your middle and ring finger, leaving your pinky in its original position?
    [Pure]
    roxgal50 wrote: Thanks for this page, but one question: I taught myself to "play", and i always tend to use my middle finger as the main one (instead of index). It seems stronger. Is that wrong?
    If you do that you won't be able to play any Major,Major ninths or Major seventh Barre Chords. These all require 3 fingers infront of the barring finger, and since you only got 2 after ur middle . .
    supea
    if you can't make nice sound of barre try put your finger differently. You know? Just try...
    guitarPlyrAdan
    thanks for the lesson. what about cminor9 though? does that slide down the fretboard to make other chords too? its 865333 right? thanks
    Hawkatex
    now that was great! not to talk that I'm a great noob (2nd month of fooling around with the guitar). Couldn't do really all, but this lesson is so nice structured and comprehensible, thanks a lot!
    bluesubno6
    Thanks for the theory behind barre chords. I've been able to form them, but this really helped explain how to use them. Good lesson.
    lorenzobgn
    I have problem going to a major bare chord. Letssay ima playing a E major chord and I want to go to a A barre chord. Is there an a way to do it or should i slid my fingers to position then barre the 5 frt
    -bat-parade-
    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
    Prog_Metal_Head
    Good lesson. I'm trying to get into Barre Chords and stuff and this helped a great deal! One problem I have is that to get my index finger across the whole fretboard I really need to bend my wrist outwards which hurts after a few minutes. Any ideas?
    chriswest
    The clearest explanation of barre chords I have read. Helped me start playing the basic forms in 20 mins also liked the explanation of progressing from F->F#->G etc.Better than the instructional DVD's i've bought.Thanks.
    Jiggzy.UK
    I'm burning you at the stake for that left knee business...It's witchcraft. How can my reach get that much better just by doing that instead?!
    Kale Good
    I found this exercise in a classical guitar technique book (Kitarologus, by Ricardo Iznaola) and adapted it for beginners trying to get comfy with barre chord. I've not seen it in any of the barre chord videos or lessons that I've checked out, so I made a recording of it to get the word out.
    fftt1
    Is it cool if i use different fingers? I play Upside down like Albert King.
    dreamerthinker5
    This is gonna take me a while to get good at, but thanks for showing me how. I thought I understood the concept of barre chords but now i think i really get it!
    Jhuttun
    Prog_Metal_Head wrote: Good lesson. I'm trying to get into Barre Chords and stuff and this helped a great deal! One problem I have is that to get my index finger across the whole fretboard I really need to bend my wrist outwards which hurts after a few minutes. Any ideas?
    I had(have?) exactly same problem. Ive practiced enough so it wont hurt anymore but it doesnt feel good either when i've played a while. Is it okay or am I breaking my wrist this way.
    oldpunker
    i practse these to the first kings of leon album. Its fun and its not overly fast.
    KillerRabbit117
    Thanks this article is great bubblebreather : Great article, thank you so much! Totally helped me understand barre chords. I'm actually doing pretty good with the E shape Barre, and the A shape minor's but the regular A shape is brutal, I'm trying to do it with the ring finger barring the 3 strings, very tough. My main question is, (and I can't believe it hasn't been asked) if my tab says to play a B chord, how do I know if it should be a B played as a E shape on the 7th fret or an A shape on the second fret?. Anyone? Thanks again Denny S.! I don't THINK it realy matters but played on seventh fret it would be a higher pitch so it might not sound right on some songs but that depends on the song so whatever sounds better would be my guess
    bubblebreather
    Great article, thank you so much! Totally helped me understand barre chords. I'm actually doing pretty good with the E shape Barre, and the A shape minor's but the regular A shape is brutal, I'm trying to do it with the ring finger barring the 3 strings, very tough. My main question is, (and I can't believe it hasn't been asked) if my tab says to play a B chord, how do I know if it should be a B played as a E shape on the 7th fret or an A shape on the second fret?. Anyone? Thanks again Denny S.!
    revoh
    Cmaj9 chord e||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- B ||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- G||---|-- -|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- D||---|---|-i-|-- -|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|--- A||---|---|-i-|---|---|-- -|---|---|---|---|---|--- E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|-- -|---|---|---|---
    This isnt Cmaj9, it doesnt have a 3rd and it has the 6th.. It would be something like Csus2maj7(add 13)
    jigpop
    i acsually didnt have a hard time. all these people saying it was hard makes me think im probly doing it wronge. but it sounds good im just not sure about playing barre chords down a string...so anyone got advice please let me know
    RockRolla
    I too am going to learn barre chords also,thanx for the great lesson.Lots of great info.
    Funky Dory
    I'm just starting to learn barre chords at the moment, so this was a great help. Cheers!