Beginners Guide To Barre Chords

Imagine if you could use just two chords to play EVERY chord of that kind. Imagine if an E major could turn into a G major, or an A minor into a C# minor, with NO CHORD CHART MEMORIZATION! Well, my friends, this is possible, thanks to BARRE CHORDS!

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Introduction: Imagine if you could use just two chords to play EVERY chord of that kind. Imagine if an E major could turn into a G major, or an A minor into a C# minor, with NO CHORD CHART MEMORIZATION! Well, my friends, this is possible, thanks to BARRE CHORDS! What are barre chords? Barre chords are a type of guitar chord, where one or more fingers are used to press down multiple strings across the guitar fingerboard. For example, this:
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
You don't have six fingers, so how do you play this? Well, it's easy, and you can play it with JUST ONE FINGER! Simply put your finger across all six strings on that fret, applying equal pressure to each string, and there you have it! And the best part is your other 3 fretting-fingers are free to play other frets! Well, you next question is probably how can I use this knowledge to play any chord? Well, let's find out! E and A: E and A are your two magic chords. You will worship E and A after this lesson. E and A are every chord you will need to know. E and A are the chords that can be barred to make any other chord...EVER! Sure, you can do the same with C, D, and G, but it's not nearly as common as E and A, so don't even worry about them! E and A are THE chords! E is for Everything: I'm guessing you know how to play an E major chord. In case you don't, here it is:
|---0---|
|---0---|
|---1---|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|---0---|
Okay...just an E major chord, right? WRONG! This chord is not just an E major chord, but an F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, and D# chord in disguise! Confused? Okay, how about this: you need to play an F chord, but don't know how to. You're with a bunch of experienced musicians, and you think it will be embarrassing to ask how to play and F major chord. What do you do? Well, first of all, we know that E is the magic chord. We also know the F is a semitone higher than E. So, guess what? We can move the entire E chord up one fret to make an F! (NOTE: This DOES NOT work for just any chord. It only works for E and A...okay, and C,D, and G.) So, let's just look at the open notes in E major:
|---0---|
|---0---|
|--------|
|--------|
|--------|
|---0---|
Okay, now raise them a semitone, or one fret, so the root is F:
|---1---|
|---1---|
|--------|
|--------|
|--------|
|---1---|
But wait! That's three of our fingers already gone! How are we supposed to fret the rest of the chord? Well, remember that section on barring at the top? Just do that:
|---1----|
|---1----|
|---1----|
|---1----|
|---1----|
|---1----|
Now, remember that, and take the already fretted notes in the E chord:
|--------|
|--------|
|---1---|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|--------|
This next part is easy; just move those up one fret:
|--------|
|--------|
|---2---|
|---3---|
|---3---|
|--------|
Now, remember the barred first fret from before? Combine that with the notes above, and you have an F major chord! For you convenience, here is an equation depicting this:
|---1----|    |-------|     |---1---|
|---1----|    |-------|     |---1---|
|---1----| +  |---2---| =   |---2---|
|---1----|    |---3---|     |---3----|
|---1----|    |---3---|     |---3----|
|---1----|    |-------|     |---1----|
Do you see it? Do you see the F major chord? Here it is again:
|---1----|
|---1----|
|---2----|
|---3----|
|---3----|
|---1----|
Amateur Guitar Player: But that's not what my chord diagram says! Me: Well screw your chord diagram! *Proceeds to rip chord diagram in half* I'm sorry if I offended anybody who actual said But that's not what my chord diagram says! But it's true! Screw your chord diagram! This is actually A LOT easier when playing chord progressions, because you can keep your fingers in the same place, and just move up or down the fret board! Try making other chords based on E major, until you get the hang of it. For example, here's G major:
|---3----|
|---3----|
|---4----|
|---5----|
|---5----|
|---3----|
A is for...All the Chords? Well, A is exactly the same, just with a different chord, so I can probably zoom through this. Let's turn A major into C major for example. Start with A:
|---0---|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|---0---|
|--------|
Take the open string:
|---0---|
|--------|
|--------|
|--------|
|---0---|
|--------|
Bar them to make the root note C (3 semitones):
|---3---|
|---3---|
|---3---|
|---3---|
|---3---|
|--------|
(NOTE: notice how since you don't play the sixth string in A major, you don't have to bar it, since you don't play it in C major either.) Take the fretted notes of A major:
|--------|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|---2---|
|--------|
|--------|
Move them up 3 frets:
|--------|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|--------|
|--------|
Combine the two to get C major:
|---3---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---3---|
|--------|
And there you have it! Hooray! Any Type of Chord: All the examples I used were major chords, but you must realize this works for ALL chords! Minor, major seventh, minor seventh, diminished, augmented, suspended 2nd, suspended 4th... All you need to know is how to play the E and A chords of these groups! For example, here is G minor based on E minor:
|---3---|
|---3---|
|---3---|
|---5---|
|---5---|
|---3---|
And here is B major seventh based on A major seventh:
|---2---|
|---4---|
|---3---|
|---4---|
|---2---|
|--------|
And here's F Major 7th Suspended 2nd Suspended 4th based on E Major 7th Suspended 2nd Suspended 4th:
|---2---|
|---1---|
|---3---|
|---2---|
|---1---|
|---1---|
It's really that easy! Closing: It's always hard to say goodbye...I had a great time, and I hope you did to. I hope I made learning chords about 10000000000000000000000000000000 times easier with this lesson. Remember, in case I haven't said it enough, E and A! E and A! E AND A! Until we meet again... DID YOU LIKE THIS LESSON? CHECK OUT MY LAST LESSON, MAJOR VS. MINOR: MORE LESSONS COMING SOON!

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Karnac
    Get yourself a tennis ball and squeeze it a couple hundred times a day for a week.....this will strengthen your wrist and fingers...by day 8 barre chords shouldn't be a problem....
    Jhuttun
    sparta09 If you can make the C sound good, then go up to the B, 7th ftet.. then A on the fifth.. As you go up the neck of the guitar you need to use more pressure. But since you've been practicing like this, you've already started to build strength in your hand (may take a few weeks to get from b to a, but worth it) Once you can hold the 2-3 frets down with no problem, then you can head back down to the C, 8th fret. Put in the patterns like he mentions. By now if you can hold an f# barre, then the C shouldn't feel nearly as impossible as it did before.
    To me upper frets feel easier to play (they are wider). I get G and A ring clearly but C feels still impossible
    sparta09
    To jared; Don't bother with the first two frets right away if you're just starting. For everyone out there: Barre chords take building up strength, which means doing this in baby steps. When I was teaching myself barre chords I started off witch c, the 8th fret on the low E string. Don't worry about any patterns, major, minor ect.. Just worry about that first index finger. If you can make the C sound good, then go up to the B, 7th ftet.. then A on the fifth.. As you go up the neck of the guitar you need to use more pressure. But since you've been practicing like this, you've already started to build strength in your hand (may take a few weeks to get from b to a, but worth it) Once you can hold the 2-3 frets down with no problem, then you can head back down to the C, 8th fret. Put in the patterns like he mentions. By now if you can hold an f# barre, then the C shouldn't feel nearly as impossible as it did before.. In blunt terms.. Theres a HUGE chance that you're doing the barre chord perfectly.. You just dont have the strength to do it yet.. It does take baby steps, but hopefully that exercise I mention helps... Otherwise, it all depends on the person.. I've seen people use there middle finger to hold down there index, though I wouldn't suggest doing that.. I've seen some people slightly curve there index, some people keep there index straight.. About the only REAL suggestion I can give you guys, is feel the side of your index, the side thats towards your thumb.. thats probably the best spot to get the strings.. It's not as padded and meaty, making it alot easier to give equal pressure and hold down the strings.. ect.
    Crazymann
    When you're working on the strength factor remember nothing comes quick without lots of work.
    froggymomma5
    My biggest problem is getting my fingers to stretch far enough to reach the all the frets I need! Oh, the curse of short fingers!
    xdimebonicsx
    this lesson was very well written, no grammatical mistakes, entertaining language, and not least very informative! thank you!
    Blunk182
    Nice guide, although with no refferences to how new guitarists can find barre cords hard. Mabey including some finger stretching and grip tips such as practicing on a tennis ball would be good.
    sparkeyjames
    Yes barre chords are hard. Hand strength is important. What you need to build up the the pinching action of the thumb and index finger. You can also try lighter gauge strings. Also barre chords are a bit harder on more rounded fretboards where you have to keep your index finger slightly bent in order to conform to it's shape. Another problem to examine is the shape of your index finger. Note the areas at the knuckle bends and try to position them in between the strings. Hope this helps.
    robert.kienbaum
    Oh! And check the action (the height of the strings from the neck). Lowering the action can help heaps too!
    CPDmusic
    I can only tell you what I told the last guy. Make sure your finger is in the middle of the fret, not on the bar, make sure it's straight, and make sure your pushing down hard. You can also try tilting your barring finger so your barring with more of the side of your finger, it's just seems to help people when they barre that way sometimes.
    CPDmusic
    illyria wrote: you do realize that bare chords are somethimes pretty hard to impossible for beginner guitarists. i can never get al 6 strings to sound clean. it's either the high or the low E string that i somehow can't put enough pressure on. but then again: i never tried your version of the F
    All I can really say to that is keep practicing. Sorry.
    illyria
    you do realize that bare chords are somethimes pretty hard to impossible for beginner guitarists. i can never get al 6 strings to sound clean. it's either the high or the low E string that i somehow can't put enough pressure on. but then again: i never tried your version of the F
    CPDmusic
    CPDmusic wrote: pjuckazz wrote: amazing man, keep up the simple lessons! You should be teaching to harmonize or something Thanks, and I could work on a harmonization lesson in the future.
    Good news! I feel it right to let the cat out of the bag by saying I have decided to do a harmonization lesson in the upcoming future! To properly teach this, though, I would also need to right a lesson an musical intervals. So, my lesson on musical interviews is currently in production, and a lesson on harmonization should immediately follow! Thanks for your suggestion, and if anyone else has a suggestion, I'll take it into consideration!
    CPDmusic
    pjuckazz wrote: amazing man, keep up the simple lessons! You should be teaching to harmonize or something
    Thanks, and I could work on a harmonization lesson in the future.
    illyria
    CPDmusic wrote: illyria wrote: you do realize that bare chords are somethimes pretty hard to impossible for beginner guitarists. i can never get al 6 strings to sound clean. it's either the high or the low E string that i somehow can't put enough pressure on. but then again: i never tried your version of the F All I can really say to that is keep practicing. Sorry.
    i tried, but no matter how i put my index finger, i could never get every string to not mute. even when i tried just doing a bare acros just the first frets of each string
    robert.kienbaum
    Barre chords are a bitch... but they are also a must. No beginner can just pick up a guitar and pull them off. It takes practice and time to build the muscles in your finger to hold down the strings. Double bares, believe it or not, are a little easier because you can use your middle finger to apply additional pressure on your index. But you simply have to learn them. And, in doing so, you'll learn that barre chords are not only quite easy, but you'll prefer them over basic chords in no time.
    CPDmusic
    illyria wrote: CPDmusic wrote: illyria wrote: you do realize that bare chords are somethimes pretty hard to impossible for beginner guitarists. i can never get al 6 strings to sound clean. it's either the high or the low E string that i somehow can't put enough pressure on. but then again: i never tried your version of the F All I can really say to that is keep practicing. Sorry. i tried, but no matter how i put my index finger, i could never get every string to not mute. even when i tried just doing a bare acros just the first frets of each string
    It's hard to try and talk you through this without being face to face lol. Um...really all I can say is make sure your fingers in the middle of the fret and is completely straight, and that your pushing down hard. Sorry again.
    jared12369
    do you have any like tips to barre it, because i get what a barre chord is, but a lot of times when i want it barred on the 1st and second string it sounds like a dead note kind of
    CPDmusic
    illyria wrote: doesn't matter, once i made 5 strings sound good. so i will just practice and use in the meantime an easier version
    Practice barring the A then, it's only 5 strings.
    illyria
    doesn't matter, once i made 5 strings sound good. so i will just practice and use in the meantime an easier version
    pjuckazz
    amazing man, keep up the simple lessons! You should be teaching to harmonize or something