Barre Chord Forms

This is a subject that I thought a lot of others would be interested in too so I'll start by describing what a barre chord is. A barre chord is created when you use one finger to fret more that one note at a time.

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This is a subject that I thought a lot of others would be interested in too so I'll start by describing what a barre chord is. A barre chord is created when you use one finger to fret more that one note at a time. For example your first finger may be required to barre across all six strings to help form a chord. I'm going to show you some barre chord "forms" as well as give you some tips on how to make sure you play them properly. I've seen several names assigned to these forms but I like to call them after their "open chord" form since that's what they're based on. The two forms I'll discuss here are the E form and the A form. Now, once you understand these two forms, you'll be able to play any major, minor, dominant 7th, minor 7th, suspended 4th etc... chord because you'll be barring them up and down the neck depending on which one you play. OK... here's our basic open E major chord. Your finger numbers are in parentheses.
E --o------
B --o------
G --1-(1)--
D --2-(3)--
A --2-(2)--
E --o------
Now you can also create an F major chord with an E form barre chord at the first fret like so.
E Form F Major Barre Chord
E --1-(1)--
B --1-(1)--
G --2-(2)--
D --3-(4)--
A --3-(3)--
E --1-(1)--
One important thing to know here is the names and locations of the root note of the chord you're playing. We know that the sixth string open is E, therefore the sixth string played at the first fret is F. Consequently, an E form barre chord at the seventh fret is a B major chord like so:
E Form B Major Barre Chord
E --7-(1)--
B --7-(1)--
G --8-(2)--
D --9-(4)--
A --9-(3)--
E --7-(1)--
Got it? Cool. Now as long as you know your other E form open chords like Em, E7, Em7 etc... you'll be able to translate those chord shapes up and down the neck at different frets. Ok, let's have a look at an A form barre chord. I remember when I was learning this one and having to practice a lot to get it clean. Here's our basic open A major chord. Again, your finger numbers are in parentheses.
E --o------
B --2-(3)--
G --2-(2)--
D --2-(1)--
A --o------
E --x------
Can you see what's coming? You're going to have to be able to barre the three notes on the D, G and B strings as well as the root note two frets lower. Again, you'll need to learn the notes on the fifth string in order to know what fret to make your A form barre chords. Here, I'll use the A form, E major barre chord at the seventh fret like so... A Form, E major Barre Chord:
E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
You may be thinking right about this time that I'm nuts but I can actually play this chord nice and clean... but I started out by only playing it this way...
E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
... and worked my way up from there. As a matter of fact, I never even practiced fretting the first string with my first finger... it just kinda fell into place after I got the third finger to barre the D, G and B strings properly. So try working up to this chord a little at a time in three steps:
1.
E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------


2.
E --x------
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------


3.
E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------
When you're ready to try the final chord above, use your first finger to barre strings five thru one, then try resting your third finger on the first string (barring all four strings with your third finger). Then slowly raise the part of your third finger that's on the first string until it's ringing freely at the first finger barre. Again, the A form barre chords can be played just like the open forms... Am, Am7, Asus2, Asus4 etc. You can also use a D shaped barre (or any open shape really). This is a Dsus2 open chord:
E|--0------
B|--3-(3)--
G|--2-(2)--
D|--0------
A|---------
E|---------
You can slide this shape around also, as shown:
F#sus2 barre chord, Dsus2 Form
E|--4-(1)--
B|--7-(4)--
G|--6-(3)--
D|--4-(1)--
A|---------
E|---------
Another thing I'd like to point out is the action of your guitar. "Action" is how easy (or hard) it is to press the strings down to the neck to get a clean fretted note. If you're just starting out with barre chords, you should use a guitar with low or "easy" action. This will save you from frustration as well as physical pain from pressing down so hard while your hands are getting used to this technique. Once you get the idea, I suggest practicing on a higher action guitar just for strength training. Heck, to this day, I still warm up on my classical guitar so when I get on my electric, it's like slicing butter! I hope this helps a little in your quest for barre chords. They are absolutely an essential part of your technique. - Will Landrum.

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    standis_gp
    I agree with BHD, you can't expect too much from beginners. Personally i started a year back and just this past summer i read an article in guitar one that showed the locations of notes on the fretboard. Up until then i didn't even know where any notes were located. So, you have to have some basic knowledge of where these notes are located. But for someone like me this is a pretty good article.
    BHD
    I personally don't like this article much, it expects too much from beginners... I mean, if someone's just started, I wouldn't expect them to know the seventh fret on the top string is B and things like that. Shouldn't this be for people a bit more advanced? -BHD
    dude488
    Should it hurt in between your thumb and your index finger when you barre or am i just pushing down on the fretboard too hard?
    NooneSavedUs
    Yeah basically. Your thumb should always be behind the neck, approximately in the middle. Try to keep it from drifting upwards. Another thing that helps is a gripmaster. You can buy them at guitar center or a lot of other stores. Also, sorry for the whole posting the same thing twice. I didnt think the first one went through.
    Funky M0nk
    So you mean keeping my thumb always behind the fretboard. And for these chords the second one for example, I use my index finger and basically put it across the whole fretboard so I can get the E,B and E?
    NooneSavedUs
    Barre chords are difficult for beginners, but it' s a skill any serious guitarist needs to have. One thing I use to make it easier is making sure I keep my thumb in the correct position. That gives me more leverage, and the chords always sound much cleaner.
    NooneSavedUs
    Barre chords are a difficult but neccesary skill for any serious guitarist. They will get easier with practice. One way to help is to make sure you keep your thumb in the correct position. Dont cheat. it creates bad habits that are hard to break.
    0rac1e
    I've been playing for about 2 years now and I play a steel string acoustic... I learnt of barre chords fairly early on, but up until a few months ago I still considered myself pretty crap at them. All I can say is practise, practise, practise. For those experiencing pain, once again this comes down to practise... When your grip strengthens you'll find it much easier and much less painful. This link also helped a little, but this guys got better flexability than me, so don't take it as gospel (especially the "mistakes" he lists. Sure if you can do it like that fine, but not everyone has that kind of flexabilty.) http://home.pages.at/klausdibbelt/sites/... As for the A form, I used to use both the ring finger and pinky to hold down the 3 strings, and that served me well enough. Literally weeks ago I realised I could do it with just my ring finger and it makes things much easier, especially when switching from an Am form to and A form... So give it a try if you can. Funnily enough my twin brother does it with his pinky, which I find impossible to do.
    dablargh
    JukeB0X Hero wrote: any1 know a good song for barre chord practice?
    try 99 red balloons by gold finger...they got a few barre chords
    pak1351
    Is omitting the root on the a-shape horribly horribly wrong? I only play it on the high 4 strings, that's how my teacher taught me to play a B chord
    pippin
    5 stars, I guess I'd have to agree that for beginners it may be a bit tough. But personally, I've been stuck on basic chords for 6 years now (my bad for not getting off my arse to do some reserch!) and this tutorial has really helped me open new windows and actualy understand the finger positions etc. Thanks
    FranzTheGreat
    The article was very helpful. Thanks! It's nice to know even guys have a hard time with the A-shape barres. I've been faking with my pinky finger. I'll practice with the proper way. Thanks!!!
    rrb6699
    i always had a hard time with barre chords. hell i'm a drummer and never thought i'd play guitar. but, i had to move into this 'place' and then couldnt just "whip out my drums and play" because they were in storage. nuff of that. I found out eventually that if you relax your left hand and just try and play the barre chord somehow you can do it without a lot of pain. but my pain came from (arthritus 00 no just kidding i have that too)... but my pain was from positioning my wrist and fingers ..,. i play the steering wheel of my car for finger exercise. squeeze balls are good but concentrate on your fingers and hold the squeeze ball as if it were a guitar neck. dont just hold it in a 'comfy' position. hope this helps with pain. if not try painkillers or huge amounts of liquor.
    jrnjd
    I have seen people using the technique of barring the 3 strings with one finger. I find if I stretch my ring finger at the first joint backward as part of my warm up, it helps a lot.
    SilentDeftone
    DEFFY EDIT: You can also use a D shaped barre (or any open shape really). This is a Dsus2 open chord: E --0---.. B --3-(3)-- G --2-(2)-- D --0---.. A ---.. E ---.. You can slide this shape around also, as shown: F#sus2 barre chord, Dsus2 Form E --4-(1)-- B --7-(4)-- G --6-(3)-- D --4-(1)-- A ---.. E ---.. *insert before "Another thing I'd like to point out is the action?" etc.*
    Pintos&Roses
    barre chords are very important, and can make mant songs 10x easier to play. nice job on explaining.
    BillieJoefan108
    skater dude, how patronising do u have 2 be, can u not remember how difficult evrything seemed 2 b when u were a beginner, or were u just born with the ability of hendrix?
    terrywhat
    Anyone wondering where these chords are coming from get a fretboard chart. Made it much easier for me. Then if you make an A shape barre on the 5th Fret you can look to see what chord you are making (D). Just look along the A string to the 5th fret. Though I'm still cant get my third finger out the way of the e string on an A shape
    difitzio
    there is way too many comments here already but seriously this is a great lesson I knew about E shape and A shape but didnt know you could bring 7ths and susfourths and all that so cheers
    chemicalsolutio
    Thanks for the info, but I have a little difficulty to barre the chords on my accoustic guitar, is that normal?
    rigga
    Am I right in thinking that you can make the same chords with an E shaped barre chord as you can an A shaped barre chord? if so why use A when its so hard?
    HawksWings
    Unfortuantely I broke my left finger 15 years ago. That makes it very hard to barre 3 strings with it. I often feel kinda frustated with my steel stringed acoustic guitar trying to barre.