Bar Chords for Beginners taught worng
Bar chords are one of the most frustrating techniques on guitar for most beginners. Unfortunately, many guitarists really struggle with it, and it’s not their fault, but that’s how bar chords are taught as most teachers and books teach bar chords very poorly.
We all know bar chords are really important to your long-term progression as a guitarist, and while a lot of songs can be played with a capo, there are thousands of classic guitar pieces that need bar chords.
In this article, I will share with you some tips that will make your journey in learning this challenging technique more enjoyable and less frustrating.
Tip 1: With bar chords, the technique comes before strength
The biggest problem with bar chords for beginners is that students are usually told (or not corrected) when they think they need to press more to make the sound clear and buzz-free.
Usually, a guitarist uses poor technique and too much force in trying to play the bar chords. This causes pain in the fingers, wrist, and forearm and will cause the muscles to tense quickly at best, and possibly lead to injury at worst.
If you keep doing something with bad technique and a lot of pressure, it will eventually take a heavy toll. This can be stressful on the muscles or the nerves that can keep you from practicing guitar for weeks or even months.
When you practice these chords, be very careful with the way you learn them, the wrong way can cause injury and possibly long-term arthritis. Remember to always prepare your fingers and place them in the perfect position before adding pressure.
Pressure is the last thing we add, and if we have good technique, we only need a small to a reasonable amount of pressure to make the bar chords sound out properly. The amount of pressure required depends on how good your technique is and how good the guitar you are playing.
I wrote an article about a few tips to check if your guitar makes your life easier or not, you can check it out here.
Tip 2: Start with the chord shape of the A-minor
This is one of the most common forms of bar chords you will ever use, and one of the easiest to learn.
The reason for this is that this form of bar chords only needs to be pressing 5 strings from the fifth string to the first string, and leaving the sixth string E without pressing it.
If you don’t have long fingers (most of us don’t) and/or the neck or your guitar is very wide, you’ll find that these types are easier to practice than some variations of 6-string bar chords.
The other reason is that this shape is easy to simplify (as you will know in the next tip) and use other fingers that will give almost the same sound but more easily.
Tip 3: You can simplify the look of any bar chord
Lots of guitarists are unaware that most bar chords can be “simplified” so that they turn chords that are very difficult into something they can play and put to good use with a little practice.
And the best thing is that these “simplifications” do not affect the sound of the chords much. Here is the chord of the A minor in simplified form:
Did you see the difference? Instead of hitting all five strings with our index finger (number 1), we just hit the number one fret on the fifth string (the root note) and leave the rest of the fingers in place.
In fact, although this is what a kord bar looked like, it is now no longer a true kord bar. You’re actually not doing a bar at all here. It’s just a 4-finger chord, just like the G major or the F major.
You might be thinking, “Well, what if I’m using finger picking and need to hear the sixth string E?”
Good question. If this is the case, you will need the full version of the chord but you can build on this format.
If the full version is difficult, start by mastering the simplified version and gradually start tackling your index finger, eventually creating a “bar” through the strings.
Practicing the shape in this gradual way becomes easier, and allows you to put the rest of the fingers in their correct positions without worrying about the bar.
Tip 4: bar chords for beginners starts on a high fret
For each bar chord you learn, I highly advise you to practice it on a higher fret that is comfortable for you. For most guitarists, this will be anywhere from fret 5 to fret 8.
And the reason is simple, the higher the fert on which the bar chord is held, the smaller the fretboard size and therefore, it does not need to make a larger stretch.
The bar chord on the fret number 1 is the hardest bar chord ever, and unfortunately, this is the first thing the student learns when learning the bar chord. Ask any beginner or intermediate player what is the hardest chord for them, and they will tell you right away: “It’s the F chord.”
Once you’ve mastered it on one of the higher frets, you can then move the chord-shaped one fret back, making it sound nicely there before moving it again.
Just remember, sometimes going too far on the fretboard can make things more difficult (fret 11 for example), so find the most comfortable fret for you and practice the bar chords there.
Tip 5: Check the strings sound
When checking whether the chords are clear or not, what you should always do is play the chords one string after the other and not strumming them together.
When doing so, unless you have a great ear, you won’t be able to tell which string is bad in the chord.
If you choose to check string after string, you can instantly see which one is “dead” or has a “buzz” and then you can practice fixing those errors. Once the error is fixed you can strume until your heart is satisfied!
Remember this simple tip: playing each string alone will clarify what you need to fix in the bar chord.
These were the five tips that will make your bar chords sound clear and pure and you will not feel discouraged after today.
I’m not saying this to discredit anyone but there are plenty of guitar teachers, (and some very popular on YouTube) who “teach” bar chords but in a way that is actually harmful, and not helpful to students. We hope this lesson helps fix this.
Needless to say, you should practice bar chords on a guitar that fits you (ie if you have small hands, choose a guitar with a narrower neck). If not, you’ll find bar chords more difficult than you need to, no matter what.
Try these five tips—even for a few minutes a day, and your bar chords will improve. Let me know your thoughts on this article by leaving a comment below and good luck.
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