Playing the bar chords is one of the most powerful things you can learn as a guitar player. why? They are the key to playing 90% of the chords you will come across. For most people, it takes some time to get the bar chords right.
Ask other guitarists and they’ll often tell you to “Practice more,” which isn’t very helpful. Yes, barre chords require practice, but there are some technical tips that will make playing barre chords easier and help you get over this hurdle.
What are bar chords?
Bar chords are when we use our first finger to create a bar behind the chord shape. Here’s a classic example of a bar chord:
Why do we learn bar chords? Why not just stick to open chords?
Some chords cannot be played in the open position. Even if the chord can be played in the open position, it’s best not to limit yourself to just one way of playing it. Playing the bar chords bridges the gap between beginner and intermediate guitarists, by increasing your knowledge of chords, you will enhance your technical and musical knowledge.
If you want to learn how to play barre chords, it is important to get the technique right. One of the biggest mistakes guitarists make when playing the bar chords is that they try to use the same grip they used for the open chords.
This won’t work.
In order to get the technique right, let’s try this A Major chord.
The most common way to play this chord is with three fingers. However, to improve your bar technique, try playing this chord with your first finger. To do this:
- Lift your first finger across the second fret of the D, G, and B strings, this is a good place to start the bar because you only have to worry about your first finger.
- Put your thumb behind the neck. Your thumb should be straight behind the neck of the guitar, like this:
Easy bar chords
We’ve already experimented with playing the A chord with a bar. Let’s try again, this is a chord named D Major 7.
To play this chord you need to do this:
- Place your first finger across the second fret of the first three strings G, B, and E. To improve your bar technique, try changing between the previous A chord and this chord. Here’s an exercise you can try:
Once you get used to these two chords, move on to the next chord, F# minor.
An easy way to play this chord is:
- Play a D major 7 chord.
- Place your fourth (or third) finger on the fourth fret of the D string (fourth string).
This chord can be difficult, so take your time with it. Playing the bar chords isn’t easy, so it’s perfectly normal for them to take a little longer to learn than basic open chords.
After this, practice playing the previous three chords in order, A / D Major 7 / F# minor until the sound becomes clean without humming, it may take a few days, so be patient.
Bar Chords are of medium difficulty
One of the most difficult chords that beginners face when learning the guitar is the F Major chord. This is because it contains a small bar consisting of two strings in this way:
Although it is not a full bar, that is, we do not stress the six strings, this chord is still difficult for beginners.
Don’t worry if some of your notes are not clear when you play the bar chords on the strings, this is completely normal. Be patient with yourself and allow your fingers to adjust.
Here are two tips for this particular chord.
The hardest fret on the guitar is fret number 1.
So, when you play this chord, you’re making a small bar on the hardest fret on the entire guitar!
Try to play this chord on fret No. 7, for example, put your first finger on fret No. 7, your second finger on fret 8, and your third and fourth fingers on fret No. 9, like this:
You will notice that the fretboard is smaller, and thus you will get a clearer sound and will not tire your hands. It is true that the chord has become B Major and not F Major, but the goal here is to improve the technique of playing the bar chords.
After that, go back fret after fret, meaning play fret No. 6, then 5, and so on until you reach fret No. 1.
The second tip for this chord is that you can ignore the third and fourth fingers to improve your bar chord technique.
That is, the previous exercise can be done with the first and second fingers only, and when you get a pure sound, you can then add the other fingers and repeat the exercise.
playing the bar chords in the form of E Major
Two of the most common main barre chords are:
The bar chord is in the shape of an E chord.
The bar chord is in the shape of an A chord.
To play each of these bar chord variations, you must hold a (bar) on all 6 chords. This may sound difficult, but if you’ve practiced correctly the previous exercises, you’re more than ready for the next step in your bar chord journey.
Let’s take a look at the two types. The first type is the bar chord in the form of E major:
This chord is one of the hardest bar chords you can play. To effectively grab all six chords, your barre technique needs to be fluid.
We refer to this bar chord as an “E-shaped bar chord,” because the core of this chord uses the E-shaped chord. Here’s the E chord:
Can you see how this chord form is used in the F-bar chord?
playing the bar chords – How to Play an E Bar Chord
It is a common mistake for a beginner to practice the bar chord F as his first bar chord, that’s impossible! The reason for this – and I’ve mentioned it before – is that fret No.1 is the hardest fret on the entire guitar!
So, why do most beginners start with this chord? There are two reasons.
The first reason is that the F major chord is one of the chords that appear in songs played by beginners at the beginning of their learning.
And the second reason is that the F chord is compatible with the sounds of other open chords that a beginner learns, such as the C chord and the G chord.
So, sooner or later the beginner learns the F chord because he has to learn it. Most books and courses begin with the simple F chord, which has a bar on the first two chords. But even this is very difficult for a beginner if he does not do the exercises in this article.
Well, how do we play this difficult chord?
We start on fret number 7, like the previous chord.
As before, you will notice that the fretboard is smaller, so you will get a clearer sound and will not tire your hands. You’re now playing a B Major chord, not an F Major chord, but the goal here is still to improve your bar chord technique.
Important tips for improving barre chords technique
Click on the left side
Beginners when they see a guitarist playing the bar chords think he is pressing the belly of his number 1 finger (index). this is not true. Look at the following picture:
The arrow indicates where the strings are pressed when playing the bar chords. We use the left side of the finger, not the tip of the finger.
Because the left side of the finger is stronger and harder, this will make the sound more pure. Make the index finger tilted slightly to the left when pressing the strings.
Don’t hit all the strings
This may sound confusing, but don’t hit all the strings with your index finger! The reason is that there are 3 strings that you are pressing with your other fingers, it is the E chord inside the bar.
Let me make that clear.
You’re holding the E chord on fingers 2, 3, and 4. Minus the strings 1, 2, and 6, which are the strings we’ll be pressing with the bar. So we’re only going to press the sixth (thin) string and the second and first (thin) strings with our index finger.
You don’t have to hit “all” the strings with your forefinger, this will tire your hand.
There is no need for that. The rest of the fingers press on the other strings, just focus on the bar chord technique and let the other fingers do their work.
Press next to the ferrite, not in the middle!
Look at the picture well. The finger is slightly tilted to the left to press the left side of the finger. The other note is that the finger is directly behind the metal fret, not in the middle.
Because the best sound comes right behind the metal fretboard. If you use a CAPO , it’s the same theory. We put the capo directly behind the fret because this gives a clean sound. Treat your finger as a capo.
Move the bar chord in the form of an E chord
One of the best things about playing the bar chords is that they are ‘moving’ shapes. This means that you can have more than 11 different chords from a single chord shape.
Since we have learned the F Major chord, this means that we can play any major chord that has a root note on the lower E or sixth string.
To move a bar chord on the fretboard, we need to know what the root notes are on the sixth string. here they are:
The note on the first fret on the low E string is ‘F’. That’s why we’re playing the F chord here, because that’s the root note.
To play the F# chord, all you have to do is move the chord shape, or move the hand as it is to the right one fret, or if you want to play a B chord, all you have to do is move it to the seventh fret.
Basically, if you want to find any chord using an E-bar chord, you have to find the relevant root note on the E-sixth chord and put the bar on that note.
If you’re struggling to remember all the notes on the sixth string, just remember the third, fifth, and seventh frets.
These frets are usually marked with fretboard dots. To remember each of these tones, just remember the words ‘GAB’.
The third fret is the note ‘G’, the fifth fret is the note ‘A’, and the seventh fret is the note ‘B’. If you can remember each of these notes, figuring out the rest isn’t hard.
playing the bar chords – How to play an A-shape bar chord
Let’s go to the bar chord A. There are two ways we can do this. In this example, we will play the Bb chord, and its shape is as follows:
You’ll notice that this is pretty much the same principle as a bar chord as an E, except we use an A instead of an E.
You don’t need to catch all six strings because we’re leaving out the E bass, but you can still if it’s more comfortable. If you find this grip too difficult, try this alternative grip:
With this grab, we hit the A string with the first finger and the other three strings with the third finger.
Guitarists have different opinions about which of these grips is the best. Try both and see which one you like best.
Move the bar chord in the form of an A chord
Just as we were able to move the E bar chord, we can do the same with the A bar chord. To do this, we need to know what the root notes are on the A fifth chord, here they are.
Just like we did with the sixth chord, we have to move the chord to a different fret in order to change the name of the chord.
Notice how the first fret on the A string is the note Bb. This is where our Bb chords are located.
And to play the B chord, we’re simply going to move the exact same shape to the second fret. A good way to help you learn the musical alphabet on the A chord is that the third, fifth, and seventh frets are the notes C, D, and E.
If you can remember these notes, then learning those notes that run through them shouldn’t be too difficult.
What about minor chords?
For every major chord, there is a minor chord. Just as we used the E and A shapes for the bar major chords, we use the Em and Am shapes for the bar minor chords.
Here is the Gm chord using a bar chord in the form of Em:
All the difference between the Major and Minor chords is only one finger, the second finger! If you press the second finger on the third string, you’re holding the major chord. But if you remove the second finger, you hold the minor chord.
For the bar chord A minor in the form of an A minor chord, instead of A major, as follows:
Here you’re holding the Am chord, and not playing the sixth string because the root note is on the fifth string.
But, did you notice anything?
That’s exactly the same as the major bar chord on the sixth string. right? This is a very important point to link the chords together in your memory.
If you play this shape on the sixth string, you’re playing a major chord. If you play it on the fifth string, you play a minor chord. remember this.
Here are all the shapes:
How do I practice bar chords?
The best way to practice barre chords is to pick a song that has only one chord in it and try to learn it. Try not to choose a song with a lot of bar chords until you’re good and ready.
What you can also do is pick a song you already know uses open chords and change one of the chords to a bar chord instead.
The other method is a little more difficult and somewhat tiring for the hand, but it is a very effective method, which is the use of the Circle of Fifth.
This circle contains all major and minor chords found in all music! My advice is to practice the major chords at first so you don’t get confused.
You can do open chords at the beginning, such as C, G, D, A, and E, but after you have practiced, try to replace the open chords with bar chords.
Next, practice the minor chords and do the same with the open chords, replacing them with bar chords.
This exercise is not only for barre chords but also for the chords on the fretboard. It is impossible to do bar chords on the Circle of Fifth without knowing the places of notes such as Bb, Eb, or even the D!
What about the rest of the types of chords?
In this article, we have discussed the types of major and minor bar chords because they are the most used and common for beginners and even intermediate players.
As for other types of chords such as Major 7, Minor 7, Dominant 7, and Sus Chords, we will discuss them in another article.
But the basics that we learned here will be applied to other chords because the principle is the same and does not change.
I hope I helped you overcome the bar chords, and remember that everything takes its time on the guitar, I don’t want you to get frustrated because the bar chord doesn’t sound good, just keep practicing and everything will be fine.