Barre Chords - made easy!

Struggling with barre chords? If you've been frustrated,here's a great free guitar lesson that reveals important tips you need to know. With a little practice these "moveable chord shapes" will be something you look forward to playing and using in your music.

I remember growing up as a teenager, being able to play them was some kind of a benchmark. "Can you play barre chord shapes?" - "Oh yeah..." I'd coolly respond ;-)

What's a Moveable Chord?

" Moveable chord" is just another name for barre chord - speaking of which, why is it spelled like that? I've heard that the spelling is from the French. Here in Canada, we have French on all the packaging. I learned to speak a little French from reading cereal boxes as a kid:-)

These moveable chord shapes that can be played just about anywhere on the neck of the guitar. The great thing about them is that they are symmetrical. Once you've learned one shape, you've got a whole bunch of useful guitar chords.

The most important thing to realize about barre chords(and possibly even music in general) is that there are 2 types: major and minor. See guitar music theory if you don't understand the difference between major and minor chords.

The second most important thing to know about barre chords is which string the root of the chord is being played on. For our purposes, there are 2 strings that the root could be located on. Some people call the root the bass note. As always, a picture speaks a thousand words, so check out the guitar chord charts below.

Are things making a little more sense now?

Do you understand how there are major and minor? Do you know what the root of the chord means? An excellent way to train your musical ear is to sing the roots of the chords while you play them. I strongly suggest investigating ear training further if you are serious about developing as a guitarist/musician.

LESSON ONE

  • place the index finger of your fretting hand in 5th position(5th fret)
  • barre the first two strings with this finger
  • check and see that both strings are ringing clearly
  • feel the "weight" - or pressure - that you're applying with your index finger. Make sure that your finger is as close to the fret as possible. This means you don't have to apply as much pressure, and you'll also produce a much better sound.
  • so far so good? OK, now place the 2nd finger of your fretting hand(don't count your thumb)on the 6th fret of string 3 while still barring the first 2 strings!
  • if you're still with me, relax your hand for a sec...shake it out a bit 'cos here we go with some more "finger yoga" :-)
  • Hold the first 3 strings down as described above. Once you have a good sound, place the 4th finger of your fretting hand on fret 7 of string 4. Got it? Good!!

  • barre chords, basic guitar chords

You've come a long way, baby!

If you were able to execute Lesson One with any degree of success, congratulations are in order. That is a real, tangible benchmark in your guitar playing progress. You are now officially able to play a barre chord.

The next step with this lesson is to practice it in other positions on the neck. Check all the strings are ringing clearly. Once you establish that, try moving it 2 frets up or down. Now, slowly go back and forth between the two chords - pay close attention to what is going on with the fingers of your fretting hand.

It's kind of like keeping your fingers "frozen" and then moving to the other position. Barre chords like these are one area where I caution you not to overdo the practice. It takes time to develop the muscle control needed and even then, they can be quite strenuous after a while.

Move this shape down to first position and you've got the infamous F major chord! Knowing the names of the notes along your E string(s) and A string can really help you out. Why? Because you'll know what chord you're playing. The name of the note you're on is the root of the chord, and the rest depends on whether you're fretting the major or minor shape.

LESSON TWO

If you've already completed Lesson One and can play that barre chord shape, this should be a piece of cake!

  • With your index finger at position 5, fret the first three strings.
  • Sounding pretty good? Everything ringing through clearly? OK then, while still barring the first 3 strings, use the 3rd finger of your fretting hand to press down on the 7th fret of string 4. Got it? Great. That's the sound of an A minor barre chord!
  • That was pretty easy, wasn't it? Now, you can try alternating from the minor shape to the major shape and see if you can hear the difference. If you're playing them properly, you'll definitely hear a difference.
  • If you're having any kind of trouble, go through the lesson again. Retrace your steps, be patient and persist. Keep trying again tomorrow and then the day after tomorrow:-) You will get it, and be a barre chord master!

    barre chords, basic guitar chords

    LESSON THREE - more barre chords!

    • with the 3rd finger of your fretting hand, barre strings 2, 3 and 4 at the 7th fret. As always, check to make sure all strings are ringing clearly. Feel the finger pressure pressing as close to the fret as possible. Also, see if you can keep most of the weight on only those strings.
    • While still pressing down on those notes, place your index finger on fret 5 of string 5. You don't need to barre here. Also, you don't need to use the tip of your finger here. Use the flat part of the tip instead.
    • If everything's sounding good, you are now playing a D major barre chord. As in the above lessons, practice moving this chord down 2 frets. Then back and forth. Practice slowly, and remember to check the sound of the chords as you go. You may also need to stop and shake your hand out and allow it to relax for a minute or two before continuing.

    barre chords, basic guitar chords

    LESSON FOUR

    The minor version is actually easier than the major form. Here we go!

    • The 2nd finger of your fretting hand goes on string 2 at fret 6.
    • The 4th finger(pinky)goes on string 3 at fret 7
    • The 3rd finger goes on string 4 at fret 7
    • Now place your index finger on string 5 at fret 5. Once you have all of the previous steps under your fingers, make a barre with your index finger. Do you know what a "capo" is? You're making a capo with your index finger.
    • check the sound. Now check the sound again at position 3... Position 7, etc. You get the idea!

    barre chords, basic guitar chords

    I hope that these lessons and ideas were helpful to you. Barre chords are a major accomplishment. Just remember to be patient and persist. Do a little every day. Before you know it, it's easy. Your 1st (index) finger is acting as a capo. Congratulations on following through on this lesson.

    Further Reading And Study



    Thanks for tuning in and tuning up,
    Dave

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