Barre Chords

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

A Better Way to Play Guitar Chords

Once you have learned the basic fingering of major and minor chords, a great way to take your playing to the next level is to learn barre chords. They allow for fast changing of chords, and also allow you to play a chosen chord at a higher pitch. Over time, you will be able to completely master your fretboard and use it to create just the right chord and pitch you are looking for.

Barre Chord Fingering

In barre chord fingering, the index finger is placed across all or most of a fret and the remaining fingers are placed on individual stings below that fret. You are, effectively, using your finger as a capo.

It’s important to note that chords played with this method are, by their very nature, muted; they don’t “ring out” like standard chords. This is because the strings are no longer open. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn proper placement of the index finger. It won’t be comfortable at first; it might even hurt. Be very patient with yourself! This is one technique that will take time to master.

Types of Barre Chords

Note: Numeric or shape codes indicate the strings on a guitar from left to right.

The two most commonly barred notes are variations of the E chord and the A chord. The E barre chord is made of an E chord shape (022100) moved up and down the frets and being barred, changing the note. For example, the E chord barred one fret up becomes an F chord (133211). The next fret up is F, followed by G, A, A, B, B, C, C, D, E, and then back to E (1 octave up) at fret twelve.

A barre chords are similar, although the highest string is not played. It is the basic A chord shape (X02220) moved up and down the frets and being barred. As you go up the frets, the chords become B, B, C, C, D, E, E, F, F, G, A, and at the twelfth fret (that is, one octave up), it is A again.

As you can see, all major chords can be played with A or E barre chords.

C, D, and G barre chords can be used as well, although they are not nearly as common.

As you advance, you can learn even more chords (minors, 7ths etc.) using barre chord placement. The variations are numerous.

Advantages of the Barre Chord

Whatever your preferred genre of music is, learning barre chords is an effective way to expand your chord vocabulary. It allows you to change chords more quickly, which is helpful when playing fast songs or difficult passages requiring multiple chords in short periods of time.

Give Them a Try

Once again, this is a procedure that takes a while to learn. Be very patient! Take your time to memorize the chord progressions. The time and discomfort will pay off for you in the long run.

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