The words Barre Chords can strike fear into the hearts of advancing guitar players. Most guitarists start off by learning a set of basic open chords along with basic rhythm guitar and strumming techniques. The next logical step is to learn Barre chords, which are "moveable" chords that greatly expand your ability to play a wide variety of chords on various positions on the fretboard.
Unfortunately learning Barre chords (otherwise known as Bar chords) is often difficult, as the fingers are asked to perform what at first seems like "unnatural acts". In the following article, Will Landrum, an accomplished guitarist, guides you through the basics of Barre chords, how to form the most useful types, and provides tips on how to ensure you are playing them properly. If you want to learn Barre chords, or are having some trouble with them, this article is well worth reading.
"Barre Chord Forms" by Will Landrum
One of my subscribers recently wrote in and asked...
I have recently discovered your web site which I think
is just excellent! I have played the guitar for a number
of years and have gotten very good at the basics of rhythm
guitar with just the basic open chords.
My question and problem is this: I want to take my playing
to the next level and I have been trying to learn barre
chords. So far I have found them quite difficult to master.
Would you have any advice or tips about how to best learn
how to play these chords? Any advice or words of
encouragement would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for the great site and all the helpful
information you provide us all!"
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
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
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.
Note: Tablature is used below. If you need help reading tablature,
and go to "Free Guitar Lessons".
OK...here's our basic open E major chord.
Your finger numbers are in parentheses.
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
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
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.
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 forms.
Here, I'll use the A form, E major barre chord at the
seventh fret like so...
A Form, E major Barre Chord
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...
...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
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...
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.
Article by Will Landrum.
Will is helping thousands of on-line guitarists with his all
original content web site, free guitar teaching ezine and
growing line of advanced guitar instructional software at