Barre chords are one of the most essential aspects of playing the guitar. The term barre chord simply refers to chords that require the fretting multiple strings with a single finger.
Barre chords are “movable chords” which can give a guitarist great flexibility in playing chords along the fretboard. They are used in song transpositions as these chords are easy to locate and play in different keys.
Another advantage of playing barre chords is that it gives the guitarist more control over their playing style and sound. For example, quick and sharp muting with the fretting (left) hand can be made very easy with barre chords.
However, barre chords are the bane of most beginners due to undeveloped finger muscles and coordination. With a bit of guidance and help, I hope this lesson can help you get started with the most basic yet important barre chords. This lesson deals with mostly major chords. If you want to learn how these chords are formed, please read our article on major and minor chords.
Let’s start the lesson with something relatively easier. The diagrams below show the fingering for a half-barre F major chord. The half barre is performed by using the index finger to fret the 1st and 2nd strings at the same time.
What you should do here first is to let your index fingers get accustomed to fretting 2 frets at the same time. Make sure that the 2 fretted notes can be played clearly without any buzzing or muted sounds. You might need to wriggle and adjust your finger in order to do this properly.
Once you are able to do that, add your middle finger to and make sure all 3 notes can be played clearly with no buzzing sounds. Lastly, add your 4th finger and ensure once again that you can play all 4 notes clearly. Now, your fingers are going to get sore but at the end of the day, your finger muscles and coordination WILL improve.
The fully barred chord is a technique that can be very taxing on a beginner’s hand. Let me show you how to practice barre chords effectively and see the best results in the shortest time possible. We will use the F major barre chord in this exercise.
Contrary to how most “guitar gurus” teach the barre chords (by telling you to use the index finger to barre all 6 strings before adding in other fingers), I will teach you a more effective way to practice the full barre chord.
Start by placing the 3rd, 4th and the pinky fingers into position first. Then, add in the index finger to complete the barre chord. Typically, the barre is made using the side of the index finger.
Now, I know that everyone’s index finger and hand will be shaped slightly differently. That’s why you’ll have to experiment around a little in order to get the correct posture and positioning of the fingers for a clean sound.
– Make sure that each individual note of the barre chord is sounded crystal clear. If there are any buzzing or muted sounds, it is likely that part of a finger is blocking another string or a string is not pressed down hard enough.
– Build up your finger muscles and grip by placing the index finger of the left hand across the fretboard. Try pressing down all 6 strings at the same time and hold on to the strings for as long as you can.
– The position of the thumb is very important. Ideally, the thumb should be placed at the thickest part of the fretboard and not wrapped around the neck.
– Take things slow. Once you feel that your fingers are hurting too much, it is time to take a break. My personal experience in learning barre chords took me roughly 2-3 weeks of consistent practice.
While watching Charmed! on television, I had my guitar beside me and during the advertisements, I would make use of the time to practice holding barre chords. I even practiced my barre chords the first thing I woke up in the morning for 5 minutes before washing up. In no time at all, I was able to play the F major barre chord without breaking a sweat.
– Last hint, always obey the first point!
Besides the F major barre chord shape, these are some other movable chord shapes that are very useful for practical applications. The idea is to practice these movable chord shapes by utilizing the same methodology used with the F major barre chord.
Congrats for getting this far! I know this lesson had been pretty intensive and I don’t expect you to be able to complete it in a couple of days. I encourage you to break things up into manageable chunks for more effective learning based on your own learning pace.
When it comes to building up your finger muscles and improving hand coordination, there’s no quick and easy way except regular practice. The silver lining at the end of mastering barre chords is that you would be able to play the majority of popular songs on the radio once you master the barre chords under your belt.
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