Arghh, barre chords.
Am I right?
Barre chords may seem intimidating at first, but trust me, it’s not as hard as you think.
That’s why, today, we’ll learn the barre chord shapes that will jump-start your advanced guitar journey.
Here’s the deal:
Learning barre chords need some time and patience, mainly because you need to develop your index finger’s strength.
But, hear me out:
When I encountered barre chords, I simply hated it, so I usually looked for songs without any barre chords for practice.
Regrettably, that was the worst decision I ever made in my guitar journey.
Turns out, barre chords are one of the most important things to learn in the guitar world.
Why do I Need to Learn the Barre Chords?
Beginners often ask whether it is still necessary to learn these chords.
There may be some alternative chords, or you may use a capo to change the key and still play the open chords.
Nevertheless, your playing would always be limited.
It’s like you’re fixated on your little world of the guitar, not knowing that music has much more to give.
Learning the barre chords is like opening the door to new possibilities in playing the guitar!
Same as power chords, they are also considered as movable chords.
Movable chords are chords that can be moved along the fretboard without changing shape.
That means you could play like 12 chords using only 1 shape!
What does it mean for you?
With this, you’ll be able to play any piece with ease! That is the main reason why learning barre chords is so crucial.
How to Play Guitar Barre Chords (11 Tips)
Before teaching you the basic chord shapes, let’s learn these tricks to easily do the barre chords.
1. Start with a Partial Chord
It’s not really a bad idea to start with the partial chord of a barre chord.
Instead of using the regular F chord, you could use F/C.
This is still a movable chord, but in the F/C chord, you’re only using 4 strings, and as for the F chord, you are using 6 notes.
You can consider this as a starting point. It is regarded as the same chord without the barre.
2. Create a clamping shape with your index finger and your thumb
Keep your index finger straight while covering the neck.
The thumb should be directed at the back of the guitar’s neck (just like holding a guitar).
Here’s the thing:
You have to push your index and thumb toward each other so that you’ll have enough pressure to fret all the six strings.
3. Lower Your Hand
Your index finger may not reach all the way to the low E string.
If that’s the case:
Try lowering your hand to reach it wherein your thumb will be in the middle of the neck’s back.
4. Use the Bony Part of Your Index Finger
While clamping the strings with adequate pressure, you might hear some ghost strings.
This might be because you are using the soft part of your finger.
Use the bony part or edge of your finger by tilting your index finger toward the guitar’s head by 45 degrees.
The index finger is close to the fret bar.
With this, you are more likely to produce a better sound (especially no buzzing).
5. Keep Your Elbow Tucked In
Don’t make any chicken wing posture.
Just keep your elbow by your body so that you’ll feel more comfortable.
6. Push and Pull Technique
This is not a popular technique. In fact, I’ve only learned recently.
But hey, it helps, so I’m still gonna tell you.
Using your strumming arm, push the body towards you.
By doing this, the neck of the guitar will move toward your fretting hand.
Using your fretting hand, pull the neck towards you.
This will add more pressure to your barre chord and will definitely produce a cleaner sound.
7. Use Your Middle Finger to Support the Index Finger
Here’s the thing:
If your middle finger is free with the shape you’re making, you could use your middle finger to support your index finger.
8. Strengthen Your Index Finger
Barre chords take time to learn, especially you have to strengthen your index finger.
What does this mean for you?
Well, the same thing as always. Gotta keep on practicing!
Even if it is just the index finger applying pressure, as long as you’re developing the muscles and muscle memory for your index finger.
9. Make Sure Every String Sounds Good
Of course, when you’re practicing, make sure every string is sounding good.
Pick the strings one by one to check. This way, you’ll know if you’re doing the “barre” correctly.
10. Switching From a Barre Chord to Another
When switching from a barre chord to a barre chord, it is better to release the pressure then slide to the next chord.
Here’s the kicker:
If the chord you’re shifting to is of the same shape, you could keep the form and just slide up or down for effortless changing.
11. Don’t Apply Too Much Strength
I know, I know.
It contradicts what I’ve been saying about applying pressure.
But hear me out:
At first, you really have to apply more muscular strength to develop your muscles.
Once you get used to it, then you can relax your fingers.
You don’t really have to apply a crazy amount of force, just an adequate to make it sound nice.
For this, you have to actually know what it feels when its right. Plus, a callusy index finger.
8 Essential Chord Shapes
If you’ve already memorized the 10 essential basic chords, then learning these shapes would be a piece of cake to you.
These are the chords as to which the necessary barre chords are based on.
Memorizing the Root Notes
You don’t ACTUALLY need to memorize ALL of the notes (right now).
For now, you only need to memorize the 5th and 6th string notes.
Here are some tips for memorizing it:
- Start by learning the natural notes (no sharps or flats).
- Remember that E and B don’t have sharp notes.
- Go up and down the 5th and 6th strings while saying the notes out loud.
Once you’ve memorized those, its time to use them with the barre chords!
Here’s the kicker:
Figuring out the barre chord, you’re playing DEPENDS on the root note and the chord’s shape.
The root would be the lowest note played.
Let’s use the Fmaj chord as an example:
As you can see, the lowest note would be the 6th string, 1st fret, which is an F note; hence it is an F chord.
As for the shape, you might have realized that its actually an Emaj chord (see illustration above) that is one fret higher.
Based on the root note (F) and the shape (Emaj), we could definitely say that this is an F major chord.
You might be wondering:
Why is there suddenly a barre instead of just moving the Emaj up?
Consider Emaj as a barre chord, but instead of using your index finger to barre the strings, the nut is doing the work for you.
Since it can’t be moved, you could use a capo to increase the key.
Use a barre chord.
Let’s look at another example:
Let’s get the root note first.
The lowest note in this chord would be 5th string, 2nd fret, and a C note. Without a doubt, this is a C chord!
Carrying on to the shape.
Based on the chord shapes above, this seems like an Am shape. Awesome!
You got that right, this is a Cm barre chord.
Best of all:
You can now quickly memorize all the necessary barre chords! (Based on the shapes I taught)
Barre Chords Exercise
1. The very first thing you wanna do is to make your index finger comfortable making a barre.
It’s okay to use the middle, ring and pinky finger to support the index finger into making a barre.
This is because you still need to get the “feel” of how much pressure is required to make it sound “okay”.
- Starting from the first fret, make a barre (with the supporting fingers) and pick each string (top to bottom and vice versa).
- If it sounds great, move on to the next fret and do the same thing. Do this until the 6th fret.
- Once you reach the 6th fret, go back 1 fret and do the same until you’re back to the first fret.
- If you get the feel, try using just the index and middle finger on steps 1 to 3.
- After a while, use only the index finger and do steps 1 to 3.
This will take a while because developing strength in your index finger can’t be done overnight.
That’s also why you must practice regularly.
If your index finger isn’t strong enough to do the barre alone, you SHOULD try the next steps as the next part of your exercises.
2. Applying the index finger or barre with the chord shape.
Try to do any barre chord.
Strum, or pick each string.
Here’s the trick:
Apply pressure like a pulse.
Just before strumming or picking, apply pressure, then release.
This way, the pressure will be much more robust, and your fingers won’t be too easily fatigued.
It will definitely not sound right at first.
Just keep on practicing because you need to develop muscle strength and muscle memory in your fingers.
Once you get the hang of it, try another chord.
3. Here are some songs you could try (with Bm and Fmaj):
- Blank Space / Style (Taylor Swift) Mashup – Louisa Wendorff and Devin Dawson | Chords | Youtube
- Fall for You – Secondhand Serenade| Chords | Youtube | Spotify
- I Started a Joke – Bees Gees | Chords | Youtube | Spotify
- Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars | Chords | Youtube | Spotify
You could also use the barre chords version of the open chords for practice.
Just remember to practice regularly.
If you practice like once a month, it won’t make any progress.
Think about it:
With that interval, it’s as if you’re always starting from scratch.
Final Words of Advice
Learning barre chords is like opening the door to new possibilities in terms of guitar playing.
One shape for twelve chords, I mean seriously, how awesome is that?
Just remember these tips to do the barre chords easily:
- Start with a partial chord.
- Create a clamping shape with your index finger and your thumb.
- Use the bony part of your index finger.
- Keep your elbow tucked in.
- Use the push and pull technique.
- Use the middle finger to support the index finger (if applicable).
Using the shapes and root notes, you’ll easily play any barre chords without the need to ask google on how to play “this” chord.
Keep on practicing!
It’ll take some time to learn, but it will totally be worth it!
Learn 7th chords! Here’s a spoiler, they sound AWESOME!