Guitar Barre Chords

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Welcome to Guitar Barre Chords, an Adventure Learning Initiative in mentoring and instructing apprentice artists. We hope you enjoy this daring task in the simple life of guitar and music.

Learning barre chords will really raise the “barre” of your playing, so to speak. Learning barre chords for me was challenging in the beginning. But then again, what worthwhile initiative isn’t? Persistence, patience and practice are the ingredients required to play some seriously cooking barre chords. Are you ready to get creative and work those fingers out?

What Exactly are
Guitar Barre Chords?

Guitar Barre Chords (sometimes spelled 'Bar' Chords) get their name from laying the first (index) finger of your left hand across all the strings, essentially, "barring" them. It is almost as though your index finger serves as a moveable nut. At the same time you play a chord shape with the remaining fingers on your left hand. This will be covered in more detail further down the page. Barre chords are sometimes referred to as moveable chords because you can move the basic chord shapes up and down the guitar fretboard, each time, playing a different chord.

Guitar Barre Chords are an essential part of Chords and Rhythm. If you struggle with them at first, don’t worry, it is natural. Keep persevering because it'll open up a whole lot of dimension to what you can play. Not only that but you develop excellent hand and finger strength from playing guitar barre chords.

Barre Chords are based on certain chord shapes. On this page, we'll look at the E Shaped Barre Chords and the A Shaped Barre Chords. As the name suggests, these barre chords are based on the shapes of the E and A chords in their open positions.

The easiest way to learn guitar barre chords is to focus on the ones that have the root note (this is the note after which the chord is named) on the 6th or 5th strings (that's the thickest string and the one just below it, or, the E string and A string respectively).

Barre Chords and Root Notes

First question, what is a root note? A root note is the note after which any specific chord is named. The Root note for the E chord is the 6th open E string and the root note of the A chord is the 5th open A string. The root note for most chords will be the base note, i.e. fall on either the 4th, 5th or 6th strings.

A Barre chord with its root note on the 6th E string is called a "Root 6 Barre Chord". Similarly, if the root note falls on the 5th string, it’s called a "Root 5 Barre Chord".

If you take the Root 6 bar chord as an example, you'll notice that when it comes to playing major, minor, dominant 7th, and minor 7th chords, the barre chord shape is the same as the open chord shape (in this case an E chord). The exception is that you'll be laying your first finger across all of the strings.

Keeping your index finger free when playing the various open chords will make the shift to a barre chord far more elegant. See how many of the open chords you can play without using your index finger!

Just think, with these 8 barre chord shapes alone, you'll be able to play 192 chords just using the Root 5 and Root 6 bar chords! And that's excluding sharps and flats! WOW, now that's what I call versatility!

Tips for Playing Barre Chords

Here are a few guitar playing techniques to follow when playing guitar barre chords:

  • Keep the thumb of your left hand behind the guitar neck and your left wrist low.
  • Keep the first (index) finger on your left hand strait and strong to barre the strings effectively.
  • Make sure you place this finger just behind the frets for a clear, clean tone.
  • Practice by just laying this finger across all the strings, then play the stings one at a time and see if the tone is clear, or if there is a buzzing sound. If there is a buzzing or 'muting' of the sound, adjust your finger and try again.
  • Keep at it, you'll love your new found ability to play barre chords.
  • You can tune your guitar to an Open G. With this tuning all you need is your first finger laid across all the strings to produce a good sounding chord. This is great practice for playing barre chords and is lots of fun too!

Good luck with your licks and hope you visit again soon.

Musically Yours,
Andrew Pittendrigh in association with
The Adventure Learning Muso Mentors

If you feel you would like to mentor or instruct in a creative short course or program, simply complete the Creative Project Ideas Mentor Application form.

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