Learn To Play Bar Chords On The Guitar

Barre chords are chords that use the index finger to hold open strings, essentially mimicking the nut of the guitar. Learning how to bar chords on the guitar can be easy!!

There are major and minor barre chord shapes that are important to know, because once you know these 2 simple shapes, you can play any major or minor chord along the 6th and 5th strings of your guitar. 

Barre chord shapes are like a package deal, by learning one shape you unlock many chords to play. Below we will explain the simple logic behind barre chords, and give you the best tips to execute them with confidence! Stay tuned!

how to play bar chords on the guitar

Understanding Basic Chord Theory

So as we said before, barre chords are shapes that are moveable down the strings of your guitar.

Open chords and barre chords are related because barre chord shapes are based on the original open chord shapes.

Finger Placement and Posture

Before playing your chord, be sure that your fingers are parallel to the fretboard. You never want to play while lounging on the couch or with your fingers at an angle. This is to ensure that your wrist is in the proper position to avoid pain and frustration.

Related: How To Read Guitar Chord Charts

Basic Bar Chord Shapes On The 6th String

The best way to learn your barre chords is to go string by string. Let’s start on the 6th string. The 6th string barre chords are based on the open E chords, which we have provided a diagram for. When you move this shape up one fret, it becomes an F chord. Continuing up the fretboard, this shape becomes G, A, B, C, D, and E again respectively.

E Maj Open Chord
  • Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string. (G#)
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string. (B)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string. (E)
  • Play the open 6th, 2nd, and 3rd strings. (E, B, E)
f barre chord easy
  • Place your index finger on the 1st fret of the 6th string and barre. (F, C, and F)
  • Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string. (A)
  • Place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. (C )
  • Place your pinky on the 3rd fret of the 4th string. (F)

Similarly, you can also move the E minor chord shape up the fretboard to play minor chords!

Use this shape to play all of the chords along the 6th string.

Basic Bar Chord Shapes On The 5th String

The barre chords on the 5th string are based off of the A open chord shapes. The process is the same as the chords on the 6th string, only this time the shapes have been changed just a bit.

A Major Open Chord
  • Place your index finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string. (E)
  • Place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string. (A)
  • Place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string. (C )
  • Play the open 5th and 1st strings. (A and E)
B Major Barre Chord
  • Place your index finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string and barre. (B and F#)
  • Place your middle finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string. (F#)
  • Place your ring finger on the 5th fret of the 3rd string. (B)
  • Place your pinky on the 5th fret of the 2nd string. (D#)
A Minor Open Chord
B Minor Barre Chord

Don’t just stop at B! Move the shape up the neck to play every chord on the 5th string.

Related: Learn To Play Guitar Chords B Minor

Bar Chords Tips for Smooth Transitions

If you want to move flawlessly between one chord to the next, the secret is to move one finger at a time. That’s right, one finger at a time

You see, with every chord change there is a hierarchy of notes. This hierarchy is based on which note you need to play first. Simply play the first note you need and move the other to follow suit. 

Try breaking up your chords into arpeggios to play them more seamlessly.

Exercises for Strengthening Your Fingers

Barre chords are infamous for being very difficult, but we don’t believe that here. The key to executing a flawless barre chord is in the technique.

The first thing you should know about playing barre chords is that you do not want to squeeze the guitar’s neck. This creates unnecessary tension in your left hand. 

The secret is to let the gravity of your arm pull downward onto the fret board. This takes an immense amount of pressure off the muscles of your hand and utilizes physics to do all the work for you. Go ahead and try this now. As you pluck each string, ensure that all notes played ring clearly. Next, move the same shape up a fret and continue to barre without squeezing your hand. Strum your shape up one fret until you run out of room. Now you know a new exercise for when you’re having trouble executing your barre chords!

Common Bar Chord Mistakes

If you make these mistakes, you’re not alone. The most common mistakes we see with beginners learning to play guitar chords are:

Slanted fingers

Remember to always keep all of your fingers parallel to the fretboard. This makes it easier to hit all the notes, achieve clear sound, and avoid fatigue.

Uncomfortable wrist positioning

Sitting up straight with your wrist straight up is the best way to play for long hours and avoid pain.

Squeezing the fretboard

If your fingers are turning white from pressing the notes, you are using too much force! Ease up a bit, take a deep breath and relax. Let the weight of your elbow do the work for you.

Posture is so important when playing guitar, before playing anything make sure you are practicing good posture. These techniques are ergonomic and make playing easy, start practicing proper position from the get go to avoid learning bad habits.

Related: Guitar Chords: Basics, Theory, & Mastery

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the trick to bar chords?

The trick to barre chords is not to squeeze the neck with the left hand, but let the natural weight of your arm pull the notes downward to create effortless sound.

How to do bar chords quickly?

The key to playing barre chords quickly is to just start slow and work your way up.

Are bar chords hard to learn?

No! They are incredibly easy to learn because there are only 4 simple shapes.

Related: Open Guitar Chords: Made Simple

Conclusion

A barre chord is a chord that uses your index finger to hold down all 6 strings. The barre chord shapes can be moved up and down the fretboard. 

There are barre chord shapes for chords with root notes of the 5th and 6th strings. In this article we focused on the major and minor barre chord shapes, but there are also barre chord shapes for all of the 7th chords as well.

Before playing barre chords, make sure you are seated properly and are not overly straining your wrist or hand. The trick is to let the weight of the elbow pull for fingers downward to play the chord. 

Playing barre chords is commonly viewed as difficult by the guitar community, but are actually quite simple to get the hang of. Don’t let barre chords scare you or discourage you from playing the guitar! You can do this! Be proud of coming this far in your journey.

Related: How To Play The Gsus Chord On Guitar

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