Barre Chords

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INFO & EXPLANATION

ONE FINGER, BARRING ANY COMPLICATIONS

Ohhh, that's bad! Where's a drummer when you need one. Badoom, crash! Corny or not, we're going to approach this lesson in a very logical manner so get ready to have one of those ah ha! moments.

The F chord is most beginning guitarists first exposure to Barring across more than one string with one finger. You should have learned the simple 1st position fingering for the F chord by the time you get to this lesson. If you haven't, go to the Chord Finder, search for the F chord and it's the 1st fingering you'll see. A "Barre Chord," for the purpose of this lesson, is one in which you finger mutiple notes by laying your 1st finger across all the strings. See, the problem is, you only have 4 fingers on your left hand but sometimes you need to "finger" all 6 strings. the only way to accomplish this is to use one finger to push down multiple strings. This is also referred to as "Barring."

You can think of "Barring" as a way of moving open chord forms up the neck of the guitar. Let me give you an example, look at the E chord in the diagram to the right. The 1st, 2nd and 6th strings are open strings. If you like the way the E chord sounds, you can actually get that same "sound" by moving the E chord FORM up the neck of the guitar. If we move every note in the E chord up 1 fret, the resulting chord will be the F chord because, as you know from the Theory lesson on Music Fundamentals , the distance between E and F is one fret (or 1/2 step). Keep in mind, you don't just move the fingered notes! The open strings have to be moved too, they're just as much a part of the chord as the fingered notes. the resulting chord, F, requires you to lay your first finger across all the strings in order to push down the 1st, 2nd and 6th strings. The first finger also touches the other strings but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers are pushing down above the first finger on those strings.

HOW DO YOU DO THIS!?!

If you've never attempted to play barre chords before, it might be a little difficult at first. So, what's new. This is a big step for you. Take a look at the example to the right. Notice that the first finger is right up against the first fret bar. Also, I'll let you in on a little secret- playing this barre chord is easier a little higher up on the neck. Once you get this chord under your fingers, you'll be able to move all over the neck with it! Playing all the flat and sharp chords will be equally easy for you. Try this chord with your 1st finger on the 5th fret. When you play it there, you're playing the A chord. When you move up to the 6th fret it becomes the Bb chord and so on. Pretty cool, huh?

 

A WORD ABOUT THE BARRING TECHNIQUE

Please don't get discouraged if you can't do this immediately. Just keep the following tips in mind:

  • Your first finger cannot be curved. At first, you'll have a good bit of soft flesh on the inside of your finger. If you stretch out your finger by straightening it, you'll pull that skin tighter and allow your finger to more firmly press the strings against the neck.
  • Place your first finger so that the base of it is right at the bottom of the neck. If your 1st finger placement is too low, you'll have a difficult time keeping it straight. It will have a tendancy to curve at the bottom of the neck.

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