Let’s get your hand strumming barre chords.
Now that you can fret a barre chord, it’s time to start strumming and work on your finger strength and dexterity. Strumming is just as important as the chords themselves. It gives your music a pulse and makes it sound more like music.
While you’ve previously mastered strumming with open chords, strumming barre chords is the next level for you. Your right hand must learn to strum continuously even though your left hand struggles to form barre chords.
3 Tips for Playing Barre Chords
1. Keep your elbow into your side so you can easily move around the fretboard.
Don’t spread your arm out like a chicken wing. This locks your arm into place and makes it difficult to move up and down the fretboard. Instead, keep your elbow in close to your side, this will help you move up and down the fretboard more easily.
2. Fret the strings on your guitar slightly towards the outer edge of your finger.
It is easier to press down with the bonier and harder part of your finger.
Fretting on the outer edge of your finger also gives you more leverage to press down the strings. Using the fleshy part of your finger can make it difficult to press down all the strings evenly.
3. Keep your strumming hand moving even if you’re still struggling forming your chords.
One of the common mistakes a beginner guitarist makes is to stop strumming once they hit a hard chord. This is a bad habit to get into and will make it difficult to strum smoothly once you get better at barre chords. So even if you’re still having trouble forming the chord, keep your strumming hand moving . This will help you maintain a steadier rhythm.
Make Sure to Warm Up First
Just like any other physical activity, it’s important to warm up your muscles before you start playing. Warming up will help prevent injuries and will help you play better. To play barre chords, you’ll need to use all of your fingers. Before you begin, do some finger exercises to prepare yourself.
Here are four simple finger stretches you might try:
- Rub your hands together vigorously for about 30 seconds.
- Gently massage each finger and thumb.
- Make fists with your hands and then release them slowly.
- Spread your fingers out as far as you can and then close them into fists.
Doing these stretches will help get the blood flowing to your fingers and will help you play better.
Barre Chord Finger Exercises for Beginners
Let’s try another set of exercises to warm up your fingers and hands.
Index Finger Exercise
- Place your 1st (index) finger on the 1st string/5th fret and strum down.
- Move your index finger up to fret both 1st and 2nd string and strum down.
- Keep moving up and strum down until you reach the sixth string.
- Repeat the cycle on the 6th fret moving forward until the 8th fret then move back to the 5th fret with the same pattern.
Major Barre Chord Exercise: Moving up and down the fretboard
- Do a full barre chord on the sixth (E) string.
- Strum all strings from the root.
- Slap the strings with your index 4 times before moving forward or backward the fretboard.
- Do the sequence 1 to 3 moving forward from 1st fret all the way to 7th fret and move backwards.
- Repeat all steps using the fifth (A) string.
Now that you know how to play barre chords, it’s time to start using them in your playing! One of the best ways to start incorporating barre chords into your playing is by using them in easy guitar songs.
Let’s play the song we learned on the previous blog, “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King. The song has only F#m barre chord when played in the key of A, so it’s an excellent place to start if you’re new to barre chords.
The chords is the same in all parts of the song: Intro, Verse, Chorus, Instrumental and Outro
A – F#m – D E A –
- A – 2 bars of 4 counts (8 counts)
- F#m – 2 bars of 4 counts (8 counts)
- D – 4 counts
- E – 4 counts
- A – 2 bars of 4 counts (8 counts)
You can also play “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles using three chords F#m, E and B in the key of E.
- Intro: E
- Verse & Chorus: F#m, E (Play 2 bars or 8 beats each chord starting on the word “down”)
- Bridge: E (2 bars) B (4 bars) E (2 bars)
Other Songs with only One Barre Chord
If there is one thing that might help you get over the fear of barre chords, it’s learning some easy guitar songs with barre chords. Barre chords can be very daunting, but they aren’t actually all that difficult to learn how to play if you break them down into smaller chunks. We will be using simple strumming version of the following songs.
- Feelin’ Alright by Traffic
You only need two chords, C & F with 4 beats each, to play this song composed by Dave Mason of the English rock group Traffic, for their self-titled debut album which became a worldwide hit for Joe Cocker in 1969.
You’ll undoubtedly feel at ease strumming with the given tempo, which is slow enough to allow you to change chords easily. You may simplify the strumming pattern you’ll use in order to concentrate more on fretting correctly and establishing a steady rhythm.
- Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side is a song from his second solo album, Transformer (1972). The song, which became Lou Reed’s most popular and signature composition, was widely played on radios. Here’s how you can play the song using three chords with only one barre chord:
- C F C F ( 4beats each)
- C Dm F Dm (2 beats each)
Intro & Chorus:
- C F (play alternately doing 4 beats on each chord)
Don’t be alarmed with one more chord added in the strumming. D minor (Dm) open chord is very easy to fret and strum. You’ve previously learned about C and Dm, which are both simple guitar open chords. Playing this song will surely give you confidence in strumming barre chords.
- I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James
This blues song was recorded and released by Etta James in 1967. You can play this blues and soul classic using 2 chords in this progression A – Bm – A.
- Four beats in a bar: A (1 bar) Bm (2 bars) A (1 bar)
- 3 pulses for every beat (strumming in big, little, little)
- 1 + a 2 + a 3 + a 4 + a (with all down strums)
This old song will surely give you the blues, but in a good way! You’ll feel great after learning how to strum it. There is a hack to play this song by utilizing an open Bm chord, but for the purpose of the lesson, stick to using the barre chord form.
Besides, the tempo is slow enough to strum comfortably. You’ll definitely enjoy strumming this soulful composition.
- Fallin’ by Alicia Keys
Two chords, that’s all it takes to play this popular and signature song of Keys. The Em – Bm progression can be played in two slow strums.
Another slow song that is easy to strum and sing along. As a result, you’ll be able to readily establish a good and consistent beat with smooth chord changes.
This song became Alicia Keys’ breakthrough single and her first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001.
- Dance The Night Away by Mavericks
This pop rock with Latin influences was from their fifth studio album, Trampoline (1998). It is played in 4/4 time signature using two chords, E & B7, played alternately with 2 counts per chord from start to end.
You’ll find that this song is fun and easy to strum, with a catchy melody that will keep you hooked.
- Born In The U.S.A by Bruce Springsteen
The song used fast synthesizer riffs for the first time to complement his music. The track spent four weeks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over one million copies in the US, becoming his biggest hit. Using chords B & E, you can definitely play this easy guitar song in 4/4 time signature giving 4 bars per chord.
Be patient; it may take some time to get used to barring chords but fretting barre chords is an essential guitar skill. Learning how to play barre chords well can really open up your songwriting and improvisation options, and give you a much fuller sound in your rhythm playing. Do not be intimidated by the amount of songs that use them–with practice they will come easily.
Barre chords are great for beginners because they provide a stable platform to build the rest of your playing on.
In fact, if you master them early enough, it will make other things like learning scales and melodies easier down the line.
You’ve come this far; there’s no turning back! Happy strumming!