If you’re looking to learn how to form barre chords, look no further! This easy guide will show you how to do it in two simple shapes.
Barre chords are a type of guitar chord that uses one finger to barre (or press down) multiple strings. This can be done by using an index finger to barre all the strings at a certain fret.
Take your playing to the next level with barre chords.
You may wonder how you can possibly memorize all chords in the chart when you are barely making it with the open chords. Good news! Barre chords will unlock the path taking you further on most chords of the chart.
We mentioned earlier that barre chords are moveable chords where you can move the whole shape of a chord up and down the fretboard hitting all other chords in the music alphabet.
Let’s find out how we can make use of the two open chords from our basic guitar chords list.
E-type & A-type Barre Chord Shapes
The most important barre chord shapes are the A-type barre chords and E-type barre chords. They are barre chord forms with A major and E major open chords. Originally, these basic chords are barre chords yet with the aid of the nut, fretting across the strings, you can now play both as an open chord.
Here are the steps on how you can form a barre chord:
Step 1: Position your barre finger across all the strings at a certain fret. In this case, we will use the first fret.
Step 2: Use your other fingers to form a chord shape. In this case, we will use an E-type barre chord shape.
Step 3: Strum all the strings and check if you hear a clear tone. If not, adjust your barre finger or any of your other fingers
Now that we have established the barre chord shapes, let’s find out how to barre these chords.
How to Form Barre Chords
Now, let’s put your index finger to use by fretting all six strings for E and five strings for A in a single fret before the nut. Then add either E and A open chords using fingers 2, 3 & 4 to see both chords in full barre chord shape. Move everything half step, barring the first fret beside the nut, for a better view or perspective of its form.
Remember the first finger exercise we shared on identifying the music alphabet when fretting notes per string with “Open Strings’ Name” (EADGBe) as your reference point. We will build on that exercise to form and identify your barre chords. You will be able to do all major chords in both forms, having the 6th or 5th string as the root of the barre chord.
E-Form Barre Chord
The E-type barre chord is an E chord shape barred up and down the frets where the root of the chord is on the sixth string. Moving your open chord half step forward plus barred 1st fret using your index finger will make an F Major.
E open string – move half step to F
F Major (F) Barre Chord
- Place your 1st/index finger to bar across all strings of 1st fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret
- Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/3rd fret
*Your index finger is actually fretting strings 6, 2 and 1 but you can fret all strings in between. The fretted 6th string on the first fret is the root note, F.
A-Form Barre Chord
The A-type barre chord is an A chord shape barred up and down the frets where the root of the chord is on the fifth string. Moving your open chord whole step forward plus barred 2nd fret, from 5th to 1st string, using your index finger will make a B Major.
A open string – move 2 frets to move one whole step to B
B Major (B) Barre Chord
- Place your 1st/index finger to bar across 5th to 1st strings of 2nd fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/4th fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 3th string/4th fret
- Place your 4th finger on the 2nd string/4th fret
- Do not play the 6th string, (X)
*Your index finger is actually fretting strings 5 & 1 but you can fret all strings in between. The fretted 5th string is the root note, B.
Major Barre Chords
The barre chords are the most powerful and versatile chords on the guitar. You can use barre chords to play any major chord in any key. In order to play barre chords, you need to know the notes on the fretboard.
With your E-shaped and A-shaped barre chords, you can now do all major chords including the sharps and flats of a note in your music alphabet.
- Music Alphabet consists of letters from A to G only.
- Move up and down the fretboard alphabetically with the open string names as your reference, E & A.
- It usually takes a whole step to bar the notes except for two pairs in the music alphabet where you only move half step: B & C, E & F.
- In between whole steps are the sharp of the previous note or flat of the next note, both are the same.
These are the notes of the fretted sixth (E) and fifth string (A).
E-Shaped Barre Chord, Root on 6th String
E-open string || F | F#/G♭| G | G#/A♭| A | A#/B♭| B | C | D | D#/E♭ | …
A-Shaped Barre Chord, Root on 5th String
A-open string || A#/B♭| B | C | D | D#/E♭| F#/G♭| G | G#/A♭| A | …
This is the power of barre chords, you hit everything else with two stones. We’ve prepared your index finger to practice fretting in a bar, now let’s add all other fingers to do the exercise below.
Unlocking Other Barre Chords
Let’s get started forming these shapes on the 5th fret. When strings 6 and 5 get fretted, you will get the following barre chords:
Fretted Root 6th String, E-type, 5th fret: A Major Chord (A)
- Place your 1st/index finger to bar across all strings of 5th fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/6th fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/7th fret
- Place your 4th finger on the 4th string/7th fret
Fretted Root 5th String, E-type, 5th fret: D Major Chord (D)
- Place your 1st/index finger to bar across 5th to 1st strings of 5th fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/7th fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 3th string/7th fret
- Place your 4th finger on the 2nd string/7th fret
- Do not play the 6th string, (X)
E-type Barre Chords
- Seventh or Dominant 7th: Lift your 4th finger.
- Minor: Lift your 2nd finger.
- Minor 7th: Lift your 2nd and 4th finger.
A-type Barre Chords
- Seventh or Dominant 7th: Lift your 3rd finger.
- Minor: Move your 4th finger half step backward. Change your finger position to comfortably fret the notes, it will look like an E open chord shape on strings 2, 3 and 4.
- Minor 7th Barre Chord: From your minor barre chord, lift your 4th finger.
Basic Barre Chord Tips
Consider how exciting it is when you first figured out how to play a full E chord – all six strings! It sounded so massive compared to the basic open chords I had been playing up to that point.
But as barre chords are usually one of the first “challenging” techniques new guitarists learn, they often end up being learned hastily and inefficiently. This can lead to years of struggle and frustration, trying to get those pesky barre chords to sound good.
Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks you can learn that will make a world of difference in the quality of your barre chords.
1. Check Your Thumb Position
One of the most common mistakes guitarists make when first learning barre chords is placing their thumb in the wrong position. Your thumb should be placed behind the neck, in line with your index finger. This may feel a little awkward at first, but it’s important to get used to this position as it will give you much more control over the barre.
2. Use Your First Finger as a Guide
When you barre with the first finger, it’s important to make sure that it is placed in the correct position. The best way to do this is by using your first finger as a guide for the rest of your fingers. Make sure that your first finger is perpendicular to the fretboard. From there, you can place your other fingers in the correct position.
4. Don’t Barre Too Hard
One of the most common mistakes guitarists make when forming barre chords is when you barre too hard. This often leads to a very tight, constricted sound. Instead, you should just apply enough pressure to get a clear tone. This may take some practice, but it’s important to find the right balance.
5. Barre with Your Entire Arm
Another common mistake guitarists make is when you don’t barre with you entire arm. Instead, they just use their hand to barre the strings. This often leads to a very weak barre and bad tone. Instead, you should use your entire arm to barre the strings. This will give you a much stronger barre and better tone.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to play barre chords correctly – and your barre chord playing will improve dramatically as a result!
All About Patterns!
The power of barre chords is all about patterns you need to observe well and later on bank in your memory. A major chord is done differently when using a root note on the sixth string (E) and fifth string (A). You have to get a hold of both E-shaped barre chord and A-shaped barre chord to unlock other patterns. These variations are actually a change of note position or intervals (whole tone or semitone) affecting the pitch and frequency of a note within a chord.
The terms and theory can really get technical if you want to further understand the core of these patterns but reserve it for another lesson to study. This time, I want you to get familiar with the patterns of these interval changes to play different chords.