Barre chord is just short for bar chord or to bar all the strings with your index finger. The barre chord is a unique kind of chord that opens up many possibilities for the guitarist. The bar chord can easily be moved around the neck in most positions up to the point when there is no more room for your fingers i.e. above the 12th fret. The bar chord is hard to master but offers great possibilities when you have it. It should be in the arsenal of every guitarist!
Up until now the focus has been on regular chords like A major and E major that are essentially the same chord form played at different strings or positions. The bar chord is much harder to play and needs to use more pressure applied to the strings than a normal chord.
The first thing to do when you play a barre chord is to lay your index finger across all the string from 1st to the 6th strings on first fret. It is the same as playing all the strings open except you bar the whole first fret with your index finger. Look at the image to see the basic barred chord.
Basic Barre Chord Shape
The first Barre Chord Shape
When fingering a barre chord make sure you do not keep your index finger flat on the fret board, you roll it a little towards the nut of the guitar so that the pressure is on the side of the finger rather than under the index finger. Strum the chord and make sure all the notes sound clear and clean.
The next step is to finger the actual barre chord. Still holding down the strings at the first bar, add you second finger to the 3rd string 2nd fret, add your 3rd finger to the 5th string 3rd fret and you 4th finger at 4th string 3rd fret.
Strum the bar chord one string a a time and make sure all the notes sound clear and ring throughout. Try correcting the notes that do not ring. Make sure you bend your first finger a tiny bit in the middle so that the pressure is at the fingertip by the 6th string and at the base by the 1st and 2nd string. You have just played a F major chord.
The barre chord has one unique attribute, it can be moved around the guitar neck in all positions to make a new chord. For instance if you move the whole chord up one fret to 2nd fret you get a new chord with the same fingering. Now the barre chord is named F# major.
The Second Barre Chord Shape
With your first finger still baring the second fret, move your second finger to the 2nd string 3rd fret, 4th finger on to the 4th fret 3rd string and 3rd finger to 4th string 4th fret. You may or may not bar with your first finger to the sixth string, but the normal thing to do with this chord is to bar just the 5th string and 1st string.
The Third Barre Chord Shape
The extra note on the 6th string (F#) can be found in the chord, it is the same note as on 4th string 4th fret and 1st string 2nd fret. It is the 5th of the chord and when added by the 6th string the chord changes it’s name a B minor with F# (5th) in bass, written B minor /F#
The next bar chord we will tackle is the minor chord with a root on sixth string. This chord is probably the easiest barre chord to play. Finger all the strings at second fret and add 4th finger to the 4th string 4th fret, add the 3rd finger at 5th string 4th fret. Strum the chord like before and make sure all the notes sound clean. This chord’s name is F# minor.
The Fourth Barre Chord Shape
Let’s move on to the hardest bar chord. This is a major chord with the root at 5th string. With this bar chords there are two fingering, you have to decide which one you would like to use. For the first one you bar the second fret with your index finger up to the 5th string, barring 1st and 5th strings.
With your 3rd finger bar the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings at the 4th bar. You need to bend your 3rd finger a little bit upwards in order to be able to sound the first string. This is my preferred fingering. Some skip the first string all together because it is only a repeated note from the 4th string 4th fret F# note.
The other way to finger the B major chord is to use the same barre fingering for the index finger and use 4th finger for the 4th fret 2nd string, 3rd finger for the 4th fret 3rd string and the 2nd finger for the 4th fret 4th string. Some use this fingering and others use the other. It’s up to you what to use, use what you feel you have more control over i.e. it should be easy to change from some chord to this barre chord.
The Four Shapes of a Barre Chord
We have gone over the four most important barre chords shapes. The minor and major barre chords with root on 5th and 6th string. Move them around the neck to play in other positions and get a feel for the sound of them.
Practice them well all over the neck of the guitar until you feel at ease playing them. With these four barre chords you could make lot’s of song just by moving the chord shapes up and down the neck.
To end this guitar lesson, here are the four barre chord forms. Play them up and down the neck and get them into your fingers