mastering barre chords

Photo courtesy simon_music

Finally, after a lot of time and many requests, I have finally come up with a barre chords lesson. This is one of the most important lessons here on this blog. Before getting into details, lets clear for whom this lesson is intended for.

If you are absolutely and surely comfortable with below points:

  1. Playing Basic Open Chords.
  2. Shifting between Open Chords without the need of looking at the fret board.
  3. Have been practicing guitar for at least 8-12 months.

If you think that you are ready with all the above things, then continue reading!

Barre chords is the key thing to playing variety of chords. Once you master the barre chords, you will be awakened to a new vista of possibilities on guitar. There will be very few songs which you won’t be able to play after learning barre chords.

But of course, it is not so easy to master. You will have to practice a lot (A LOT) with practically no results initially. But your persistence will definitely pay off and in a big way!

An important concept to understand as a requisite to learning barre chords is the Root Note. Check out this lesson if you haven’t already done so.

Let’s delve into the barre chords !

Types of Barre Chords

Barre chords are formed using two basic shapes (E shape and A shape) and their variations.

6th String Root (E shape)

These barre chords have the root note on the 6th string. They are called the E shape chords, since they resemble the open E chord. Knowing the CAGED system will help here!

6th Root E shape Major Barre Chord

As you can see in the image on the left, the root note is on the 6th string. The fingers 2,3 and 4 form the open E chord shape, hence the name.

The barring of the fret is achieved using the index finger. The index finger will press all the strings which is effectively the nut in the open chords.

Let’s remove the 2nd finger from the above chord to get to the minor version…

The Minor Chord version

6th Root E shape Minor Barre Chord

As shown in the image, we have lifted off the 2nd finger on the 3rd string.

The important thing here is to ensure that the 3rd string open note should not get muted when you hold the chord. Adjust your barred index finger accordingly to be able to play the minor note.

Now let’s check out the 7th versions!

The Major 7th version

6th Root E shape Minor Barre Chord

As you can see, instead of the 2nd finger, we have lifted the little finger (4th). This is the major 7th barre chord. So if the root note is on the 5th fret of 6th string (A note), it would be the A major 7th barre chord (Amaj7).

Easy isn’t it? The minor 7th version is even more simple. Check it out!

The Minor 7th version

6th Root E shape Minor Barre Chord

In the minor 7th barre chords, we lift off both 2nd and 4th finger.

Remember, the index finger is still barring the fret as before… and the 3rd finger is holding the the 5th string.

5th String Root A Shape Major Chords

The basics is all same except the root note now is on the 5th string instead of the 6th string. While playing 5th root barre chords, remember to mute the 6th string using the tip of your index finger.

Minor Barre Chords

As you can see in the image on the left, the 3rd finger is holding 2,3,4 strings in a shape which is similar to open A chord. Hence the name A major shape barre chords.

Playing this chord requires hell lot of practice, since it includes simultaneous barring of index finger and the 3rd finger. It will be almost impossible to play the 1st string as the the 3rd finger will mute it. Don’t worry it’s fine!

Ensure that the 6th string is not being played. Mute it using the tip of the first finger.

The Minor version

Minor Barre Chords

The minor version is nothing but the E major shape we saw earlier but moved down by a string.

Make sure the 6th string is not ringing.

The Major 7th version

Minor Barre Chords

In the minor version above, just lift the 2nd finger and move your 4th finger one string below to the 2nd string. Now you will be playing the major 7th barre chords of 5th string roots.

Shouldn’t be difficult with a bit of practice.

The Minor 7th version

Minor Barre Chords

Instead of lifting the 2nd finger, lift the little finger as shown in the image. This will give the minor 7th barre chords for 5th string roots.

These are all the types of barre chords that you need to know to be able to play any song. The root note that you are playing is the name of the relevant barre chord.

The beauty of barre chords is that you can move the left hand up or down the frets to form new chords. For e.g., if the root note is moved to the 1st fret on the 6th string (F note) and keep the same E chord shape, we will get the F major barre chord. Now move it two frets down to the 3rd fret, you will get the G major barre chord. The one in between them (2nd fret) would be the F# major barre chord and so on…

Tips on Practicing Barre Chords

  1. Barre chords needs lots of practice. Just remember that and don’t give up midway.
  2. The index finger which is barring the fret should be rolled over to its side to about 30-40 degrees and not flat.
  3. When playing minor barre chords, the 2nd finger is free. It can be used to assist the first finger in barring the chord.
  4. The muscle between first finger and thumb needs to become strong… practice !
  5. The left hand thumb should be pressing the back of the fret-board.
  6. The index finger should not go too much beyond the sixth fret above the fret board. Give the pressure from the tip to the bottom.
  7. While holding the chord, play each note sequentially to identify whether any string is getting muted. In early phase of practicing, muting will be a problem.
  8. Ensure that you are muting the 6th string in 5th string root barre chords with the tip of your index finger else it will sound very bad.
  9. Be patient. It will take time but you will get better eventually.
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