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Working Up To Barre Chords

Tim Reierson (1202) · [archive]
Style: Basics · Level: Beginner · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

This lesson is for... the beginning guitar player who wants to move beyond open chords and add bar chords to their skills. Bar chords can be intimidating, so I have started at a pretty basic level. Take things at your own speed. The information presented is what has worked for me personally. You might also want to check out WN Lesson #1410, INTELLIGENT CHANGING OF THE CHORD by Charles Gacsi. Let me know your comments.

Some background... One way to think of a bar chord is: your index finger (Finger 1) is used like a "movable" nut or capo that stops strings at one fret-space. Fingers 2, 3, and/or 4 are then used to play the rest of the notes in the chord. For example:

This chord (F Major) is very difficult. You don't need to play it now, but if you did you would use Finger 1 (F1,index) all the way across the first fret-space, F2 on Gstring, F4 (pinky) on Dstring, F3 (ring) on Astring

Don't expect to be able to play this chord well when first starting out. If it is hard to play, then this lesson was made for you!

The value of the bar chord is that it takes a given chord shape--in this case the shape of the E Major open chord shown here:

...and makes the shape movable all the way up the fingerboard. For this particular chord shape, the "root" of the chord is located under the index finger on the E strings. In simple terms, the root is the note the chord is built on. Example, the note C is the root of any C chord.

Result: This particular bar chord shape makes an F (Major) chord with index finger at 1st fret-space, G chord at the 3rd fret-space, Ab chord at 4th fret-space, etc.

If you have memory problems like me, you will appreciate the "one size fits all" aspect of bar chords. With added skill will come the ability to pull the right chord out at the right time...

But the chord has no value if you can't play it, so...


First of all, here is a kinder gentler version of the "open E shape" bar chord so you can play that F chord without hurting yourself:

Finger 1 bars the high E and B strings (Es|Bs), F2 on the next string (Gs) and F3 on the next (Ds).

STRUM THE BOTTOM FOUR STRINGS ONLY, and you now have a movable Major chord. Chord name comes from the note played on the Estring (the note that is the root of the chord).

On the next page we will get started on the bar chord exercise, then at the very end finish up with several easier chord shapes that can substitute for full bar chords.


Use fingers 1, 2 and 3 to play these Major chords. Try to recognize the note on the E string as you play each chord.