first, you'll find that fingering barre chords is difficult and even
This is perfectly
normal. Like with so many things, it just takes a little
persistence to build enough strength in your barre finger to be able to
play the chords without thinking or adjustment.
Be reassured that, no matter how difficult barre chords may seem right
enough practice, they'll eventually be as easy to play as any
other chords you've learned.
many players are causing themselves more pain and frustration than
necessary! Follow the steps below to ensure you're fingering your barre
chords in the optimal way.
tried barre chords but your finger feels weak or very painful, it may
just be that your positioning is slightly off. There's a sweet spot to
be found between the joints and contours of your barre finger. Here's
how to find it...
First, barre your index
finger across all
six strings at the 5th
fret. Why the 5th fret? Because there's less tension and
more leverage in the strings higher up the fretboard, helping you to
ease into position with
starting out, you won't know the exact position that will get the best
results. There's a "sweet spot" to be found here and it's different for
everyone (since we're all built differently).
Start by replicating (as close as you can) what you see in the photo...
Notice how the barred finger is snug next
to the fret wire (not on
This will ensure the strings are firmly against the fret wire and sound
as cleanly as possible, with the least amount of pressure.
See also how my finger just peeps over the edge of the neck, ensuring
low E string (bass) is fretted with the pad of the finger tip.
Note the thumb position
- at the top edge of the neck and in
line with the barre finger
(pictured below), almost as if the the tips of your thumb and index
finger would meet if the neck wasn't there. This will ensure the
strongest support and leverage for the barre finger and should keep
those aches and pains to a minimum (although you're going to have to
grin and bear some
pain at first).
Now try picking each string one by one. Do they sound cleanly? Can you
hear any obstruction? You likely will at first. Not to worry - just try
ever so slightly
repositioning the barre. Maybe move it vertically up or down a
touch (keep it postioned against the fret wire though).
For example, many players with longer fingers prefer to use the middle
and base of their finger to create the barre.
Once you find that sweet spot (it may take some time - be patient!),
and you're happy that all six strings are sounding cleanly and clearly,
it's time to work on developing your muscle memory so that you
automatically move into that same position every time you go to barre.
2. Set In the muscle memory
To exercise this muscle memory, practice lifting off and reapplying the
Try adding and releasing pressure with the barre on the fretboard -
kind of like doing push ups for your finger! Fret the strings, release,
fret, release etc.
Keep picking the strings to check you're still positioned in that sweet
spot and they're resonating cleanly.
You need to have a lot of patience with this. There's
no short cut. Try not to get frustrated if you don't see immediate
really struggling with fingering barre chords, don't
I highly recommend Jonathan Boettcher's course Bar
Chords Made Simple.
He'll help you iron out any problems and get you playing barre chords
in no time.
3. Test Your barre movement and add in other fingers
Try barring your index finger on other
frets, both further up and down the
neck. The 1st fret will probably be the hardest for you, but it's
where you'll be playing common chords such F major, so it's important
to get it.
Move between random frets with your barre finger and get comfortable
with lifting off,
moving and immediately fretting the strings at another fret.
Add in the other fingers in the shape when you're ready. By focusing
solely on your
barre finger strength to begin with, you'll now find it much easier to
create the rest of the shape.
Start moving the full shape up and down the neck. Make it more fun by
creating your own chord sequences just using that chord shape
(both major and minor variations).
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the A and C shapes
Exactly the same process applies, the only difference being we're
barring fewer strings.
to keep your thumb in line with the index finger. Even if you're using
as the barre for major A shape chords, the thumb should
still be in line with the index
5. Practice changing between barre chord shapes
This is where you really cement that muscle memory. Play between
combinations of the different barre chord shapes and throw in some open
chords (or any other chord shape you know) occasionally. Keep it fun by
writing a simple song from the
Here are some exercises to get you started. The red numbers indicate
the bass root
fret of the shape, and the letter underneath is the shape itself (E
= E shape, A
= A shape, Am
= A minor shape etc.)
Starting with some "circle of 5ths" sequences between two shapes...
Now for some sequences you're more likely to hear in a song...
There'll be more barre chord exercises in a separate lesson. If you
still need help with barre chords, I highly recommend Jonathan
Chords Made Simple - he'll sort you out!