Guitar barre chords are a specific type of movable
These are chords you can shift up and down the fretboard in their
fixed formation (known as a "chord shape" or "chord form"). This in
turn allows you to use those same familiar
chord fingerings in any key, simply by positioning
them at a new fret.
The "barre" refers to positioning one of your
fret hand fingers (most often your index finger) flat across more than
You'll see how different types of barre are used in different
shapes throughout this course.
this series, we'll be looking at 3 main chord
shapes. Why shapes?
Well, the five main guitar barre chords are derived from the shape/form
guitar chords most of us
learn as beginners - you know the ones - E, A, C, G and D,
down at the first few frets.
are our foundation chord shapes, and we refer
to these same basic forms as we move them up the fretboard and create
barre chords from them.
So, in a nutshell, here's what you can look forward to learning:
Automatically knowing how to play several voicings
of the same chord in different positions over the
fretboard. This is about expanding your creative options.
Knowing how to modify the standard barre chord
shapes to create loads more interesting chords.
Having the physical confidence
and the muscle
memory to change between what would otherwise be awkward chord shapes.
So, let's get stuck in, starting with E
E shape guitar barre chords - the theory
Time and time again, I hear
people refer to the E shape/form barre chord as the dreaded "F
chord". It's seen as a major milestone after learning your first chords.
So, what makes it the "E shape"? The sequence below starts off showing
us the E major open position chord that I'm
sure you're familiar with. This shape (the finger formation
created on the fretboard) simply gets moved up, meaning
we have to barre our index finger to represent where the nut (or capo)
Don't try and play anything right now - just observe and listen (click
the diagram to hear)...
...and that shape can be positioned anywhere up the fretboard depending
on what major chord you want to play.
Now take a look at a similar diagram below..
The lowest root
note of the E form barre (the fretted red dot)
is always on the
Estring, so if
that root note was positioned at fret 5, it would build an
A major chord, since the root note would
be the note A.
There are higher root notes positioned on the D and high E strings, but
at this stage, it's easiest to identify the key of guitar barre chords
looking at their
root note (the bass note if you like), as the rest of the
chord is built from that point.
all the root notes on the low E string? If not, spend some
studying the fretboard. With the right
it's not as boring as it sounds!
The E-shape also has a minor chord shape taken, like before, from the open
E minor shape we're already familiar with.
Just like before, your barring finger acts as the nut, or capo, so you
can position that whole shape wherever you need on the
Fingering guitar barre chords & strength
first, you'll find that barring your index finger across all 6
strings like that is difficult and even painful. This is perfectly
normal. Like with so many things, it just takes a little time and
persistence to nail it.
With only your index
finger barred at the first fret, try picking each string -
cleanly? Is there any buzzing?
If there is buzzing, it means the string isn't being fretted properly.
Adjust your barre finger position, and try again, until each string
Notice how the barre finger is placed as close to the fret
wire as possible.
The non-barre fingers stand
tall and arch down onto
the strings without
collapsing back. Fret with the finger tips.
Be patient. It won't feel comfortable at first, but judge it based on
whether all 6 strings sound cleanly. If they do, it's simply a case
of physically getting used to it, and you
Tip: Give that index finger a workout. Barre the
strings, like above, for 10 seconds, play all 6 strings, then release
the barre, barre for 10 seconds again, then release etc. This will help
muscle memory set in.
Like I said before, just make sure each note sounds cleanly when you're
barring. Barring at higher frets is usually easier, so once you master
it at the first fret, it'll all be easier from there. Guitar barre
chords will be a great milestone for you to pass.
are some more pics to help, starting with the major form.
Notice how the thumb on the back of the neck is positioned almost
to the index barre finger. If the neck wasn't there, the tips of my
index and thumb would meet. This gives your fingers the necessary
support to apply enough tension to the strings...
now the minor form
(all we do is remove the 2nd finger)...
Once you're confident
with the basic fingering for guitar barre chords, try changing between
open position chords and E shape barre
chords. Use the below exercise for reference (the barre chords are
underlined). Loop the backing track in your media player once
downloaded (right click and "save as").
There are many chords that stem from this
Now, I'm usually against just throwing chord charts in front of you
(known as "parrot fashion" learning!), but now we know the basic
barre chord shape, it's just a case of knowing all the
variations and chord flavours we can build around it.
When playing a chord progression using regular
major and minor chords, try
some of the major and minor variations below to see if you can spice up
song. You'll eventually learn which chords complement
movements in a song.
Note: The diagrams below use a suggested
fingering - if you're playing a particular progression, you
might want to alter the fingerings to
E Shape Chords
E Shape Chords
Major 7th (e.g. AmM7)
Added 9th (e.g.
Added 6th (e.g.
Added 6th (Am7add6)
7th, Added 6th Variation
Suspended E Shape Chords
is where the major or minor 3rd is replaced with the 4th/11th - more on
this in the seperate chord theory lessons. They tend to be used as
because of their "unresolved" feeling within a progression.