Guitar barre chords are a type of movable
These are chords you can position anywhere on the fretboard in
fixed formation (known as a "chord shape" or "chord form").
This allows you to use the same familiar fingerings at any
(sometimes spelled bar)
refers to positioning one of your
fret hand fingers (most often your index finger) flat across more than
one string. The barre becomes a kind of nut or capo, the
base of the chord shape,
allowing you to move it up the neck.
One huge benefit of learning barre chords is the freedom to play a
chord in several places
on the neck.
You're no longer tied to one spot (e.g. as with open position chords), since there are several
different shapes and positions you can use for a given chord. It
allows you to play chords inaccessible in open positions (F, C♯, A♭ etc.).
Take The Crash Course...
Ease into your first barre chord
and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being able to play
chords anywhere on the neck...
Basic Guitar Barre Chord Shapes
Before we learn how to physically play barre chords, we ought to first
understand how they're built so we can put them into the
context of our own music. We can identify several barre chord shapes
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 key milestone after learning your first chords and will likely have a huge impact
on your chord/rhythm playing.
So, what makes it the "E shape"? The sequence below starts off with
the E major open position chord, with
sure you're familiar. With it's related barre chord, this E major shape
(the finger formation on the fretboard) simply gets moved up
to the 1st fret (and
we have to barre our
index finger to represent where the nut (or capo)
would be in relation to the fretted strings.
Don't try and play anything right now - just observe...
So the barre covers the low
and high e
strings, whereas the A,
D and G strings represent
that familiar open E major formation.
That shape can be positioned anywhere up the fretboard depending
on the chord you want to play (1st fret = Fmaj, 2nd fret = F♯maj, 3rd fret
= Gmaj etc.).
Now take a look at a similar diagram below...
The lowest root
note of the E form barre chord (the fretted red square)
is always on the
6th string, so if (for
that root note was positioned at the 5th fret, it would
be an A major chord, since the root note would
If it was at the 1st fret, it would be F
There are higher root notes in the shape, positioned on the 4th and 1st strings, but
at this stage it's easiest to identify the root of barre chords
looking at their
root note (the bass note if you like), as the rest of the
shape is built from that point.
There is also a minor
E shape based on the open
E minor shape we're already familiar with. All we do is lift
off our 2nd finger from the major shape to get a minor chord.
Exactly the same principle as above, but this time the barre chord is
based on the open A major/minor shapes.
So this time, the bass root is on the A string.
It's the A string root
that determines the note we use in naming the chord.
As shown in the photo below, for the major A shape, it's easiest to barre the
2nd, 3rd and 4th strings using your
and leave out the 1st string.
Again, we have a minor A shape based on open A minor. This time we use
the index finger barre as usual...
C Shape (not as important)
Not as commonly used, and more difficult to finger, but still good to
You can probably guess
where C shape barre chords come from. That's
right... the open C major chord we learn as beginners.
This shape provides us with a slightly different voicing to the A
shape, even though it's rooted on the same (5th) string. Unlike the A
from the root
position, the C shape descends
from the root.
Because of the formation of our fingers in this shape, there is no
C shape to learn.
Other Shapes (least important)
Some guitar teachers/players make reference to two further barre chord
shapes - D
and G. I personally wouldn't spend much time on these.
The full G shape
is a mammoth chord to finger in a barre position
(maybe even impossible for players with small hands), and most often
ends up being cut down to the following variation of the A shape
(notice the familiar in-line formation of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings). In
this shape the root is positioned on the 3rd string.
As for the D shape,
it's not strictly a barre chord, since there are
only four strings in the shape, and therefore one finger per string and
no barre required.
However, it might be useful to barre your index with the D shape (as
shown in the diagram) if you
want to use techniques such as hammer ons and pull offs in the chord
shape and "catch" the string with your barre finger. More on that in
And the minor shape...
Once you're confident with how these shapes are formed on
the fretboard, it's time to get physically
confident with fingering them and changing
between them and other chords.
Bookmark and reference this page as you
go through the next lesson on building
finger strength with barre chords.