An Introduction to Barre Chords

Barre Chords: A Creative Way to Expand Your Sonic Palette

If you have been playing guitar for a while, you may know all you can know about basic chord fingering. A great way to take your playing to the next level is to learn barre chords. They allow for fast changing of chords and allow you to play a chosen chord at a higher pitch. With practice, you will be able to completely master your fretboard and use it to create just the right chord and pitch you are looking for.

Barre Chord Fingering

In barre chord fingering, the index finger is placed across all or most of a fret, and the remaining fingers are placed on individual stings below that fret. You are, effectively, using your finger as a capo.

It’s important to note that chords played with this method are by their very nature muted; they don’t “ring out” like standard chords. This is because the strings are no longer open. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn proper placement of the index finger. It won’t be comfortable at first; it might even hurt. Be patient! This is one technique that will take time to master.

Types of Barre Chords

Note: Numeric or shape codes indicate the strings on a guitar from left to right.

The two most commonly barred notes are variations of the A chord and the E chord. The E barre chord is made of an E chord shape (022100) moved up and down the frets and being barred, changing the note. For example, the E chord barred one fret up becomes an F chord (133211). The next fret up is F, followed by G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, C, D, Eb, and then back to E (1 octave up) at fret twelve.

An A barre chord is similar, although the highest string is not played. It is the basic A chord shape (X02220) moved up and down the frets and being barred. As you go up the frets, the chords become B, B, C, C, D, D#, E, F, F, G, G#, A, and at the twelfth fret (that is, one octave up), it is A again.

As you can see, all major chords can be played with A or E barre chords.

C, D, and G barre chords can be used as well, although they are not nearly as common.

As you advance, you can learn even more chords (minors, 7ths etc.) using barre chord placement. The variations are numerous.

Barre Chord

Barre Chord
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Advantages of the Barre Chord

If you play blues, rock, or country, learning barre chords is an effective way to expand your chord vocabulary. It allows you to change chords more quickly, which can be helpful when playing fast songs or difficult passages requiring multiple chords in short periods of time.

Once again, though, this is a procedure that takes a while to learn. Be very patient! Take your time to memorize the chord progressions. The time and discomfort will pay off in the long run.