Barre Chords are a type of guitar chord where one or more fingers are used to press down multiple strings across the guitar fingerboard. Using a barre with a particular 'chord shape' and moving up one fret, the chord you are playing is raised by one semitone. As you continue to move up the fretboard, every fret moved upwards is equal to 1 semitone.
The same applies as you move down the fretboard. Every fret you move downwards, moves the chord down 1 semitone. You can virtually play all 12 chords of the major scale using 1 shape while moving up and down the fretboard.
Barre chords are often used in combination with open guitar chords. It adds a new dimension to your playing giving you greater flexibility and enabling you to play pieces you may have once avoided due to 'chord difficulty'. This is especially true with 'sharp' and 'flat' chords, e.g. A♭, B♭, C#, E♭, F#, and their respective minor chords etc.
The most commonly used Barre Chords...
The most common shapes used when barring a chord are the E Shapes and the A Shapes.
E Shapes: E, E7, Em, Em7,
A Shapes: A, A7, Am, Am7
It is important when barring guitar chords, that each string 'rings true' with no muffled sounds, except in situations that muffling is required. This can be to muffle unwanted notes or for playing with a desired 'effect'.
Adjust your fingering.....
You will need to adjust your fingering when you introduce your first barre. If you play an open E chord and then want to play an F barre chord, your first finger will barre the first fret, and the remaining 3 fingers will play an E Shape.
You will then need to adjust fingers 2, 3 and 4. The first finger will now become the second, the second finger will become the third, and the third finger will become the fourth.
All fingering is numbered on the chart just in case you become confused. Remember to take note of the frets. As you move up 1 fret, you move up one semitone.
I only went up to the G# position, but after that comes A - A#/B♭ - B - C - C#/D♭ - D - D#/E♭ - E (octave above your first E)... 1 fret = 1 semitone.
When you barre with your first finger, make sure that you place firm pressure evenly along the entire fret. Don't barre the finger on the fret wire which are the lines dividing each fret, as you may experience muffled sounds. Barre the finger just behind the fret wire, so that you have enough room to play the correct notes with your other fingers.
It may seem very uncomfortable at first and your fingers may become tired. This is very natural, and remember that every guitarist has had to go through this at one time or another. Take your time. It may seem a little daunting, but be patient. With every day, you will notice improvements. The chords will start to sound cleaner and clearer. Your fingers will become 'fit' and what once seemed almost impossible, will become second nature. The ability to expand your repertoire tenfold will be well worth the effort... here we go.
The E Shapes
Free Download: Barre Chords - E Shapes
The A Shapes
Free Download: Barre Chords - A Shapes
'A Major' Shape Chords - Using a small or half barre
Please note that when you play the 'A Major' shape and move up a fret (A# / B♭), you can use a small barre with your 3rd finger instead of using your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers (see diagram above). This is made possible because the strings that are being played are in a line on the same fret. You do this by placing your third finger over the 3 strings and applying firm pressure as you would for a full bar. Make sure you don't make contact with any other strings, as the sound of the chord will be affected.
It is quite difficult to do this at first, as you tend to play a lot of muffled notes. Until you become familiar with it, I would recommend using the fingering suggested on the chart until you become more comfortable with the overall concept of barring.
Everything takes time, so try to relax as you practice and above all don't forget the 'BIG P's'... PATIENCE & PRACTICE. With patience comes understanding... with understanding comes learning, and along with practice comes confidence... with confidence there is no stopping you!... good luck.
The F Shape
The F shape is very popular especially when playing a G chord starting on the 3rd fret - make sure you avoid strings 5 & 6. If you are using the optional note on the 5th string, simply avoid String 6.
The C Shape
The C shape is not as commonly used as the E and A Shapes as it requires a fair stretch which beginners may find a little testing. However, it can be a handy alternative, especially higher up the fretboard where the frets are narrower. Some of you may find it more comfortable to barre the whole fret or the first 4 or 5 strings of the fret which is fine as the correct notes are covering the extra barre with the 3rd and 4th fingers - just make sure you you don't play the 6th string.
Observations.....use your fret markers!
The more you play barre chords, you will begin to see patterns arise. On the fretboard, you will notice there are fret markers placed on 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th frets etc. If you play an E Major Shape and...
If you are using an E Shape Barre and need to play A♭, you will find it on the 4th fret or between the 1st and 2nd fret marker.
If you are using an E Shape Barre and need to play B♭, you will find it on the 6th fret or between the 2nd and 3rd fret marker.
If you are using an E Shape Barre and need to play C, you will find it on the 8th fret or between the 3rd and 4th fret marker.
In other words, you don't have to count frets. Just follow the fret markers. This is very handy when you are playing barre chords high on the neck. You don't always have time between playing different guitar chords, to count frets. Get to know your fret markers and use them. The same principle applies to all barre chords.
PS. Sometimes a barre chord is also referred to as a bar chord.
There are many shapes which are used in barre chords. The chord shapes mentioned above are the most common, but you will also find many other shapes very useful when playing barre chords. Whenever you find a chord you like playing other than the ones discussed earlier, add a barre and continue with that shape up the fretboard, and remember that the same principal applies to all shapes... 1 fret = 1 semitone.
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