Barre Chords for Beginners
E and A shapes
Barre Chords are a type of guitar chord where one or more fingers are used to press down multiple strings across the guitar fretboard.
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 Major chord shapes you will learn in this session are part of the CAGED system which recognizes that thousands of chords are traced back to 5 common open major chord shapes referred to as forms. These open chords are C, A, G, E, D, hence the term CAGED... C Major, A Major, G Major, E Major and D Major... more.
As most of you are beginners, we will concentrate on the easiest shapes, namely the E-shape, A-shape and C-shape chords. We also take a look at the F-shape chord - technically, it incorporates the E shape form, but can prove handy in certain situations.
Also Available: Barre Chords for the left-handed guitarist.
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 finger placement...
You will need to adjust your finger placement 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 finger positions are 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.
Barre Chords Hurt
It may seem very uncomfortable at first and your wrist, thumb and fingers will 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.
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...
- barre on the 3rd fret, you play G Major (1st fret marker)
- barre on the 5th fret, you play A Major (2nd fret marker)
- barre on the 7th fret, you play B Major (3rd fret marker)
- barre on the 9th fret, you play C# or D♭ Major (4th fret marker)
- barre on the 12th fret, you play E Major (5th fret marker ...one octave above the original open E Major chord you played on the first 2 frets)
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
Please Note: The D Form and G Form chords can prove very difficult for beginners due to the amount of stretching required... the G form is definately the hardest.
When you feel you have mastered the above, try playing a D major or G major chord, and using the same principal, add a barre with your first finger and use fingers 2,3, and 4 to play the chord.
Move up the fretboard making sure you leave a spare fret between the bar and your chord shape - this is because each chord starts on the 2nd fret ... 1 fret away from the Nut. Your barring finger will become the new nut and the lay-out must remain the same.
Even seasoned players find the D and G form difficult so don't be too upset if you find it hard to play. If you just play for fun, you will most likely never use these forms. If you are a serious guitarist, stick with it. It will eventually fall into place and you will find yourself using different voicings for the same chord adding 'variety and spice' to your overall sound.
Try it for yourself: Play an open A chord then play an A chord using the E form (barre on 5); C form (barre on 9); D form (barre on 7); G form (barre on 2)...what do you think? The G form is very, very hard especially on the lower frets, but it does get easier as you move up the fretboard... frets become narrower the higher you go, easing the 'stretch factor'.
Barre Chord SongsThe following are a list of popular songs that include Barre Chords... open chords are not included.
|Song / Artist||Barre Chords|
|Africa - Toto||C#m, B, G#m, F#m, D#m|
|Better Man - Robbie Williams||B, Bsus4, F#m9, C#m, F#m7|
|Breathless - The Corrs||B, C#m, G#m|
|Close To You - The Carpenters||Bm7, Bm7/E, B, Db, Db/9, Db6, Dbmaj7, Cm7, Abmaj9, Fm7, F7, Ab, Abmaj7|
|Copacabana - Barry Manilow||Fm7, Gm(maj7), Gm, Abm9, Am9, Bbm9, Bm9, Cm9, Dbm9, Dm9, Fm9, F#m9, Gm9, Bb7, Gm7, D7-9, Gm6, Bb11, C11|
|Don't You Remember - Adele||F#m, Bm, F#, Bb, B, F|
|Everyone's Waiting - Missy Higgins||Bb, Bb/F, Bbsus2, F, Gm|
|Locked Out Of Heaven - Bruno Mars||Bb, F Gm, Gm7|
|Someone Like You - Adele||C#m, F#m, F#m7, Bm|
|The A Team - Ed Sheeran||Bm7, F#m, F#m7, F#m9|
|You Ruin Me - The Veronicas||F, Gm, Bb|
|The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand||C#m7, C#7, F#m, F#m7, F#7, Bm7Bm7/A, Bm7/E|
|What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong||F, Bb, Bbmaj7, Bb6, C11|