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Barre Chords For Beginners And Beyond [Beginner/all Styles/technique]


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#1 OFFLINE   solidwalnut

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 04:35 PM

Barre Chords for Beginners and Beyond

This lesson is a branch from Areas 1 and 2 from the Playbook for Beginners and Beyond main lesson. Visit the main lesson to see my philosophy on the five different areas of learning to play.

Here's a repeat of the lesson posted as a Sticky in the Playing Guitar Forum. This lesson concentrates on the two most important (arguably) and basic barre chord formations, the E form and A form.

The barre chord is such a dirty word at times and hard work for those who are starting out. But fear not! There are plenty of people around here that will help! We're glad to be here for you. Here ya go.

What are Barre Chords?

They are chord formations that can move up and down the fretboard. Stop here and open this lesson to check out the basics of them.

Keep that lesson open so we can take advantage of the great graphics that Kirk has on his lessons. Notice the first graphic you see: The E chord form moving up the neck two frets. This is what it's all about. At this point, we're only going to concentrate on two forms: The E major and the A major forms. The variations follow these easily but we need to get a grip on the basic principles first. We need visual anchors.

Let's use the fretboard map for both anchors. Keep this fretboard page open for reference, but for simplicity sake I'll repeat the E and A strings here.

0........1...........2..........3..........4..........5..........6..........7...........8...........9..........10.........11........12.........13........14.........

A ||-A#/Bb-|---B---|---C---|-C#/Db-|---D---|-D#/Eb-|---E---|---F---|-F#/Gb-|---G---|-G#/Ab-|---A---|-A#/Bb-|---B---|--

E ||---F----|F#/Gb-|---G---|-G#/Ab-|---A---|-A#/Bb-|---B---|---C---|-C#/Db-|---D---|-D#/Eb-|---E---|---F----|-F#/Gb|--

If this doesn't translate well for you in your monitor, just refer to the E and A strings on the fretboard map page.

The E form Barre

Starting with the top string or the low E, the open string is of course an E note. This is the bass note of the open E chord and the visual anchor for the E form barre chord. When you first learn to play the open E chord, you usually learn it by using the index, middle and ring fingers and it looks like this:

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Now play the same chord using the middle, ring and pinky fingers.

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What happens if you slide this formation up one fret and barre your index finger across all of the strings? Well, what's the first fretted note of the E string? An F of course, so it's the F major chord. And so on up the neck.

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Now open up the E Form Major page and check out how the rest of the E form barre chords work up the fingerboard.

The A form Barre

Starting with the next string, the A is of course an A note. This is the bass note of the open A chord and the visual anchor for the A form barre chord. When you first learn to play the open A chord, you often learn it by using the index, middle and ring fingers.

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This isn't always so, but go with me on this one for now.

Now play the same chord using the middle, ring and pinky fingers.

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What happens if you slide this formation up one fret and barre your index finger across all of the strings to the A string? Well, what's the first fretted note of the A string? A Bb of course. So it's a Bb chord. And so on up the neck.

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Now open up the A Form Major page and check out how the rest of the A form barre chords work up the fingerboard.

Ok, ok, there are variances on how the A and the A form barre chords are formed. Notice in the variations on the A form barre pictures below that I'm really only reaching over to the fret the A string and not barreing the rest. Work smarter, not harder! Sometimes your fingers just can't do any of these things. Here's another variation on the open A, and this is often used when playing electric.

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And here's a couple of those variations on the A form barre.

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"A form barre 2" comes in handy when you want to learn that rock and roll move.

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To Sum it Up, There's More to It...

Take a look at the photos...notice that I'm only barreing the strings that aren't covered by the other fingers. Take the E form barre for example, for a G chord: 355433. I only need to barre the 3's!! The middle, ring and pinky fingers are taking care of frets 5 and 4! This could make a difference in how you approach the form. For my hand specifically: as I barre across with the index finger, I go across as far as I can (see the third pic) so the B and bottom E strings are near the crease of the finger and hand. That way, I use the fleshy part of the finger to barre those strings. This leaves the fleshy part of finger near the tip to barre the top E.

Be sure to check out all the links under Chords and check out the chord pictorials and chord finders here at this site.

There's much to talk about as far as playing barre chords. One area you can work with is discovering that it's ok to play partial barre chords. There are many players who can't play full barre chords, and so they stick with partials. No problem. Often times partials are desirable.

There are plenty of questions raised about the different ways that the A form is played. Again, there are no rules. Just keep in mind that the more versatile you are about learning to play the same chord in different ways, the more options you'll have.

Look for discussions in the forum for topics such as, "Where should my thumb be?" and "What happens when my hand starts cramping?"

I'll answer that last one. Shake out your hand on a regular basis for longer wrist and general hand muscle/tendon health.
Steve Cass
Solid Walnut Music/ASCAP

Becoming a great guitarist has less to do with fancy moves than it does becoming a master of the basics and learning musicianship.
It's not what you can't do. It's how you play what you already know.


View my lessons here at GfB&B


"Rhythm guitar is a trip that alot of people miss" -- Tom Petty






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