Learning to play barre chords on the guitar is a big step for many beginning guitarists. Guitar teacher Joe L. breaks down the basic things you’ll need to know in order to play barre chords and shares tips for practicing them…
First off, if you don’t know the basic open guitar chords you will have tremendous difficulty with these chords. Learning basic rhythm patterns with simple open chords gives you familiarity with different types of chords, how to play chords, and how they sound. Once you’ve mastered your basic, simple guitar chords, you are ready to take on the challenge of learning to play barre chords.
Barre chords are based around the familiar shapes of open chords, but they are fingered in a different way. Barre means you lay your index finger across an entire fret pushing down all the strings, using your other fingers to fret the rest of the chord shape. Barre chords can prove to be difficult to play at first because of the awkward hand position that you’re not used to.
Yes, they can hurt a little bit but the payoff is huge and very rewarding. These chords are also crucial to playing guitar as they are a major part of learning some songs and part of the technique of guitar playing. Without them you may never fully develop the muscle coordination and strength to play other techniques.
Another beautiful thing about barre chords is that once you learn one you can play the same figure across the fretboard, giving you a huge array of chords to play. When you’re playing your first barre chord, just hold one down and strum it for a while, adjusting your fingers to make the strings ring out better.
You’ll want to practice this way at first for two reasons. Firstly, you need practice pushing your fingers down on the strings correctly. Second, you need to build endurance holding these chords down. Many popular songs use barre chords throughout the entire song so for that reason alone you need to be able to endure holding them down. After a while it gets very easy and becomes second nature to use barre chords.
Learning barre chords also opens up your ability to play music up and down the fretboard. It shows you how the frets align with one another and gets you to venture out of the comfort zone found in playing open chords. One thing you can do to improve your ability to play barre chords is to switch between barre and open chords. This gives your fingers the dexterity that they need as you progress to becoming a guitar great.
Another thing that you can do to improve your ability to use barre chords is to play a barre chord all the way up and down the fretboard. This gives you the muscle strength you need and the coordination to be able to play them on frets that are closer together. It’s important to do that as the frets that are higher up the neck are closer together and you need to be able to be comfortable playing these chords in any position on the neck. Learning barre chords can be work but the payoff is huge. Good luck!
For more help with barre chords or any other guitar techniques, studying with a private guitar teacher is the best way to learn. Find your guitar teacher now!
Joe L. teaches guitar lessons in New York, NY. He has been teaching guitar for 15 years and in his teaching he focuses on breaking down music theory to make learning music easy and accessible for all his students. Learn more about Joe here.