Barre chords

Learn four barre chord shapes and play 48 dif­fer­ent chords. It’s as good as it sounds. We wouldn’t lie to you…

Total Guitar - - HOW TO -

“That’s a spelling mis­take, right? What the hell are barre chords?”

Barre is a french word that means, er, ‘bar’ or ‘rod’. In gui­tar terms it refers to the tech­nique of plac­ing one fin­ger across sev­eral strings (like a bar). The great thing about them is that there are four ba­sic shapes that can be moved around the fret­board - so you can learn loads of chords.

“Four shapes that can be played ev­ery­where; I’m guess­ing every­one uses them, then?”

Thar’s right! Th­ese essen­tial shapes are found pretty much ev­ery­where. Rock, punk, metal, in­die, blues, coun­try are a few styles, but we can’t over­state how pop­u­lar they are. The Ra­mones are a great place to start and Arc­tic Mon­keys’ stuff is barre chord heavy too.

“Okay, you’ve made your point. What do I have to do?”

We could just show you the shapes, but it’s bet­ter if you un­der­stand where they come from. The prob­lem with open chords is they can only be played in one place. Here, we’ll show you what we mean: start by play­ing an Em chord, us­ing your third and fourth fin­gers. Now, we want to turn this Em into an Fm chord. F is one note higher than E, so move this shape one fret higher and strum…

“Woah! That sounds ter­ri­ble!”

Hang on – the good bit is com­ing! In the Em chord, four of the notes were open strings and, ob­vi­ously, stayed open when you moved the rest of the chord up. So you need to place your first fin­ger across all six strings at the 1st fret so those open-string notes also move up one fret. Since you no longer have any open strings, you can move this shape up and down the fret­board without any clash­ing notes. Have a look at the first tab ex­am­ple be­low and try the open E ma­jor chord too.

“I don’t like to pick holes, but you men­tioned four shapes…”

We’ve looked at shapes that have their root (the note the chord gets its name from) on the sixth string, but there are also shapes with their root notes on the fifth string (see the sec­ond tab ex­am­ple). The prin­ci­ple is the same as the Em and E chords, but this time you start with open Am and A chords.

“My hand is sore!”

Yes, well, barre chords are hard to start with and your hands may tire quickly. The weightlifter’s motto, ‘no pain, no gain’ doesn’t ap­ply here. If your hand aches, take a few min­utes off –you’ll de­velop fin­ger strength grad­u­ally over time.

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