barre chords

Have you been doing your Finger Exercise? If the answer is no, this lesson will make you wish that you had been! We're going to learn all about “barre chords”. What makes these chords unique is the fact that you can actually play many chords using only one fingering. This introduces an important concept, one that we'll be examining a lot more in future lessons. What I am talking about is “movability”. As the name implies, we're talking about something that is moveable. This is very important: Any thing you play on the guitar that doesn't utilize any open strings is moveable. Whether it is a chord, a scale, an arpeggio, or an entire song, it can be played anywhere on the neck you wish without affecting the overall tonality. The only thing that changes is the letter name of what you’re playing. That might seem like a very radical concept right now, so as always I've included some examples that should shed some light on everything.

 6th String Barre

The trick to performing these is to lay your first finger across each string. Then you have to make sure that each of the strings you wish to hear can be heard clearly. You can rest assured this will take a lot of time, experimentation, patience, and possibly first aid. One thing that seems to work is to move your first finger toward the ceiling a little more than usual, so that the tip extends beyond the sixth string. It'll take some time, but you'll get it if you hang in.

Now back to the topic of movability. To figure out what barre chord you're playing, just figure out the name of the note you're playing on the sixth string. Try it. Can you name the chords displayed above? The one on the left is F Major, and the one to the right is F Minor. Back in Lesson Eleven we learned how to play an F chord, and if you notice, this one's not much different. It simply includes two notes in the lower register to fatten it up a bit. The F Minor is played by removing your second finger from the third string. Make sure your first finger covers the third string firmly when you switch to F Minor by picking it by itself. When doing this many are left with a dead note at first. Experiment with the placement of your first finger until you get a clear note. This may take awhile, but practice will ultimately win out, as you will toughen up the surface of your skin with callouses. Now the cool part: If while playing an F Major Chord you slide your entire hand up to the third fret, you are now playing a G Major Chord! Take your second finger off and it becomes G Minor. Slide that up to the 5th fret you're playing an A Minor Chord. Put your middle finger back down and it becomes an A Major Chord. Slide that up to the 8th fret and you've got yourself a C Major Chord. Knowing these two fingerings allows you to play many different chords.

You can also play barre chords with the root on the 5th string. Here are the fingerings.

5th String Barre

The same concept of movability applies, only this time it is the note on the 5th string that determines the name of the chord. Be sure to avoid the sixth string with your pick. What are the names of these two chords? After you figure that out, slide them around and see what you come up with! Remember to spend as much time as you can experimenting with the things you’re learning. We’ve piled on quite a bit already, so you’ve got a lot to work with!