Barre Chords: The Ultimate Guide

A great way to practice barre chords.

What songs do you already know using normal open position chords?

Why not try playing them using barre chords instead?

Use the musical alphabet and your two shapes to see if you can re-learn songs with barre chords.

This will help you practice both playing barre chords and moving barre chords.

barre chords

Some more advanced barre chords.

Once you’re completely happy with the barre chords we’ve learnt so far, you might want to give some of these a try.

As we keep stressing, make sure you’re completely happy with the earlier barre chords before trying anything more advanced.

The barre chords we’ve looked at so far are good, but they’re a bit ‘top-heavy’ ie. there’s a lot of treble and not a lot of bass.

This can be great for styles like reggae or funk, but for other genres like rock or blues or folk etc. we might find ourselves wanting a bit more low end.

Let’s revisit that F chord from earlier.

barre chords

With this F chord we’ve got all the strings pressed down except one: the low E string. (6th string.)

To bring the low E string into the chord as well we need to lie our first finger across all six strings.

 barre chords

Sound a bit scary?

barre chords

Remember, these are called advanced barre chords for a reason.

Do not attempt a full six-string barre chord until you’re totally happy with the easier barre chords.

Give this new F barre chord a try.

Strum it. Arpeggiate it. Take your time with it.

You may have noticed with this chord that your second, third and fourth fingers are forming an E chord shape.

For this reason, we call this type of barre chord the E shaped barre chord.

But what about the minor chords?

Well, you know how to turn an E chord into an Em you’d lift of the first finger opening up the G string?

It’s the same with barre chords.

To make your F into an Fm, simply lift off the second finger and you’ve got it.

barre chords

Let’s try a sequence:

| F              | G              | Am            | G              |

Remember, use the musical alphabet to figure out where your chord shapes go.

Here’s are the root notes on the low E string. (6th string.)

Also, remember to use the correct shape. Don’t get the major and the minor muddled up.

barre chords

Here’s another sequence:

| F               | G              | C              |C                |

What you probably notice with this sequence is that it’s quite a leap up to that C from the G and then back down again to the F.

There is a way we can avoid this leap and that’s by using an A shaped barre chord for the C instead of an E shaped barre chord.

Let’s give it a try.

There’s two possible ways we can do an A shaped barre chord.

You can either lie your fist finger across the fret (in this case the third fret) and then stretch over and put an A shape on at the fifth fret like this:

barre chords

Or, you can press down the A string at the third fret with the first finger and then barre the second, third and fourth strings with your third finger, like this:

barre chords

Try both to see which works best for you.

Let’s try the sequence again, this time with the A shaped barre chord of C.

| F              | G              | C              |C               |

Notice how you don’t have to make a big leap to and from that C chord? It’s much closer to our other two chords.

We have an Am shaped barre chord as well.

Let’s say this is our sequence:

| C             | Dm            | G              |G             |

We know our C and our G, but to do that Dm we want to go to our fifth fret (two up from the C), barre it and put an Am shape on after it, like this:

barre chords


Bonus Barre Chord Tips

It can be a bit tricky if a song has a mixture of barre chords and open chords as it can involve changing the grip and positioning of the hand quite a bit.

Here’s an idea. If you’re playing an open E and a barre chord of F# one after the other, try making the E shape using your second, third and fourth fingers.

That way it will slide into the F# nicely and you won’t have to faff about changing shapes.

Also, be mindful of where your thumb is on the neck.

It’s good practice to keep the thumb on the ‘spine’ of the neck, even for open chords, as it means we aren’t constantly re-positioning when we change between open chords and barre chords.

For more tips, check out this video by Mike:

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