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Barre chords for beginners

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Here we go, the famous barre chords, feared by every beginner, are finally explained in this (long) tutorial. Once they have read this lesson, beginners will have no more excuse for not practicing their F major.

Basics required for this lesson : How to read and play chords for beginners,
Practice this lesson : None

In this tutorial we'll learn how to play the barre chords. It is a difficult task, especially for beginners, but with a few tricks we will make it as simple as it can be.

In order to make sure we don’t skip any step and we answer all the questions a beginner may have, let’s split this tutorial in three sections:

  • We will begin with some guidelines about barre chords, in order to start off with a positive mindset and to avoid any confusion. These tips will help you practice barre chords properly.
  • Once you have processed these tips, we will describe the technique used to play barre chords. Therefore, we will mostly deal with the position and strength of the first finger, as well as how to manage to play a barre chord as easily as possible.
  • In the last section, we will see how to implement this technique through an exercise that can be done on a daily basis. So we will be working on barres in a very gradual way.

Much of this tutorial is based on what is taught in the "Building your barre chords" tutorail, so I highly recommend that you watch that tutorial before getting to this one, in order to maximize your results.

A few guidelines

In this first section, we will see the basics of barre chords, a few guidelines and little tricks that will help you practice properly.

What is a barre chord?

What is hiding under the word "barre" chord? In the chords for beginners tutorial, we saw what we called open chords: these are chords that include notes played on open strings, for which we only fret two, three, or even four notes at the most, with our left hand.

In the case of a barre chord, there will no longer be any open strings. We use a finger, usually the first finger, which will fret all strings, on the same fret. This is the hardest thing to do on a barre chord : being able to fret all strings using a single finger.

In a chord chart

As for chord charts, a barre chord will look like this:Diagramme de fa majeur

 

 

We can see that Low-E, B and High-E strings are strummed all at once on the first fret. In order to do so, you will have to flatten your index finger on all strings, which is indicated on the chart by the big barre that represents the index finger.

It requires some practice!

Here’s the first thing that needs to be addressed immediately: in order to master barre chords, it requires some practice. A lot of practice. Practice and practice again. Let me insist on this, because many beginners think that it just takes a few days though in most cases, this will not be enough.

Some guitar players are more gifted than others and will succeed in less than a week. For others, it will take several weeks or even months of practice before they really get it. This is normal.

Be aware of that, prepare yourself mentally and do not expect immediate results. Try not to rush too much, otherwise this may lead you to mistakes and increased frustration. Take your time, practice the short exercises that we will see today as a warm-up - 10-15 minutes a day is enough - and be patient. In the meantime, continue to practice other songs that do not use the barres, and sooner or later you’ll be able to play barre chords.

I have said it before and I will say it again: you have to work on it to master barre chords. It is useless to come asking for help if you do not succeed after a few days, as the only thing we may answer would be "keep working on it".

What do you have to work on?

In order to succeed in playing barre chords, there are two things to develop.

The strength of the index finger

First, you’ll have to start building up your finger muscle. It will have to fret six strings at once, and this requires strength, probably more strength than you currently have. You must therefore build your finger muscle, and for that you will have to train every day, over and over again, because unfortunately, one cannot build muscle in one day

Finger position

But strength is not the only thing that matters. The position and location of the index finger is also VERY important. If it’s in the wrong position, you can put as much strength as you like, but it will not get you anywhere. If you use the correct position, you'll need way less strength to play your barre chords. So don’t downplay the importance of positioning, otherwise you’ll start off with a serious disadvantage. All this will be further detailed in the second section.

Chord positions

There are thousands and thousands of different barre chord positions. The goal is not to learn them all and know them all by heart, as this is not possible and it is useless. What you need to learn is how to build these barre chord positions on your own. It is not very complicated and i twill be dealt with in detail in the tutorial on "creating barre chords".

If you know how to play barre chords by yourself, you will be able to create any chord you want without having to check on a chord chart. You can therefore work at your own pace, gradually, and make progress little by little, rather than struggling with chords that are too complicated for the time being.

When should you play barre chords?

Many chords can be found in open position, or in a barre position. So, one may wonder : "When should I play barre chords?".

The sound

Whether you choose an open position or a barre position for the same chord, the sound will be different. The chord remains the same but it sounds different. So, when you play songs, you can choose whatever position you want in order to get the sound you want.

Chords without any open position

There are also chords that cannot be played using an open position. For example, the F major chord, which is often one of the first barre chords that beginners learn, cannot be played in any open position. For this kind of chords, there’s no choice, they have to be played as a barre chord.

Dead notes

One of the benefits of barre chords is the ability to play dead notes very easily. This aspect overlaps a little with tutorials about rhythm, but just be aware that you can include dead notes in your strumming patterns.

In the case of an open chord, if you want to play dead notes, you have to remove all your fingers, slightly press them on all the strings and then get back to the open chord position. All this is quite tedious, especially if the beat is fast and the chords are complex.

In the case of a barre chord, this is much easier: since all the strings are fretted, you just need to release the pressure of the fingers in order to mute the strings, without having to change position.

This will be dealt with in further detail in tutorials about strumming patterns but be aware that barre chords will allow to play strumming patterns with a funky touch and quite easily.

In tabs and chord charts

When you are looking for chord charts online, you will usually find the lyrics of the songs together with the chord names. In some cases, these chord positions will be specified, but this is not always the case.

If positions are specified

If the position is specified as being a barre chord position, it’s logic to play it in a barre position. Likewise, if the position is described as being an open chord, you are supposed to play the chord in the open position.

But then again, you’re free to choose another position. You will then have a different sound from the original, which may not necessarily sound good, but it can lead to an interesting interpretation.

Otherwise

Some websites don’t specify the chord positions in the chord charts. So it is up to you to choose which position you want to play – you may play the chord in an open position if you can, or in a barre position if you can’t, or if that is what you wis.

So, you can choose

In the end, playing the guitar gives you the right to choose the position you want, sure you got this straight. Chords remain the same, only the sound changes. It is up to you to experiment and see what you like best!

More content on this article coming very soon. In the meantime, watch the videos!

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Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
(Ludwig van Beethoven)