Lesson: Barre Chord Forms

by Will Landrum

One of my subscribers recently wrote in and asked...


"Hi Will,

I have recently discovered your web site which I think
is just excellent! I have played the guitar for a number
of years and have gotten very good at the basics of rhythm
guitar with just the basic open chords.

My question and problem is this: I want to take my playing
to the next level and I have been trying to learn barre
chords. So far I have found them quite difficult to master.
Would you have any advice or tips about how to best learn
how to play barre chords? Any advice or words of
encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again for the great site and all the helpful
information you provide us all!"


This is a subject that I thought a lot of others would be
interested in too so I'll start by describing what a barre
chord is.

A barre chord is created when you use one finger to fret
more that one note at a time. For example your first finger
may be required to barre across all six strings to help form
a chord.

I'm going to show you some barre chord "forms" as well as
give you some tips on how to make sure you play them properly.

I've seen several names assigned to these forms but I like to
call them after their "open chord" form since that's what
they're based on. The two forms I'll discuss here are the E
form and the A form.

Now, once you understand these two forms, you'll be able to
play any major, minor, dominant 7th, minor 7th, suspended
4th etc...chord because you'll be barring them up and down
the neck depending on which one you play.

Need help reading tablature?

OK...here's our basic open E major chord.
Your finger numbers are in parentheses.

E --o------
B --o------
G --1-(1)--
D --2-(3)--
A --2-(2)--
E --o------

Now you can also create an F major chord with an E form
barre chord at the first fret like so...

E Form F Major Barre Chord

E --1-(1)--
B --1-(1)--
G --2-(2)--
D --3-(4)--
A --3-(3)--
E --1-(1)--

One important thing to know here is the names and locations
of the root note of the chord you're playing. We know that
the sixth string open is E, therefore the sixth string played
at the first fret is F. Consequently, an E form barre chord
at the seventh fret is a B major chord like so:

E Form B Major Barre Chord

E --7-(1)--
B --7-(1)--
G --8-(2)--
D --9-(4)--
A --9-(3)--
E --7-(1)--

Got it? Cool.

Now as long as you know your other E form open chords like
Em, E7, Em7 etc... you'll be able to translate those chord
shapes up and down the neck at different frets.

Oh yeah...be sure to check out my free guitar chord library
at http://www.guitarconsultant.com/guitarchords.html where
you can look up over 1,500 chord shapes!

Ok, let's have a look at an A form barre chord.

I remember when I was learning this one and having to practice
a lot to get it clean.

Here's our basic open A major chord.
Again, your finger numbers are in parentheses.

E --o------
B --2-(3)--
G --2-(2)--
D --2-(1)--
A --o------
E --x------

Can you see what's coming? You're going to have to be able to
barre the three notes on the D, G and B strings as well as the
root note two frets lower.

Again, you'll need to learn the notes on the fifth string in
order to know what fret to make your A form barre chords.

Here, I'll use the A form, E major barre chord at the
seventh fret like so...

A Form, E major Barre Chord

E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------

You may be thinking right about this time that I'm nuts but
I can actually play this chord nice and clean...but I started out
by only playing it this way...

E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------

...and worked my way up from there. As a matter of fact, I never
even practiced fretting the first string with my first finger...
it just kinda fell into place after I got the third finger to
barre the D, G and B strings properly.

So try working up to this chord a little at a time in three

E --x------
B --x------
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------

E --x------
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------

E --7-(1)--
B --9-(3)--
G --9-(3)--
D --9-(3)--
A --7-(1)--
E --x------

When you're ready to try the final chord above, use your
first finger to barre strings five thru one, then try resting
your third finger on the first string (barring all four
strings with your third finger). Then slowly raise the part
of your third finger that's on the first string until it's
ringing freely at the first finger barre.

Again, the A form barre chords can be played just like the
open forms...Am, Am7, Asus2, Asus4 etc...

Another thing I'd like to point out is the action of your
guitar. "Action" is how easy (or hard) it is to press the
strings down to the neck to get a clean fretted note.

If you're just starting out with barre chords, you should
use a guitar with low or "easy" action. This will save you
from frustration as well as physical pain from pressing down
so hard while your hands are getting used to this technique.
Once you get the idea, I SUGGEST practicing on a higher action
guitar just for strength training.

Heck, to this day, I still warm up on my classical guitar so
when I get on my electric, it's like slicing butter!

I hope this helps a little in your quest for barre chords.
They are absolutely an essential part of your technique.

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