As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.
This lesson is a continuation of
For more Beginner Guitar Lessons, please see:
- Beginner Guitar Lessons • In The Style Of Runaway Train
- Beginner Guitar Lessons • In The Style Of You Belong With Me
These chord shapes can be very difficult for beginner and intermediate players. Usually, they require that the first finger is placed across all six strings. This technique requires quite a bit of pressure to have the strings ring clearly. Proper fret-hand placement is essential to the sound. I always stress placing the other fingers (two, three and four) on the fretboard, BEFORE applying the first finger barre. This usually results in good hand positioning. The thumb must stay down and back, approximately in the middle of the hand. Keep the wrist bent and out, at close to a right angle. Curl the first finger (the barre) slightly towards the nut. Stay up on the tips of the second, third and fourth finger, to prevent muting the other strings.
Root 6 Barre Chords
Sometimes called E shaped barres, these are all based on some form of an open E chord. Root 6 simply means that the root note of the chord (the chord name), is on the low E string (sixth). Notes on the sixth string from the open string to the twelfth fret are:
E • F • F♯/G♭ • G • G♯/A♭ • A • A♯/B♭ • B • C • C♯/D • D •D♯/E♭
The whole fretboard starts all over again at the twelfth fret. Following this chart, If you play any of the shapes with the first finger barred across the fifth fret it will be some form of an A chord (A Major, A minor, A7 or Am7). When moving these chords around the fretboard, release the pressure and slide your fret-hand, while maintaining the same shape.
Root 6 Major Barre Chords
Based on an open E major shape, these chords (as all these chords are) are the same shape all over the fretboard. The different fret positions yield different names, but the same shape. Re-finger the open E with the second, third and fourth finger (as opposed to the normal fingering of the first, second and third). In the open E position, the first finger would have to be employed as a barre, if it wasn't for the nut. In this respect, the first finger is replacing the nut in the closed shapes.
Root 6 minor Barre Chords
Based on an open Em chord shape, re-finger the Em with your third and fourth finger. Note that there is only one note difference between the Major and minor shape. In the open E Major chord, the third (G♯) moves to the minor third (G). One note, one fret. Huge difference in sound but just a slight variation in structure.
Root 6 7th Barre Chords
Based on an open E7 shape. Re-finger the E7 with second and third finger.
Root 6 minor 7th Barre Chords
Based on an open Em7, a one fretted note chord. The same as the Major to minor relationship, the 7th to minor 7th, is a one note one fret variation. Again the major third moves to the minor third.
Root 5 Barre Chords
Sometimes called A shaped barres, these are all based on some form of the open A chord. As in the root 6 barres, root 5 means that the root note is found on the fifth string: A. Notes on the fifth string from the open A to the twelfth fret are:
A• A♯/B♭ • B • C • C♯/D♭ • D • D♯/E♭ • E • F • F♯/G♭ • G • G♯/A♭
Root 5 Major Barre Chords
Based on an open A Major shape, these chords have proven to be the hardest to form, especially with the normal third finger barre as well as the first finger barre. Some people (myself included) have a hard time bending the third finger back at the third knuckle. This is essential to make the first string ring. I have seen students struggle with this shape more than any other. I have also seen students that can bend that knuckle on a ninety degree angle. Kind of freakish looking. If you find you just cannot do the third finger barre, try the alternate fingering of second, third and fourth. This gets harder up the neck, as the frets get closer together.
Root 5 minor Barre Chords
Based on an open Am shape, re-finger the open shape with the second, third and fourth finger. This one is much easier than the Major shape, and usually the first barre chord students learn.
Root 5 7th Barre Chords
Based on an open A7 shape, re-finger the open chord with the third and fourth finger.
Root 5 minor 7th Barre Chords
Based on an open Am7 shape, re-finger the open chord with the second and third finger.
Barre chords require a lot of work to make them sound clean, and change positions and form with accuracy. Take your time. Learn one shape at a time, move it up and down the fretboard, always being aware of what the chord name is. If you experience a lot of pain, stop, and practice something else. They can be very tiring when employed for an entire song. Good luck!
Matt on August 27, 2013:
Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Prescott on June 15, 2012:
Smaller hands will make them difficult, but not impossible with the correct positioning. Having said that, you can probably compensate with the capo for many songs. Try the positioning techniques I have mentioned here. Good luck my friend!
charliegrumples from UK on June 14, 2012:
I looked into Barre chords but with small hands I'm kinda screwed, so open chords it has to be I'm afraid
Lorne Hemmerling (author) from Prescott on June 14, 2012:
Thanks so much, my friend. I hope it helps you out.
Wilbart26 on June 14, 2012:
Very helpful for those people who wanted to play a guitar. I know how to play a guitar, but I must admit, I am no good at it. This hub will let me learn more about playing a guitar...