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9 Essential Barre Chords – How to Play Guitar Bar Chords

Barre chords are a crucial part of any guitarist’s education. While challenging for beginners, once you master them, you open the world to countless new songs and chord combinations. Below we will cover what bar chords are and how you can play them.

What Are Barre Chords?

A barre chord, or bar chord, is a “movable” chord that requires you to press multiple strings at once with the same finger. Learning the barre chord shapes enables you to move between chords quickly, allowing you to play more songs.  Also, barring creates a unique sound for the chord.

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Barre chords essentially work like a capo and do not use open strings, so you can move them to any place on the neck to change the chord. By learning the primary forms, you can play in any key by moving your finger to a different fret. Instead of completely changing your fingering, you can add a barre and move your fingers up or down a fret to create the chord.

The barre’s purpose is to move the open strings on the fretboard so you can move your fingers easily. One shape can let you play every major chord by merely shifting your fingers down a fret for each step.

Nevertheless, bar chords present challenges for beginning guitar players who lack the finger strength to hold every string with a single finger. A mistake when playing a barre chord creates a muted, muddy sound. You will need to slowly build your finger strength and stamina before learning the barre chord shapes.

Learning the foundational barre chord forms helps a guitarist play any major, minor, suspended, seventh, or minor seventh chord anywhere on the guitar’s neck.

Try These 9 Barre Chords

Below we will cover nine bar chords that show up frequently enough to warrant you learning them. First, we will start with the nine basic shapes, and then where you can position your fingers to play the different chords.

1) E Major-Shape

Also known as 6th root bar chords, these forms have roots on the 6th (low E) string. That means your finger extends over all six strings, ending on the low E. You strum all strings on the guitar when doing this barre shape.

guitar chord chart showing how to create the e shape barre chordPin
  • Index finger: bar it over every string on the initial fret
  • Middle finger: place it on the 3rd (G) string and the fret beneath the bar
  • Ring finger: put it on the 5th (A) string and the 2nd fret under the barre
  • Pinky finger: set it on the 4th (D) string and the same fret as the ring finger

To play the below chords, you will place your index finger on the indicated fret and set the rest of your fingers in the above positioning.

  • C – barre the 8th fret
  • C# – barre the 9th fret
  • D – barre the 10th fret
  • D# – barre the 11th fret
  • E – barre the 12th fret
  • F – barre the 1st fret
  • F# – barre the 2nd fret
  • G – barre the 3rd fret
  • G# – barre the 5th fret
  • A – barre the 5th fret
  • A# – barre the 6th fret
  • B – barre the 7th fret

2) A Major-Shape

These are known as the 5th root bars because their root is on the 5th string. They are based on the open A chord.

guitar chord chart showing how to create the a shape barre chord.Pin
  • Index finger: bar it over the indicated fret to the 5th (A) string
  • Middle finger: place it on the 4th (D) string, two frets below the bar
  • Ring finger: put it on the 3rd (G) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger: set it on the 2nd (B) string, two frets under the barre

To play the various major chords, place the bar as follows.

  • C – barre the 3rd fret
  • C# – barre the 4th fret
  • D – barre the 5th fret
  • D# – barre the 6th fret
  • E – barre the 7th fret
  • F – barre the 8th fret
  • F# – barre the 9th fret
  • G – barre the 10th fret
  • G# – barre the 11th fret
  • A – barre the 12th fret
  • A# – barre the 1st fret
  • B – barre the  2nd fret

3) E Minor-Shape

The 6th root minor barre chords have a root on the 6th (low E) string.

em barre chord shape shown in guitar chord chart.Pin
  • Index finger: barre it over every string on the desired fret
  • Ring finger: set it on the 5th (A) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger: place it on the 4th (D) string, two frets under the barre

The minor chords are played as follows.

  • Cm – barre the 8th fret
  • C#m – barre the 9th fret
  • Dm – barre the 10th fret
  • D#m – barre the 11th fret
  • Em – barre the 12th fret
  • Fm – barre the 1st fret
  • F#m – barre the 2nd fret
  • Gm – barre the 3rd fret
  • G#m – barre the 4th fret
  • Am – barre the 5th fret
  • A#m – barre the 6th fret
  • Bm – barre the 7th fret

4) A Minor-Shape

These barre chords have roots on the 5th (A) string.

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  • Index finger: bar it over the indicated fret to the 5th (A) string
  • Middle finger: place it on the 2nd (B) string on the fret beneath the barre
  • Ring finger: put it on the 4th (D) string, two frets under the bar
  • Pinky finger: press down the 3rd (G) string, two frets below the bar

To play the minor chords, place your bar as follows.

  • Cm – barre the 3rd fret
  • C#m – barre the 4th fret
  • Dm – barre the 5th fret
  • D#m – barre the 6th fret
  • Em – barre the 7th fret
  • Fm – barre the 8th fret
  • F#m – barre the 9th fret
  • Gm – barre the 10th fret
  • G#m – barre the 11th fret
  • Am – barre the 12th fret
  • A#m – barre the 1st fret
  • Bm – barre the 2nd fret

While the above four shapes are the most commonly used and will help with many songs, you can also use the major and minor sevenths for the 6th and 5th roots and the suspended 6th root.

5) E Major 7th-Shape

To play the major seventh in the 6th root, place your fingers in the following position.

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  • Index finger: barre it over every string on the desired fret
  • Middle finger: place it on the 3rd (G) string beneath the bar
  • Ring finger: set it on the 5th (A) string, two frets below the barre

6) A Major 7th-Shape

To play the major seventh in the 5th root, position your fingers as such.

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  • Index finger: bar it over the first five strings on the necessary fret
  • Ring finger: place it on the 4th (D) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger: put it on the 2nd (B) string, two frets under the bar

7) E Minor 7th-Shape

To play the minor seventh in the 6th root, position your fingers as follows.

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  • Index finger: bar it over every string on the preferred fret
  • Ring finger: put it on the 5th (A) string, two frets under the barre

8) A Minor 7th-Shape

The minor seventh in the 5th root goes as follows.

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  • Index finger: bar it over the first five strings on the chosen fret
  • Middle finger: set it on the 2nd (B) string on the fret under the barre
  • Ring finger: place it on the 4th (D) string, two frets beneath the barre

9) Esus4 Shape

To play an Esus4 barre chord in the 6th root, perform this fingering.

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  • Index finger: barre it over every string on the desired fret
  • Middle finger: place it on the 5th (A) string, two frets below below the barre
  • Ring finger: place it on the 4th (D) string, two frets below the barre
  • Pinky finger: set it on the 3rd (G) string, two frets under the bar

Follow the same patterns mentioned above to play different chords in various forms. Experiment with the sound you like best and the positioning you can most easily switch to while playing when learning how to play bar chords.

How to Play Barre Chords

Begin by training your index finger to hold the six strings down. First, you place it on every string and press down, creating the bar. Since you are practicing, you can put it on any fret you feel most comfortable with. Strum the strings and check if you are getting a clean sound. If it sounds off, strum each string individually to see which one is not getting held down well enough.

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Keep practicing this method until you perfect the sound. It would sound best if you tightly pressed the strings to vibrate correctly as you strum. You can even put your middle finger on top of your index finger for more pressure on the strings.

Confused on the charts? Learn to read guitar chord charts here.

How to Build Finger Strength

The best way to develop strength is by practicing your barre chords. Bar your fingers over one fret, strum, remove your hand, and repeat. This task will help you position your fingers faster and improve the clarity of the chord.

A grip trainer can help your fingers supply more force to the guitar by improving your grip and forearm strength. You will need to train for a few weeks to build enough power for a quality barre chord. Make sure to prepare all of your fingers since some barre chords require more than just the index finger.

Tips for Playing Bar Chords

In the beginning, you will probably press with the largest part of your finger, especially if you have a firm grip. People with small fingers may not be able to bar effectively in this method. If you have little hands, try to use the bonier edge to press the strings, improving the sound. Applying uneven pressure could mute some strings, so work on keeping your finger straight and steady.

Try to place your finger close to the desired fret to optimize the sound. Putting it too far forward or backward may create a muddy sound. Make sure to practice the exact positioning whenever you attempt a barre chord.

Work on placing your thumb behind the guitar’s neck. This spot helps you push up and clamp down on the neck with the rest of your fingers. Play with the amount of pressure you put on the strings. The best sound depends on you and your guitar.

Also, experiment with your wrist positioning. Being too far behind or in front of the neck can hinder your finger’s ability to press the strings and create a clean sound. Search for a comfortable position that also lets you access the strings.

Try more chords:

Gb (G flat on guitar)

G# (G sharp on guitar)

C# major (C sharp on guitar)

Dbm (D flat minor)

Last Updated on February 28, 2021 by Liam F. Admin