How To Play Bar Chords
Learn To Play Bar Chords on Guitar!
Bar Chords! This is a topic that beginners fear and experienced players can’t do without. If you are a beginner you might be intimidated by bar chords because they require a lot of strength in your left hand. Don’t worry, we will get you up to speed. First, we will help you build your strength by teaching you a simple exercise for your index finger on your left hand. Once you learn how to get your hand in shape, we will learn two bar chord shapes that you will use all of the time. Finally, we will make some real music by taking these two bar chord shapes and applying them to a simple chord progression.
Let’s start by learning an exercise to strengthen our index finger on our left hand. Take your index finger and lay it across all six strings on the 1st fret. Push down until all six strings are down all the way to the first fret. Make sure that your finger (bar) is right behind the fret or as close as you can get it. This will help you to get a clear sound. Now strum all six strings. Every note should be clean and clear with no buzzing. If your are having trouble pushing down hard enough you can lay your second finger on top of your first finger to help push. Once you have your bar in place, take it completely off and move up one fret. Do the exact same thing with your index finger on the second fret. Take that bar off and move to the third fret. You can repeat this guitar exercise all the way up and back down the fretboard. After a few days or weeks of this, you will have enough strength in your left hand to make some really great sounding bar chords.
The most common bar chord shapes that you will probably see on the guitar are the E and A shapes. If you know your open E and A chords you already know how to make your E and A bar chords. Make a regular open E chord. Now, instead of making this shape with your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers, try making it with your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers. Your 3rd finger should be on the 2nd fret of the A string. Your 4th finger should be on the 2nd fret of the D string and your 2nd finger should be on the 1st fret of your G string. Move that entire shape up one fret. Now your 3rd finger should be on the 3rd fret of the A string. Your 4th finger should be on the 3rd fret of your D string and your 2nd finger should be on the 2nd fret of your G string. Now lay your index finger down across all six strings on the 1st fret and push. Give all six strings a strum. This is a F bar chord using the E shape. If you just made your first bar chord, congratulations!
Now we are going to take our open A chord and use it in the same way that we just used our open E chord. Make an open A chord, but instead of using your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fingers, try using your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers. Your 2nd finger should be on the 2nd fret of the D string. Your third finger should be on the 2nd fret of the G string and our 4th finger should be on the 2nd fret of the B string. Now move that shape up one fret just like you did with the E chord shape. Drop your bar down on the 1st fret across all of the strings, except for the low E string. Now, give all five strings a strum. That is a B flat bar chord using the A shape.
Something that is really great about bar chords is that they are “movable.” That means you can move these shapes anywhere on the fretboard and they will work! You just learned only two chord shapes, but you can use these two shapes anywhere on the guitar to make a ton of useful chords. When moved, the name of the shape stays the same but the actual name of the chord changes. For example, you could be using an E shape bar chord but if you place your bar on the 3rd fret and play the shape there it is actually a G chord. Don’t worry about this too much right now, just experiment with these two shapes, move them all around, and use them in your music.
So, now that we know these 2 shapes, lets use them to play a G, C, and D chord progression. Take you 1st finger and make your bar across all 6 strings on the 3rd fret of your guitar. Now make the E chord shape with your other fingers. This is a G bar chord using the E shape. You can tell this because the lowest note that you are playing is a G on the 6th string. Keep your bar on the 3rd fret, but leave out the low E string. Just bar the first five strings. Now, make an A shape on the 5th fret with your other fingers. This is a C bar chord using the A shape. You can tell this because the lowest note that you are playing is a C on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. Take this C bar chord that you just played and slide it up 2 frets. If you have done this properly your bar should be on the 5th fret and your A chord shape should be on the 7th fret. This is a D bar chord using the same A shape. Great! You just played a G, C, and D chord using bar chords. These chords are great substitutions for open chords. Experiment with them and start using them in your playing.
Learn more guitar chords using the ‘Guitar Chord’ section of GuitarLessons.com!