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Barre Chord Basics: An introduction to playing Barre Chords

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In this video lesson you’ll learn the four basic barre chord shapes and how to use them to create major and minor chords all over the fretboard.

Introduction

Barre chords are created by using one finger to press down some or all of the strings. Typically, you use your index (1) finger to press down all the strings and then form chords underneath. There are four basic shapes that you can use to form any basic major or minor chord. The four shapes are E, E minor, A, and A minor. They are just what they sound like – form an E, Em, A, or Am shape underneath the barre that you make with your index finger. You then move them up and down the fretboard to form the chord you want.

E major shape

E shape

Here are the chords that you make when your index finger corresponds with the indicated fret (note that the chords just go up the chromatic scale)

  • 1st fret: F major
  • 2nd fret: F# (Gb) major
  • 3rd fret: G major
  • 4th fret: Ab (G#) major
  • 5th fret: A major
  • 6th fret: Bb (A#) major
  • 7th fret: B major
  • 8th fret: C major
  • 9th fret: C# (Db) major
  • 10th fret: D major
  • 11th fret: Eb (D#) major
  • 12th fret: E major

E minor shape

Em shape

The chords you create with this shape are the same as the E major shape, except they are all minor chords instead of major chords (reference the chord list above). For example, if you use the Em shape on the with your index finger on the 10th fret, you are playing a D minor.

A major shape

A shape

Technically this is an A2 major shape, but it will work to form major chords. Here are the chords you form when your index finger is on the corresponding fret:

  • 1st fret: Bb (A# major
  • 2nd fret: B major
  • 3rd fret: C major
  • 4th fret: Db (C#) major
  • 5th fret: D major
  • 6th fret: Eb (D#) major
  • 7th fret: E major
  • 8th fret: F major
  • 9th fret: F# (Gb) major
  • 10th fret: G major
  • 11th fret: Ab (G#) major
  • 12th fret: A major

A minor shape

Am shape

The chords you create with this shape are the same as the A major shape, except they are all minor chords instead of major chords (reference the chord list above). For example, if you use the Am shape on the with your index finger on the 10th fret, you are playing a G minor.

Other notes

You can usually form any basic chord using either of the shapes. Notice that you can play a G major chord by using the E major shape on the 3rd fret or the A major chord on the 10th fret.

19 Responses to Barre Chord Basics: An introduction to playing Barre Chords

  1. Max Mathews May 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    This is awesome, I had such a hard time learning barre chords until now! Thank you so much!

  2. Luke Lacy Aug 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Do you have any tips for building finger strength cause I can’t get good pressure with my index

  3. Tim List Apr 20, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    How about the 7th’s?

    • Lee DeWilde Feb 16, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

      I am playing an am7 and an em7 on the seventh with d d u D but I don’t know what else to add on there

  4. Wing Ding Aug 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    This is the most helpful advice i have ever had, I have played guitar for five years and i played my barre chords as people told me what to play i never thought they actually had a shape to follow, now i understand how to do my barre chords without looking at a chord book 😀

  5. praveen Nov 24, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    hello sir i really like the way you teach us sir 🙂
    and can i use slide for bar chords because it is impossible for me to have that much pressure with my index finger because of a problum in my index finger,i want to know whether can i use slide in bar chords

    • Brian Nov 25, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks! I’ve never really used a slide before, but using it as a bar (like your finger would be) is basically how they work – give it a shot!

  6. Stuart Clifton Oct 2, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    I am a beginner and have started trying barre chords. I am having real problems getting my fingers into position while holding the barre.
    For example, I can’t play a B using a barre. My fingers just don’t go where they need to. Do I play other variants of the chord or does the flexibility improve somehow. If it is a flexibility thing, then what should I be doing.
    I play a classic guitar as I have really big hands (and feet- size US14 or 15)
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Brian Oct 16, 2015 at 11:04 am #

      Hi Stuart – the best advice I can think of is just to keep practicing. I remember a point with barre chords when it all just seemed to click and I could finally do it. Building strength is a big part of it, and that just takes time.

  7. David Feb 22, 2016 at 5:22 am #

    Ohhhh, I’m really excited for this lesson. I’ve been trying and gambling over this barre chord….but now I’m Free bcs I practise them once and got it once…..

    Thanks so much.
    David Psalm, Nigeria
    davidpsalm4@gmail.com

  8. tim.ibitomisin May 19, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Hi Brian this is a great lesson, can you please start tutorials for songs using barre chords please

    • Brian Jun 1, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      Hi Tim – for any of these songs you can play barre chord version of the chords rather than open chords. Typically, though – on acoustic open chords are much easier to play and they sound better.

  9. Eric Cooper Jun 13, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    Thanks, that was helpful.

    -Just beginning

  10. crispin.lewis94 Nov 24, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    Wow, thanks a lot for this Brian! I’m a beginner with the guitar and your videos are really helpful. I love learning the mechanics of how things work and your explanation cleared up a whole lot for me. Thanks again!!

  11. Isaac Dec 2, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    For some time now I have been taking your tutorials and I am becoming better..God bless you sir

    Isaac from Nigeria

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