Category Archives: Barre Chords

Guitar Lesson – Back to Basics – Barre Chords

Alright, so let’s see how we can put all this theory to practical use!

You might notice that we only looked at a few chords in the Basics section.  Now, let’s get into barre chords.

How to play barre chords
In the chart below, you’ll see lines going across.  This means that those notes are meant to be held by 1 finger.  Normally, you would use your index finger (1) to hold the “barre”.

TIP 1 :- In reality, your index finger will not be perfectly straight and probably won’t actually hold down the A and D strings very much (not enough to hear notes).

TIP 2 :- The minor shape on the 1st row below requires the index finger to hold down the low-E, G, B, and E strings.  This is too hard for me to do with just my index finger.  So I use my middle finger on top of my index finger to give it extra support.


Take a look at the “major” and “minor” shapes on this chart.

You might notice that this chart is not specific to any particular chord.  That’s because the same shape can be applied to any note.

Looking at the figure on the upper-left, you might notice that it looks a lot like the E chord.  That’s because it is!

One way to look at it is that the E chord is like having the barre at the 0th fret (ie you’re not playing it, the nut is).

Now, if you shift the whole shape down by 1 fret and hold the 1st fret (all of it) using your index finger, you’ll be playing the F note on the low-E and high-E strings as well as the C note on the B string.  Then place your middle finger (2), ring finger (3), and pinky (4) into position.  Now you’re holding F (major)!

Shift this shape down again to the 3rd fret (ie index on the 3rd fret).  Now you’re holding G (major).
As you can imagine, you can shift this shape up and down the fretboard.
In the last lesson, I mentioned that it’s important to remember where the root note is for each shape and this is why…  
So, let’s say you need to play C# (major).  Well, you have a few choices.  Looking at this chart, there are 2 ways of playing a major chord.
One way is to use the “E” shape (figure at upper-left corner).  The other way is to use the “A” shape (3rd row left).  
If you remember, for the “E” shape, the root note is on the E-string.  And by counting steps, you will find the C# note on the E-string on the 9th fret.  So if you use the “E” shape on the 9th fret, you’ll be playing C# (major).

But you can also use the “A” shape which has the root note on the A-string.  The C# on the A-string on the 4th fret.  So if you hold the “A” shape on on the 4th fret, you’ll also play C# (major).

Let’s use one more example.  How about Bm (B minor)?
You can use the “Em” shape (1st row center) or the “Am” shape (3rd row center).

Again, for the “Em” shape, the root note is on the E-string.  The B note is on the 7th fret on the E-string.  So hold the shape there.  For the “Am” shape, the root note is on the A-string and the B note is on the 2nd fret on the A-string.  So hold it there.


So… by learning 4 shapes (E, Em, A, Am), remembering where the notes are on 2 strings, and applying a little bit of theory, you can now play all major and minor chords in 2 positions!  Cool huh?