A Guide To Guitar Chords

Guitar Bar Chords

Guitar Chord Charts

Guitar bar chords (or barre chords/barré chords) play an important part in guitar playing. They are used extensively in all kinds of music.

Bar chords are called the way they are because you 'bar' all the strings at one fret with your index finger. When doing this your finger replaces the nut of the guitar. Taking all the frets with one finger is not an easy thing to do. I wish I could offer you a bar chords made easy solution, but I'm afraid I can't. You have to give this some time and practice. I've had a few students who could fret guitar bar chords almost perfectly within first week they started learning them, but for most beginning guitar players it takes a bit longer. Once you're able to play them you wonder what was so difficult about it (but I guess that's the case with most of the things you learn).

Have a look at this guitar bar chord picture and the chord diagram for a better understanding:

Guitar bar chord diagram Guitar bar chord picture

Here are the 2 most important types of guitar bar chords:

  • Guitar bar chords derived from the chord of E. This kind of chord has it's bass note on the E string. All strings are played.
  • Guitar bar chords derived from the chord of A. This kind of chord has it's bass note on the A string. The E string is not played.

Let's start with the first type: bar chords derived from the E chord.
Here's the guitar diagram and guitar chord picture for the E chord:

Guitar chords: E Guitar chord picture: E

To make a bar chord out of the E chord, we need to change the fingering. Instead of fretting the chord with finger 1, 2 and 3 we're going to fret it with finger 2, 3 and 4 like you can see on the following picture:

Guitar chords: E Guitar chord picture: E

The bass note or 1 of this chord is the open string E (if the 1 in this sentence sounds like Chinese to you, you'd better read the guitar music theory tutorial). Now slide all the notes you are fretting (all 3 of them) one fret higher on the neck. Then 'bar' all the strings on the first fret with your index finger. If you have followed my explanation correctly it should look something like this:

Guitar chords: F Guitar chord picture: F

The bass note of the chord is on the first fret of the E string: the note F. From low to high these are the notes in the chord: F C F A C F or 1 5 1 3 5 1. This chord is an F. By sliding one fret up from the E chord we made an F chord out of it.

Play the strings 1 by 1. You'll notice that not all strings sound clear and some strings don't have any sound at all. There's nothing wrong with your fingers, this is a difficult thing to do but you'll soon get the hang of it if you practice enough. The F chord is also the most difficult bar chord because the frets are so wide at the beginning of the guitar neck. Try the same chord higher on the neck and it will be easier. Experiment with the position of your thumb and with the way you put pressure on the strings.

Some things you need to know before we go any further:

  • One fret on the guitar equals a half step.
  • All notes in the C major scale are 2 half steps apart from each other, except between E & F (1 half step) and B & C (also 1 half note).

Knowing this you can find every major chord there is. Starting from the F chord slide up 2 frets (so you are on the 3rd fret now). The chord you are fingering now is the G chord. Slide 2 more frets to the 5th fret and you have An A chord. 2 more frets and you're on a B chord. Now slide 1 fret up (remember, between b/c and e/f only 1 half step) and you're on the C chord. 2 frets further (the 10th) gives us a D chord. 2 frets and we have an E chord again (on the 12th fret).
If you slide 1 fret up from the F chord we have an F# or Gb (see guitar music theory for more about # and b). The same goes for the other #'s and b's.

The guitar neck with the notes of the E string:

Guitar bar chord diagram

Have a look at the guitar bar chord charts for all the major chords or try the guitar chord finder.

'Wild Thing', as performed by 'The Troggs' is a good song to practice major guitar bar chords. Here's the chord progression:

|E           A |B            A |

 

Our starting point was the E chord, but you can also start from an Em chord:

Guitar bar chord diagram Guitar bar chord picture

Adjust the chord fingering like we did before with the E and slide this chord 1 fret higher on the neck. Then put your index finger to bar the first fret and we get an Fm chord:

Guitar bar chord diagram Guitar bar chord picture

Now you can also find all minor chords using the same system as above.

The same goes if you take E7 as your starting point:

Guitar bar chord diagram Guitar bar chord picture

Adjust the chord fingering and slide one fret higher to get F7:

Guitar bar chord diagram Guitar bar chord picture

Slide up further for every dominant 7 chord possible.

The bar chords we covered until now all have their bass note on the low E-string. Another type of bar chords have their bass note on the A string, so please follow me to page 2 of the wonderful world of guitar bar chords.

Guitar music theory part 2  Next page: part 2 of guitar bar chords