I wish someone would have explained barre chords like this to me years ago

Wrong Way: Here’s the thing when I first started (playing rhythm) my teens, I learnt to memorize where the basic chords where remembering that C is played “this way” on the third fret and so forth. Never even cared to figure out why or didn’t even know what a “root note” was.

So here’s what I wish someone had told me (maybe if I used an instructor, I’d be better off). Anyway if you know (at least) the notes of the two top strings (E and A), you can form any barre chord you want knowing the basic repeatable shapes and their root notes. I do suggest you learn all the notes on the fretboard though, it will make things much easier as you progress later on.

E String Root Chord Shapes

Below are the most basic shapes for the 6th String (E) and their roots as indicated in red. You can move them anywhere along the fretboard to produce the chord you need. For example Am, you play the 2nd shape below “Minor” on the 5th Fret (you barre the 5th).

e-string

barre-chards-6th-string-root

A String Root Chord Shapes

Below are the most basic shapes for the 5th String (A) and their roots as indicated in red. You can move them anywhere along the fretboard to produce the chord you need. If you want to be all fancy and play E a little higher, barre the 7th fret.

a-string

barre-chards-5th-string-root

But they’re hard!

Trying to do a Bm or F#m and half the notes buzz? That’s normal at first, because you haven’t developed those fingery muscles yet. It will come over time, don’t worry. I think we all went through this stage. But here are a few ideas:

  • Practice the shapes on the 7th fret at first to learn the shapes and start to move down the neck, 5, 3, and ultimately 1
  • Rest your thumb on the back of the neck at approximately the middle of the neck’s width
  • You don’t have to press extremely hard – excessive pressure will cause the most discomfort even for experienced players
  • Get your guitar professionally setup, this will help the playability
  • Go with lighter strings
  • Try to use the side of the barring finger rather than the pad and bend it slightly
  • Consider the actual angle of the guitar neck some people find it easier to play with the headstock higher than the body instead of the guitar being level (or horizontal)

P.S. I made an updated PDF for you to download: http://stevesmusiclist.com/wp-content/uploads/posters/barre-chords.pdf

Pain, no gain!?

I must stress this! First do some stretching exercises, shake your hands, stretch them and such before practicing. Now there will be “some” discomfort as you first practice barre chords but DO NOT play through the pain! You do not want some sort of injury (it does happen). Take a break, don’t over do it. I’ll add this too: If you feel pain, maybe you’re not positioning yourself right, first see a reputable instructor in your local area to make sure you’re not doing something awkward and honestly if it persists… maybe seek medical attention.