What are barre chords?

With barre chords we can play any major or minor chord. No matter if C major or Bb major or G # minor. 🙂 But first we have to understand what barre chords really are.

You can imagine that barre chords are actually just basic chords (open string chords), which are played higher.

I’ll explain it a little more precisely:

These are our basic chords: Basic chords for barre grips

A major without barre
A major with open strings (Open String Chord)

The green marked spot is called in guitar anatomy: Nut.

This nut ensures that the string sounds the way it sounds. So if you play an open string (play the string without pressing anything), you will hear a tone. If we play the string marked with an X, as in our case, a low E.

Now we move the entire chord forward ->. But for this we also have to push the „nut“ forward as well.

A major move without barre

If we push everything forward and add the open strings of the previous A major chord with our index finger, the result looks something like this:

Barre chord of B major
B major with bar

The three fingers (which are usually played with the index, middle and ring fingers) slide forward into the 3rd fret. The fingers also have to be changed now, as we need the index finger for the barre.

But we also have to push the „nut“ forward one fret, so we need the index finger for this, which covers 5 strings.

Yes, it is true that only the A and E strings have to be pressed,
because the others don't sound anyway because of the index and middle fingers.
But it is much more complicated to grab "only" 2 strings with the barre,
instead of just all together.

Also make sure that you don’t press the low E string down as well. Better to go up with your index finger so far that you touch the E string and it can no longer sound.

Exactly the same principle applies to the other basic chords.

Here are all the basic chords with barre listed again: Basic chords with barre

Move barre chords

Both Basic chords with barre we see red notes. These are „root notes“.

The root note determines the name (and of course also the sound!) Of the chord. The red note on a „C major“ chord would be, for example. C. For an E minor chord, an E, etc.

We can take advantage of this principle and simply move the chord as we wish. To apply this principle, we first need all the available notes on the guitar.

String names A and E.
Bass notes A and E strings

Examples of finding barre chords

Now let’s go back to this overview: Basic chords with barre

As you can see, the first two barre chords (B major and B minor) have the bass on the A string and the two lower chords (F major and F minor) have the bass on the E string.

Now let’s try playing a C major barre chord.

Look closely at the list of Bass notes you see, there are 2 different C’s.

Once in the 3rd fret on the A string and once in the 8th fret on the E string. It doesn’t matter which one you play now, but it makes sense to play as close as possible to the last or the next chord. It makes little sense if you have a chord in the 1st fret and then play the C chord in the 8th fret. You prefer to play the C chord in the 3rd fret, so you are closer to the last chord and it sounds better.

Now press with your index finger in the 3rd fret on the A string and put your finger completely down so that all strings (except the low E string) are pressed.

Now the question is: are we looking for a major or a minor chord? In our example this would be a major chord, so we take the first pattern from the Basic chords.

Now let’s do the same with a G minor chord.

Looks for the overview of the Bass notes again a G out. For this example we take the G on the E string in the 3rd fret. Then we need the minor pattern. That’s why we take the last pattern in the Basic chords.

How to:

If you want to try this principle yourself, proceed as follows:

  1. Finds out where the bass note is (A string or E string?). Bass notes
  2. Find out if you need a major or a minor.
  3. Find the right pattern for the right bass note (if the bass note is on the A string, use the top 2 patterns, if it is on the E string, use the bottom 2 patterns). Basic chords
  4. Use the correct pattern (point 3) at exactly this point (point 1).

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