The Most Essential Barre Chords


In this lesson we will learn the most essential barre chords. You could find many barre chords forms on countless chord books, but which barre chords forms should you learn first? In this lesson we will discuss the 4 most important barre chords.

What are barre chords?

A Full Barre chord do not use any open strings at all. Since they do not use any open strings, they can be moved to any place on the neck to get different chords. Once you’re able to play open chords comfortably like A, C, D, G, D, Em, Am, Dm etc, it’s time to learn barre chords. Barre chords are used in thousands of songs, in fact, it would be surprising not find them in all those great songs you might hear on the radio or on the TV.

Why barre chords are difficult to play for beginners?

Getting a barre to sound brightly can be very challenging, especially on an acoustic guitar. Playing a full barre chord (i.e. barre chords that make use all six strings) involves using the index finger across the entire set of strings.

When beginners struggle with barre chords they might think that, there has to be techniques to make barre chords sound great. In reality, there really is not much to it. The reason you are probably having trouble with bare chords is because your fingers are not strong enough, not yet at least.

When you play barre chords for the first time, you might hear dead or buzzing notes or you might not even here any notes at all, but for someone who just started out playing barre chords, this is very common.

How to play barre chords?

Before you play any of these barre chords, I’d recommend you to play this little exercise, it will help you out when learning the actual barre chords.

Now using your index finger to barre across all six strings of the guitar and play each string one by one. Any thuds? Every human has hands and fingers that are shaped a little different, so you will have to adjust your hand and fingers to find the right position for you.

If you are not getting a sound on all of the six strings or you are getting a buzzing sound on some of the strings, try moving your hand up a bit to find a sweet spot between the joints and contours of your index finger. Be sure to keep your thumb in the middle of the back of the neck of the guitar, this will ensure the strongest support and leverage for the barre fingers. If you bring your thumb up too high, you will find barre chords are very difficult to play.

By learning these four chord shapes, other shapes become easier to play. So without further ado let us learn these chords.

the most essential barre chord shapes


Moving the chord shapes

The F major barre chord shape is played with your index, middle, ring and pinky. Remember barre chords are movable chords, which mean you can move the chord shape anywhere on the neck, and you have to be able to identify the root note of the chord you are playing. For instance if we play the entire F major barre chord shape on the 2nd fret, we get a F# major chord,  because the root note is now on the 6th string 2nd. If you play the chord on the 3rd fret you’ll get a G major chord, play it on the 4th fret you’ll get a G# major chord, play it on the 5th fret you’ll get an A major chord, and if you keep on playing the chord shape all the way to the 12th fret you’ll get back to the F major chord. Remember the chord gets its name from the root note.  

If you don’t know all the notes on the fingerboard check out this free guitar fretboard chart (notes on the 6th string, notes on the 5th string). You will be using this helpful chart from time to time.

Now let’s move on to the 2nd barre chord shape which is the F minor barre chord shape, move the chord shape a half step (1 fret) you get an F# minor chord, move up to the 3rd fret you get a G minor chord, move to the 4th fret you get a G# minor chord and if you move the shape all the way to the 12 fret you’ll get back to the F minor chord.

learn the most essential barre chords - moving the F shape

learn the most essential barre chords - moving the F minor shape

learn the most essential barre chords - moving the A shape

learn the most essential barre chords - moving the A minor shape

As you can see you can also do this with the other chord shapes. Remember to always pay attention to the root note of the barre chord you are playing.

Final suggestions:

  • Do not avoid barre chords. You should practice them everyday. When playing songs, play barre chords as much as possible.
  • Pay close attention to how you place your fingers and check if you can hear any dead note(s). Slightly move your index finger (finger you use to barre the chord) up or down if necessary to make the notes sound clear.
  • It is very important that you memorize all the notes on the 6th string and 5th string. So you are able to play all the barre chords across the entire fretboard.

If you like this lesson, please leave a comment.

I’d appreciate it 🙂


2 Responses

  1. Hey, you used to write fantastic, but the last several posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!

    • Thanks for your comment. In the last 2 or 3 post I was trying to teach basic music theory. I find music theory to be boring but it is important for any guitarist to understand them. Anyway thanks for your suggestion!


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