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How To Play Bar Chords On Guitar

Unfortunately for many beginner guitarists, barre chords can prove to be a royal pain the backside to learn how to play properly.

Many complain (myself included when I was learning) of getting a sore wrist, a sore hand, dead or muted strings, and thats just to name a few.

So if you would like to learn how to play bar chords on guitar, then give me just a few minutes of your time right now, and I will reveal what barre chords are, how to play them, and how to overcome the common issues many people have.

What Are Barre Chords?

According to barre chords are:

In music, a barre chord (also known as bar chord or rarely barr chord) is a type of guitar chord, where one or more fingers are used to press down multiple strings across the guitar fingerboard (like a bar pressing down the strings), enabling the guitarist to play a chord not restricted by the tones of the guitar’s open strings. Barre chords are often referred to as “moveable” chords[1], as the whole hand may easily be moved up and down the neck, “in one movement”[2]. Commonly used in most popular and classical music, they are frequently used in combination with “open” or standard guitar chords.

How To Play Bar Chords On Guitar?


Here’s the transcript of the video:

Hi, my Stephen and in this segment I’m going to show you how to play bar chords. Now bar chords are some of the harder chords to make because they require the most endurance with your hands. And with this, you just need your instrument, a pick and your fingers. In this case, I’m going to show you how to play a G major bar chord. And first of all what you want to do is take your first finger, your index finger over the entire third fret of all the strings and place them just like that and you want your fingers arch over and you want your thumb; almost like you’re pinching; if you want to imagine that. And then your third and your fourth finger go on the A and the D strings and again, your fingers arch over and with your second finger you want it on the G string on the fourth fret. And so basically what it looks like from the side is this; I’ve actually had students where I did physically showed them. You don’t want your hands like this or your thumb resting over. With, with bar chords your fingers basically are going to be towards the top of the neck or actually in the middle, depending on where you’re at on the fret board. So, that would be G major bar chord. And as you see from the side, I’m doing this. The only finger that’s relatively flat is the index. The rest of them arch over; like you think of the golden arches of McDonalds or something. You’re going to actually have your fingers like that. So, and then if I want to; yeah, I want to move up, play another, that’s A major; B major. That’s a major shape. Now for a, say, G minor bar chord; you’re doing the exact same thing except you’re moving your second finger and going. You have that note there which is A sharp and that gives you the G minor chord; bar chord. And then if you; again, that’s the same; if you hold that shape and you know twelve chords, you have G sharp; A minor, A sharp; B minor and so forth as you move up the neck or down. Now this would be F minor or F major. Again, my name is Stephen and this is showing you how to play chords; in this case starting on the E string and on the A string.

Overcoming The Common Issues

Issue 1: Sore Wrist

A common issue many people come across when learning barre chords, is the dreaded sore wrist. The most common cause of this issue is simply gripping the wrist of the guitar neck too hard.

Here’s what said about this:

Beginning guitarists tend to “grip” the neck too much when first starting to learn barre chords. This is probably out of an instinctive effort to apply more force in the hope of getting a cleaner – buzz free – sound. Unfortunately, too much wrist tension does more harm than good and really doesn’t help at all as far as getting a clear sound. Here’s why :

1) Too much wrist tension disrupts blood flow to the muscles involved – actively weakening them – and preventing them from executing as much force as they could (making you work harder).

2) The fretting hand position that you’ll typically be in if your wrist is positioned badly is absolute terrible for fretting barre chords – from a physics perspective.

In short, not only does poor fretting hand position make barre chords hurt your wrist, but it also actively slows the process of mastering them by making you work harder to achieve the same result.

How To Fix It

If you’re getting a sore wrist then you’ll want to do something about it.

Here’s what you can do:

First, RELAX your wrist! This is the most important thing! A tense wrist attracts all the negatives I described above and does no good whatsoever. The idea is for the guitar neck to rest comfortable in your palm with your thumb supporting it from behind – at the middle of the neck (basically behind the 3rd and 4th strings) – and your remaining fingers hitting their respective frets on the front. The guitar neck should NOT be gripped with the palm of your fretting hand! The only support should come from your thumb and your fingers!* Hope that’s clear enough!

Issue 2: Time It Takes To Learn Barre Chords

Another issue/common complaint I hear is “how long will it take me to learn barre chords?”. If you’ve got this thought too, here’s what they said at

A very common question among beginning guitarists is how long it takes to learn barre chords. The tricky thing is that there are two possible interpretations to this question – both of which have very individual- specific answers. This is because a number of different factors come into play; factors that I’ll try to explain so you can make your own educated guess about how long it will take.

Firstly, learning the theory to using barre chords takes no more than a day. The concept is pretty simple and from a technical standpoint it’s easier than learning all the open chords because of the movable chord concept. This means you can take a handful of barre chord shapes and move them up, and down, the neck to create a different chord – following a certain easy-to-learn pattern.

The practical side of playing barre chords is what gives trouble to most beginners. Unfortunately, playing barre chords requires extra-ordinary finger strength and – to a lesser extent – co-ordination; which you can only develop from by practicing a LOT.

As for how long it takes, you’re probably looking at anywhere between two weeks and three months depending on your natural skill and how much time you devote to it. This is NOT to say that you should give up at the three month mark! People are different and what you consider to have been adequate practice may not have been enough at all. Also, if you practice with poor technique it can multiply the time it takes you to master barre chords into months and *gasp* – a year or more!

Here’s What You Can Do About It

Here’s 5 steps you can follow that will help speed up the process of learning to play barre chords.

spend less time worrying about how long it’ll take and more time practicing it. Here are some “landmarks” – or “goals” – to aim for.

1) Being able to fret and play and barre chord – no chord changes or anything – just take your time and form the chord. All that matters for this checkpoint is that you get all the notes (strings) to ring out cleanly.

2) Being able to let go of the barre chord and move to another fret (same barre chord shape) – remember I linked you to my post on how to move them around earlier! :)

3) Being able to let go of the barre chord and move to an open chord.

4) Being able to switch from an open chord to a barre chord fairly quickly.

5) Being able to switch between opens chords, and barre chords, that you’re familiar with comfortable enough to play them passably in the context of a song.

Once you’ve cleared all five checkpoints, you can safely say that you’ve more or less got the hang of barre chords and pat yourself on the back :P You still need to get to point where you can play them easily – and yes there WILL be such a point – but those are your short term goals.

In Summary

In summary barre chords are moveable chords that can be difficult to learn at first, similar to that of learning how to ride a bicycle for the very first time.

You need to do what you did when learning to ride, and that is to get back up as soon as you fall off.

Never give up, and if you use the advice given in this post, you’ll soon be able to master barre chords on the guitar.

If you would like more great tips like the one’s given in the post, then please check out my beginners course called ‘The Beginners Guide To Playing Barre Chords’.

In my course you’ll learn how to master any type of barre chord in just 3 simple steps.

To find out more about it, please CLICK HERE

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