Barre Chord Basics | How to Play Barre Chords

I’ve decided to start sprinkling tips among my longer tutorials and articles. Here’s the first…

Barre chords are the scourge of the beginning guitarist. Like a bum knee, a prison record, the inability of matter to exceed the speed of light; barre chords hold us back. The next time an F minor chord messes with you, mess back with this:

  • Check your thumb placement. Your thumb should be pressing against the back of the neck, on the fattest part, behind the area where the 2nd finger’s hanging out.
  • Check your first finger placement. It should be parallel with the fret wire, so close it’s just barely touching the side. Roll your finger a bit toward the nut, so that the bony side of the finger is digging into the strings instead of the strings digging into what my student Casey calls the “chub.”
  • Stop pressing so hard. That first finger’s only responsible for fretting some of the strings, so don’t try to press down on each string with equal force. For example, when playing a standard barred F chord, press hard with the tip of your finger on the 6th string, and dig your knuckle into the 1st and 2nd strings, but let the finger rest lightly over the other strings.
  • Take heart. Often you can transpose a song to avoid barre chords. Also, some great guitarists never play barre chords–BB King, for example, played his way to greatness pretty much one note at a time. As he said in the U2 documentary “Rattle and Hum,” “I don’t do chords.”

Please comment if you’d like to add your own tips for playing barre chords. And if you’d like to submit a tip about some other aspect of guitar playing, email me.

Comments 135

    1. Nathan

      it’s any chord when you lay your first finger across 2 or mor strings. when you see this chord depicted in diagraems, youll see a little curve that connects all the notes in the chord together. this symbol is called a “barre” these chords have extremely pleasing results such as a great full sound, and coomplete transposeability!

  1. samm

    yeah barre chords sux…i’m just still very inexperienced with playing the guitar but barre chords really frusturate me and make me wanna not pick up that guitar and try to play that song….

    1. Nathan

      serious…? I taught myself (on fairly heavy gauge strings) before I was playing more than a year. just takes practice and a solid want to actually play them. and yeah I still screw up on a couple first pos. f bar chords if I’m plying on an acoustic, im not perfect. But if you got super thin electric guitar strings, and youve beeen playing for more than a year, then maybe you should start feeling more confident.

  2. Paul

    I like to add that If you fret a A Major in 5th Position, try to put your thumb more in horizontal position. behind the neck. Pressure of all fingers should be nearly equal to avoid tensing all up.

  3. Dan

    Hey what do you think I am doing wrong if, when playing barre chords, the fleshy part of my hand (below the thumb) starts cramping up and hurting like the billyo? Am I pressing too hard or is it my finger placement or what?

    Cheers

    1. Nathan

      use thinner guage strings, or maybe your using too much pressure. if you don’t know what I mean about the strings ask some dude at the shop where you bought your guitar.

  4. C Jarvis

    I’m just learning barre chords. They are difficult. I’m struggling with buzzing since I’m not doing it correctly. Just to keep my spirits up I stuck a band-aid across the two middle creases of my first finger. It seems to help until I get strong enough to do it without it. I suppose props are bad but it keeps my enthusiasm for these difficult chords up.

    cx

  5. Rigel Minor

    ahhhhhhhh!

    I’ve been playing guitar for 6 years now. All that I play is classical acoustic stuff…like you mentioned,and, WITHOUT touching 1 bar chorde. The other day a friend of mine said that i should learn them anyway. atleast for some knowledge, that way i would have a wider idea of chords and notes. I feel like i’m just learning again. I can’t play a single bar chord properly. I start to get lazy and play them with the tips of my fingers and give up using the ‘bar” method. I can’t even get my fingers into the right position and everything ends up contorted. I taught myself how to play, so my original idea on how to play is not like it should be(I think). I would greatly appreciate it if anyone can find anything for me that explains exercises to get my hands into the proper bar chord position.

    I have a habbit of playing chords with all of my fingers but my middle one…my pinky and pointer seem to do the most work… =/ heeelllppp

    1. Nathan

      barre chords take a lot of strength in your digital flexors and thumb muscle. what I did (and i taught myself) is I started up the neck, and with the smpler chords that mute the E and A strings. these chords have little to no bass sound, but the beetles had used solely these in the chordbooks, so they shouldn’t be too hindering.

  6. Carva

    well for barre chords you should try keeping your fingers in the same postition and then hover down the fret boared and after a few weeks parctise you’ll get the hang of it. :)
    Im only 12 and ive been playing guitar for about a year now so if I can do them then most people should (i think). I can learn to play mostly anything I would like to play so keep your spirits high and keep up that enthusiamsm of yours. :p

  7. KEITH

    I feel ur shame about lettin my pinkey and pointer do all the work,nearly All smashing Pumpkins songs seem to involve chords where u can avoid use of ur middle finger completely. pS if somebody could give me a link to a sight that would show me thre value of a certain barre chord at each fret id be eternally Grateful. Love KG

  8. Fraz

    today, for the first time, i have managed a couple of bar chords, i’m so happy!! i’m teaching myself, so sites like this are brilliant for me, thankyou!

    1 question though- my guitar has a thinner neck than most (its a marshall rocket). is that better for playing bars or not?

      1. Phil

        I think neck thickness is a total matter of personal preference. I have absolutely freakishly huge hands (like Stevie’s), and if you put an Ibanez RG with a wafer-thin Wizard neck in my mitts, I just want to scream. My hand feels like it’s trying to fold in half, and I start cramping up like I did when I first started learning to play. Give me an old-school Tele with a U-shaped neck or a pre-Pattern neck PRS, and I’m living the dream.

  9. Rob

    Hey Franz,

    I’ve never considered the effect of neck size on playing barre chords. Hmmm. I would guess that it’d be a bit easier to play on a thinner neck. In general, thinner necks are easier to maneuver on, and it looks like thin necks don’t require quite as much bent wrist (the bane of guitar players) as thick necks.

    I’d like to hear other players’ opinions on this.

  10. popsypops

    I’ve just started on barre chords after resisting them for years. A great song for learning them (although my left hand is in agony throughout and after) is La Isla Bonita(Madonna)or Golden Brown (Stranglers)intro which both mix barre chords with the welcome relief of normal chords.
    Is it right that any chords a to d sharp will be played in the A bar position and e to G sharp in the E bar position. Thats what I’ve had in my head to help me remember.

    1. Nathan

      i dunno, but after you get the han of the B barre pos. try barring the open simialarly: x0222x (with your first finger)Billie Joe Armstrong of Green day Does this. mostly because he quickly changes a D A G chord pattern. this helps with that.

  11. mike

    barre chords are killing me! The B and e strings never seem to ring clearly. If I focus more on the bottom strings my pointer finger seems to let up off the E string. Very frustrating. Any tips for getting the bottom strings to ring clearly?

  12. Rob

    Aside from my recommendations in the article, you may want to look at lowering the action on your guitar, getting lighter strings, or trying an electric guitar (which would mean lower action and lighter strings by default).

    Thankfully, there are lots of ways of getting around barre chords in the meantime. I often avoid them by using a capo (another good article topic!)

  13. popsypops

    surely using a capo doesn’t make any difference because it can’t move, so you would be in exactly the same position but just playing higher up the neck,playing in a different key?

  14. Rob

    Good point. I meant that if you wanted to avoid a barre chord but stay in the same key, you could use a capo in combination with changing the chord shapes. For example, if you were playing a song in the key of C, and wanted to avoid the F chord, you could capo 5th fret and use key of G chord shapes.

  15. Jim

    What an amazing website! I’m loving this. I am new to the guitar, (one month), but I’ve found a great instructor who is actually employed as a guitarist with a local theater company. Since I’ve only had one lesson I’m not playing barre chords yet, but at least I’ve discovered, (here), that barre chords have nothing to do with bars – the drinking establishments. Maybe I’ll visit one before I try. I’m really happy to find this site. Thanks Rob.

  16. Eric Y.

    I injured my left index (string) finger when I was 13 on October 30,1969, 22 stitches and tendon damage. I only was able to play guitar for a few years because of pain and numbness from the injury. Because the finger was numb and I’ve only recently gained most of the feeling back and almost full extension, I started playing again after 25 years of not playing. I can finger individual strings fine. I can play some great old tunes like “From the Beginning” by ELP, some Zepplin and Metalica. All this is on my acoustic, btw. Getting an electric in 2007. OK here’s the problem. I can finger D7M (lower 3 barred)w/o any problem. This is a barre chord from “Ventura Highway” by America. However it is freaking impossible for me to barre D7M with my injury. Heck that chord is almost impossible, period. If anyone has suggestions as how to finger D7M, please post it. I would like to be able to play it.

  17. Eric Y.

    Mistake, sorry. The chord that I cannot finger, nor barre is F#M. If you know how to finger it, please post. Or if there is a “cheat” let me know. And dudes, yes the finger still hurts after all these years, I can play for about 45 minutes to an hour, then I have to stop. Sucks.

  18. Matt

    These – as they are to everyone else – continue to kill me.

    I tried playing Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but most of the chords in that are Barre Chords. I went to a Chord Finder online, and found another way to play the chord, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll be a ‘well-rounded’ guitarist without learning these.

    Thanks. Some other ‘helpful’ articles are:

    About.com : http://guitar.about.com/c/ht/00/07/How_Play_Barre_Chords0962934244.htm

    eHow.com:
    http://www.ehow.com/how_7024_play-barre-chords.html

    Ultimate-Guitar.com
    http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/chords/barre_chords_forms.html

    Dansm’s Guide to Barre Chords:
    http://www.geocities.com/mike_mccracker/chguide/barre.htm

    Thanks,

  19. Johnny Hall

    Hey, Eric! Might I suggest that you just try a three-note F#m? Take your Dm chord and move it up four frets. Or, it might be easier for you to barre further up the fret board. Barre the ninth fret and make an Am chord under it. Either will result in a F#m chord. When you get an electric, make sure the guitar has a thinner neck on it and low action. Consider my situation: all my performing life I have used righty stringing yet played lefty! I have always had to create my own fingering and there are some chords (mostly jazz chords)I can’t play!

    Good luck!

  20. Antony

    I sucked at barre chords for a long time, but after endless practice I now have them down pat, so don’t give up hope! A problem I’ve had when playing barre chords standing up is my left thumb gets numb after awhile. It’s no trouble when I’m playing but feels a bit funky when I’m not and it’s still numb. I figure I’m just gripping the neck too hard.
    Learning scales is now my next mission. Having played chords for so long it’s been an effort to get my fingers moving one note at a time – any tips for that? Just practice and more practice I guess. I almost have the Am pentatonic down though.

    1. Chris M

      I have the exact same problem as this. My thumb nerves seem to be in shock haha.

      A good song to learn is “sitting on the dock of the bay” for absolute beginners on your major chords. You stay in the same position but move your fretting hand up and down the board.

      Next thing is to tell your fingers how to switch between open chords and barre chords quickly. I am playing “too close” by Alex Clare to do this at the minute.

  21. alix

    for F#m, try a power chord verison:
    (EADGBE) x442xx (so its similar to the barre, but rather than barring all of fret 2, you only play the 3rd string…)

  22. Thorny

    To be honest i’ve only played guitar for 9 months, but had a guitar teacher.
    And Barre chords are simple if you put the effort in to learn them Day in Day out.
    Best thing to do to train them is to do a A Major natural then do a Barre chord and keep switching.

    Hope this helped anybody also.

  23. princess

    what is a good website for beiginners im in year seven and they teach it at school but i want to lern my self im an individual so i want to know a good website for beguinners

    thanx

  24. lexi

    I also pretty much taught myself to play and can fly through basic chords pretty well but barre chords stress me out and i don’t feel like i’m a true guitarist if i don’t learn them. How long does it take to get ’em down and be able to move aimlessly up and down the frets.

  25. AMS

    Some of them can be cheated and sound pretty good, B minor or b major for example will sound good if you make the Am , or the A shape on the fourth fret and by just pressing the e string on the second fret, same thing for C minor, by starting at the third fret…Also you can write pretty damn good songs by using the chords you know and learning the scales…Music is something you feel in your heart and not an atlethic performance, so learn them in time you will get them , but I belive a strong sense of melody is more important than how fast you can change from F to F#…Just discover what sounds good and mess around.

  26. bily

    i have had a guitar for two years but only started playing recently, teaching myself. i sing lead and am trying to be able to sing and play back up guitars, which means lots of chordssss. i tried playing barre chords the normal correct way but i can only get the lower three stings to sound good, the higher-note strings dont play because i’m not able to press them down hard enough and press the bottom three. i tried learning idividual chords, but tht became too much thought so i tried something new. i tuned my guitar e, b, e, b, b, e. the e’s are octaves apart, and the first two b’s are octaves apart, with the third b being the same note as the second because my string was going to break if i tried a different note. with this tuning all i have to do is press every string down with my index finger on one fret, and then slide around to make different chords. i know its wrong, and probably seems like a disgrace to a better guitarist, but it has enabled me to play and sing, and now i actually want to play songs by my favorite bands like cartel and coheed and cambria. even though i can play songs with this tuning, i am still trying to play natural barre chords, but if you are like me and need to be able to play your favorite songs because you need to be more interested then i hope this trick will help you. be careful though because this tuning may cause worn strings to break.

  27. Vern

    Here’s one my teacher told me. When going from the E major to a Fm or F#m or any barre chord minor, I use my middle finger for the G# (3rd string, first fret) and my 4th finger for the B (5th string 2nd fret) and the pinkie for E (4th string 2nd fret). Now when I move up the neck to play a barre chord minor, my 4th and pinkie fingers are all ready in position so I just slide up the neck and barre with my index.

  28. Vince

    i just stared playing barre notes today and they already sound perfect =] maybe im just lucky well i could just not hear de g string ring so i put my index finger al little higer and now all the notes sound excelent!
    and thanks for the tips!! =]]

  29. Andrew

    Finally all my barre chords “ring true” it took me about 6 months of dedication to master them. However the problem i have now is to place them quick enough in a tune..Say if you go from a C to a Fmaj i lose the rhythm when going to the F chord…guess that will come with time..I practice and just try to change as quickly as possibly but my finger memory is not perfect yet..

  30. Josh

    barre chords annoy me more than Kate Nash. I can play the Stairway to Heaven solo, november rain, sweet child o’ mine…etc but when it comes to barre chords..its taken me 2 months to get them perfect but next comes changing from barre to regular chord and back to barre, i completely lose the rhythm. My thumb positioning is shocking, i have quite long fingers so have never really needed to control my thumb when it comes to simple chords or solo’s!
    I am also looking for a new acoustic, any advise on which one i should get?
    thanks!

  31. Sean B

    I found a book called Idiots guide to learning Guitar (Nice, huh…) and about 10-15 pages in, and about 3 chords learnt, they introduced the F chord… THE F CHORD! I had just picked up the guitar and learnt how to play Yankee Doodle Donkey when they introduced this thing… It stopped me playing for a year, because I thought I just couldnt play guitar altogether…

    These tips are spot on! I still cant do barre chords well, but then i’ve only just started (again) and I can barely play anything!

    I am DEFINITELY looking back to this for reference! Merci!

  32. Kenneth

    After reading some of the comments you guys made it seemed that some people were very confused about what the bar cords purpose was. I’ve only been playing for a few months and just recently started playing bar cords. When I started I couldn’t even fret a barre cord for longer than a few strums before my hand started to cramp up and hurt. I played through it and in about a week or two I was able to play whole songs using barre cords. My advice just keep at it and like the open chords you learned first the bar cords will become second nature also.

    To popsypops: your question about cords reminded me of a revelation I had when I was practicing them when I started. Working with the E and A forms, meaning the E and A strings, the root note that you start on is the cord you are going to play. So if you fret the 3rd fret in an E, major barre shape you would be playing a G since the low E string third fret is a G. You can continue all the way up the neck in this fashion playing any cord you want. Same with the A shape, not fretting the low E string. To help with learning this as I was playing a cord in the E shape I would sing to myself the cord that I was playing. This really helped me learn the low E and A string notes up and down the neck. I’m still not great at it but I seriously helped me. It gets confusing though when your talking to somebody and they say play an A which is in the E shape on the 5th fret but your mind might be thinking the A barre shape which would be all the way on the 12th fret. Working with barre cords also helped me with the concepts of the chromatic scale, sharps and flats and differentiating chord forms which are seperate such as major, minor, dom 7th, minor 7th ect. Before this my brain just kinda mushed everything together. It really helped me understand that you find a note or key you want then work with the forms inside that like your minor and 7th’s. Hope this helps. I’m a total noob to guitar but as difficult as they were to start learning they have paid off so far.

  33. greg

    I’m a beginner who’s been playing about 2 months
    and like most of you, I’m having a real hard time learning to play barre chords. It feels physically impossible to play them. However, I’m going to keep practicing and maybe they’ll sound ok someday. Thanks for all the tips.

  34. HxC

    Barre chords are not hard… I have never understood that idea. The first chords i learned were Barre chords.
    But if you guys want help learn reggae or ska guitar. you will be like, way way better with barres if you try hard at that.

  35. Joe

    I am 12 years old and have been playing guitar for 2 years going into my 3rd begining in march and yes barre chords are a pain in the butt at first (i learned them around my 3rd or 4th month) but now i know how important they are. Think of barre chords as scales they are a pain in the butt and annoying but they are so important when it comes to guitar. Also check out my guitar blog at guitarblog.edublogs.org(hey its free).

  36. Jaddman

    What’s with all the negativity around barre chords? The ability to rake a barre chord (mute all strings by removing pressure from the chord) is a great and easy way to make chord progressions sound funky and more interesting. Plus Barre chords can be worked out easily with only basic knowlege of the notes on a guitar and barre chord shapes. I presonally think that barre chords add a new great dimention to rythm guitar playing and I reccomend you stick at it =)

    Much love.

  37. Otter1

    barre chords: simple but not easy – but am gaining more confidence that they are do-able with perseverence. I found this site looking for tips on exectuting barre chords. (especially tips for small handed gals like myself) – got a lot of great info and encouragement that practice, practice, practice is the way to go. I just started taking lessons (lesson # 3 Tuesday) and just started barre chords. Daunting! But – reminding myself that two weeks ago I struggled with C Major chord and now I can play it(usually). How? Instead of looking for songs that didn’t have a C chord to play (kinda tough) I looked for a song that had as many as possible in combo with others to practice going back and forth! Funny how I forgot that when faced with the barre chords – my first instinct, avoid them at all costs! Thanks to everyone for their input!

  38. Josh

    I posted a comment about a year ago which detailed my hatred of barre chords. I was still a begginer but was great at solo’s for some reason. Now i have mastered barre chords (well about a week after i posted the comment!) It turned out i had been playing on a guitar with an action higher than tower bridge. I did not know this as i was a beginner. But as soon as i picked up a decent guitar i had absolutely no problems. But also as i played on a horrible guitar i have very strong hands which makes anything possible on a half decent guitar!
    If anyone cares i went for a Martin D28, without a doubt the best money i ever spent.

  39. Ray

    My advice is skip the F major barre chord at first. Practice your barre chords between the 7th and 10th fret and slowly move up as you get a hang of them.

    Music is about rhythm and if you pause to make the barre you lose the rythym. Fudge or cheat but keep the rhythm going. For instance use the small F chord, etc.

    Keep at it. They will come. If you can’t get a good ring from the strings after lots of practice then go to a guitar store and try a few different guitars. Sometimes it’s the shape of the guitar neck, your hand & fingers just not getting along. Try lots of different guitar brands.

  40. David

    I am self taught. No teacher to guide me. I find them to be stress causing at times. The advice above works great. I am learning a very easy piece for classical guitar called “Romance” and have a couple of full bar chords to deal with. Sometimes I put my guitar down and rest when I am getting frustrated. When you are tense bad habits can be formed.

    Take is slow and steady. Take breaks from it. Then go back to it like you are going to kick ass and you will.

  41. Jeff

    The only way to master barre chords is to play them a lot and be patient. Try to find songs that you can get barre chord workout, like, anything with a F# or G#. You WILL get eventually it. But when you start to get tired, bored, or your thumb muscle hurts, just stop. Don’t go back to it until the next day.

    HERE’S ONE BARRE PRACTICE
    FROM “I WANT YOU BACK” by J5

    minor barre on 9 fret
    minor barre on 4 fret
    major barre on 5 fret
    minor barre on 0 fret
    (this is an E, but keep barre fingering)
    minor barre on 2 fret
    (this is an F#m)
    major barre on 7 fret
    modified barre: 07999x

    ENJOY.

  42. Dylan

    I have been playing guitar for 9 months now.I was able to completely avoid barre chords.And i had the attitude of “i dont need to learn specific chords,esepcially barre ones” ,but i ran into a wall with an ac/dc song…and was completely puzzled.I had to figure it out on my own and was thumping myself in the head for not realizing what it was and how to do it.This site helped me out on the specifics though.Thanks alot!

  43. wayne

    Regardless of all instructions, tips & counless hours of practice, I cannot play a single barre. Never can get a clean tone, only buzzes & thumps. Maybe some of the frustrated readers might benefit from this honest tip. Some people will never be able to do it!

  44. Simon

    I’ve been playing for just over two years and barres always hurt but then all chords hurt when I started, im ok at them but im trying to play a song with a chord at the seventh fret. It’s fine when I just barre it with my index finger but when I add just one finger on the d string the g string duds all the time. The other strings all ring out fine. It’s so frustrating, I want to play this song but if I can’t sort it im going to have to give up on it! Any help appreciated, keep up the good work!

  45. Jeff

    I just started playing a couple of months ago and don’t want to avoid barre chords any more. I’m wondering though…if I’m playing an electric with distortion, do I even WANT to play all the strings in a full barre chord? I was just reading the entry on power chords and particularly the part about the 3rd in triads causing muddiness in the sound if you’re playing an electric with distortion. Is it the same with barre chords? In other words, does it sound better to play, say, three strings of a barre chord with distortion or to play the whole thing?

    Thanks!

  46. Scott

    Thanks for your tips! I put them to use and immediately showed improvement! My problem was that I was trying to fret my strings with the “chub,” so sometimes I would end up muting the string instead of fretting it. Rolling onto the bone really helped. Great tips!

  47. Mel

    I’ve been playin for a year an half and i can do barree chords, like f, bm etc, but the higher up the fretboard i go the harder i find it.. i mean like higher down if that makes sense? after the 6th fret kinda thig anyone got any advice on that?

    1. Rob

      Hey Mel,

      Lemme guess–you’re playing an acoustic guitar, right? The farther up the neck you go, the higher your action is (the distance from the strings to the fretboard). On a well-made, well-set-up electric guitar, this isn’t much of an issue, but even a good acoustic guitar can be a bit of a bear to barre high up the neck. Take your guitar into a shop and see if they can lower your action without compromising your tone too much (low action = fret buzz).

      Rob

  48. GEORGE

    Barre or Bar chords do not ‘suck’ and they are not hard you just have to practice long enough to get used to them. There are many VERY good reasons to learn them. Biggest is you will be able to transpose songs to any key you want and WILL NOT HAVE TO USE A CAPO, which you should not ever start doing if you want to pay somewhere besides your bedroom. I could go on but will not. Learn them if you want to play in a band.

  49. Freddie

    Barre chords are difficult but very rewarding once you learn them. Sitting in the classical position (with your guitar resting on your fret hand’s knee and with the neck in a steeper angle) helps too. My teacher taught me to sit in that position and to allow gravity to help my 1st finger manage the barre. It’s a lot less painful then sitting folk style!

    (all these kids complaining about their left thumb going numb…this is why I play upside down hehe!)

  50. Hs guitarist

    My index finger bleeds slightly were i press the strings if i play more than 3 hours of barre chords. Any ideas how long it’ll remain that way? Because i started playing barre chords 3 weeks ago and really need to prepare for a competition but its still too painful to play…

  51. Rob

    Ouch! If the skin’s broken, you’ll need to let it heal for a few days. Sounds like your skin can’t make callouses fast enough to keep up with your practice routine.

  52. 7geez

    I have never read this tip anywhere in relation to barre chords, but, what is helping me is to place my index finger almost on TOP of the metal fret. I’d always been told to place it behind (slightly above) the metal fret, but, placing my index finger on the metal fret itself has 2 benefits: (1) The strings at the raised portion of the metal fret are easier to hold down because they’re raised slightly by the fret and (2) the other notes are easier because my index finger isn’t so far away from the others.

    Just an idea! My hands are really small so I’m looking for anything that will help, and this does!

    1. Rob

      7geez, that’s an interesting idea. If your finger’s truly directly on top of the fret wire, your barred notes will sound muted. But perhaps that’s better than no sound at all!

      Try scooting your finger back ever-so-slightly after you place it on top of the fret. I think you’ll find it’s as easy to press the string down, and it will sound better.

      Rob

  53. John

    hey rob, i think your tips are amazing. MY major problem ( i can play barre chords just fine) but after about 5 or so minutes, my thumb cramps up at the joint (maybe because I’m double jointed? doubt it though), do you have any idea why this happens?. oh and i think it is incredible how you’ve kept
    on helping people for 5 years (2005 is your first post). this just suggests you’re a great person XD. -thanks

    1. Rob

      Thanks, John! I don’t have a 100%-effective solution, but try changing the position of the guitar so that your fretting hand is close to your cheek. You can do this most easily standing up with a guitar strap. This will put you in a more ergonomic position–think Mariachi band!

      Hope this helps,

      Rob

  54. Josh

    Wow! I had been doing pretty well, happy with myself that I finally conquered F barre (had been doing the four finger newbie version for two years), B chord, and F#m to the point where they sounded passable, but had problems getting the high E, B, and D strings to ring out clearly (I hid this with some clever strumming). Moving my thumb down to put it behind my second finger changed everything! Now everything rings out beautifully. Definitely have to get used to pulling that thumb in. Love this site, you’re awesome!

  55. Matt

    hey guys. I’ve been playing guitar for nearly three years now, and the only thing I seem to have trouble with is barre chords. I’ve tried every tip and trick, and rolling onto the bony part of my finger helped a bit, until I realized the bone of my finger bends away from the fretboard. I can play a barre chord fine if I only use one finger, but beyond that, I’m lost. Any tips and tricks would be much appreciated, because I ran into this issue before and ended up avoiding it.

  56. Nannerd

    Well, im an ametuer guitar player, enjoying evolving and having fun playing. A couple months ago i was carving a peice of wood with a razor tool and it slipped and cut the inside of my middle joint on my left index finger pretty deep, theres alot of nerve damage there still and my finger hasnt regained total feeling back, also its extremly painful to try and play barre chords now, and its really starting t sink in… I usually play things that ive written, and obviously i shy away from the dreaded bar chords, also most songs use them and its difficult for me too find songs i want to play that dont have them. Yu have really great tips and i wish i was paying more attention to my tool at the time.. And yeah, you technically dont have to use barre chords, and yeah there are different tuning that ,ay get you out of them.. But ….i dont know im in a tight spot, because i want to be able to play i could play them semi decently. Sorry to go on and on seemingly getting to some kind of point, heck i dont know any words of wisdom or tips would be really appreciated.

  57. Nannerd

    After moping for about five minutes i sucjed it up, used the most bone as i possibly could and i got a pretty legit sounding F, even thoguh ive been told that how you should play them… I guess i was never doing it to its full potential, damn dirty no good wood carving tools cant get the best of you. Although my finger will always be numb and have a scar on it and hurt when you press down right there. I have just gained the suck it up power to play barre chords. Suck on that people without painful finger injurys, i mean SUCK IT UP and of course do it the most effective way :)

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  58. Rosanna Picascia

    wow the thumb placement tip did wonders. I was orginally placing my thumb at the very bottom of the neck, behind the first finger area. Moving it to the middle of the neck behind the second finger really helped! Thanks

  59. cosmas

    I have been learning guitar for 6 months teaching myself
    but barre chords are really heard, but am now getting used Ilike so much playing in a band at the moment the challenge is to know which chord to play when just hearing a song, i also like learning scales
    can anyone help please\?

  60. sagetraditions

    Hi Nannard
    Sorry to hear about the finger injury. It sounds like nerve damage. THe nerves are pretty amazing however and with some help from acupuncture you’ve got the best chance at getting that hand to be less painful, less scarred and less numb. I work with injuries like that in my practice and get really good results, so find an acupuncturist who will work above and below the injury to help restore nerve functioning. Alot of acupuncture schools have really inexpensive student clinics and there are also community clinics out there. I just started with guitar and wish I could get a bar chord to ring out with an uninjured finger. Good luck, I hate to think of you in so much pain when doing something you love so much!

  61. Roger

    I’m just starting to play in earnest. The barre chord was always a tripping point for me. I couldn’t play it with my acoustic because the frets were so low and being a beginner didn’t help at all.

    I recently bought an electric. It makes a huge difference for me. Additionally, I found an excellent instruction from Donald Bustell. Donald was taught that barre chords should be played with your back, not the hands. He goes on to explain very clearly this concept. The basic idea is to pull the guitar body and neck toward you, with your shoulder blades wanting to touch (they can’t and won’t…). The index finger needs to lie flat on the fingerboard and near the fret. You still need to apply quite a bit of pressure with your index finger but following Donald’s method you’ll be able to clearly sound all the notes. With this method you’re not using your thumb so much to squeeze the neck. Your thumb needs to be in the middle of the neck and your fingers need to be perpendicular to the neck (parallel to the frets as much as possible but the barre finger needs to be as straight as possible straight.) Play with the position of your index finger so the tip is far enough over the low E and the knuckle is pushing down on the high E and the B so they sound clearly. You can roll your finger to the side a bit. Relax your back when you’re done playing the barre chord.

    I’m just starting out but can just about get the F chord to sound clean across each note. Brain-finger memorization and other chords are next but I’m very confident I’ll get it and if I can, any one of you can.

    Here’s a link to Donald’s instruction. There are a few sites out there with his instructions. I saved mine and printed it.

    http://www.tabcrawler.com/articles.php?action=readarticle&articleid=82

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  62. Sarah

    Thumb placement! Dude! It’s amazing what you can miss when you’re teaching yourself with lessons on YouTube. I was having such a hard time with F, found this blog on a search, read the first tip… and bam. F. Thanks!

  63. Bonsai

    These are my experiences:

    1keep practicing, get through the pain, it’s worth it.

    2never apply too much pressure. If you push too hard you bend the strings and your chord will sound out of tune and your hands will cramp up.

    3practice s l o w l y. Timing is more important than being buzzfree.

    4move with your fingers already in position, don’t rebuild your chord shape each time, recycle!

    5try playing without looking at the fretboard.

    6keep your pinkie up, don’t let it slide off the fretboard even when you are not using it.

    7remember, you want only enough pressure on the strings to produce clean notes. To change your chords quickly your hand has to hover over the fretboard, muscle tension will slow you down.

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      Rob Hampton

      If you’re talking about the barred F, Jake, the B string is the toughest one to get to ring. All I can recommend is to try to roll your finger to the side closest to your thumb, so that the side of your 2nd joint knuckle digs into that 2nd (and 1st) string. Good luck!

  64. Laura

    I play ukulele, not guitar. But i have challenged fingers and seriously struggled with barre chords, and wasn’t able to play a favourite song of mine ): Even though this post is short, it’s GOOD. The advice on using the “boney part” of my finger actually helped a lot and i think i’m worlds better in just a few moments. For whatever reason (clarinet-playing, perhaps) it just seemed wiser to use the “chub.” I was wrong 😛

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  65. Sorken

    My barre chords sound clear and also I got no problems passing from a barre chord to another. My problems comes when I’ve played for a little while, after 3 minutes I got a pain on my wrist. What should I do? What am I doing wrong?

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      Rob Hampton

      Take care, Sorken. Barre chords are stressful even when you do them right. If you have sharp pain in your wrist, you’re probably injuring it.

      I recommend experimenting with your guitar position to eliminate any bend in your wrist when fretting barre chords. You can do this by getting the neck of your guitar angled up at a 45 degree angle–either by standing using a strap or by sitting in classical guitar position–and extending your fretting-arm elbow a bit. To really feel the benefit of this position, try kissing your fretting hand while standing and playing a barre chord. See how strong your hand feels when it’s near your head?

      Hope this gets you on the right track,

      Rob

  66. anahita

    till now i used to avoid playing barre chords but i thought to learn them..but there’s a problem -when i play 6 strings together on a single fret, it sounds okay but as soon as i press any string on a lower fret, it starts sounding horrible…please help me !!!

  67. anahita

    i’m not able to keep my finger position right and as a result, my barre chords sound really horrible..i try a lot but it ends up in vain. please help me play them. if i play the barre on a single fret, it sounds okay but as soon as i put my fingers on the frets below, the whole hand position changes n things go wrong…your tips were rather helpful but please give some more tips. thank you :)

  68. roxen

    According to me Barre chords are the finest way to play your songs because it adds extra value to your songs with the muting effects tooo any ways i also a beginner but i prefer barre chords than open chords

  69. zamy

    I just started to play my guitar a few months ago. I’ve learned 17 chords, and now…I’m faceing BARRE CHORDS. I tried a lot…but, I CANT play them. But, I want to be a femous guitarist. so,, I should never GIVE UP. R8??

  70. mark

    barre chords may suck but i have to learn them cause i want to learn all aspects of playing guitar, they are a part of the guitar so they have to be learnt………unfortunately

  71. saurav

    I am so glad now. After reading this ,and then trying.. for the first time all my strings sounded great :))

    believe me i have read a lot about how to do barre chords and you are the one who i think will sail me through :) Thanks ^_^

  72. Kate

    Thank you so much dude!!!
    my friend kept telling me we aren’t supposed to mute any strings and all of them are supposed to make some noise…
    God that freaked me out…. I taught myself guitar too and its actually the coolest instrument ever!!
    Bar codes are still difficult, but your tips are awesome and very helpful!!!!!!!! 😀

  73. EUGENI

    Hello,
    I’ve been trying the wicked bar chords for 2 years. They’re getting better…maybe after some more years?
    My main problem now is as follows: I barre let’s say 5th fret with index and I can get the strings sound OK, I place the rest of fingers for the E type barre and it’s OK too, but If I move these fingers to play melody (fingerstyle), then 3rd and 4th strings don’t sound anymore on the index finger (barre).
    Any comment or tip? Thanks very much.

  74. Peter

    Thanks everyone for the tips – I thought it was just me that was having problems with barring – great stuff…main problem I have is not being able to stretch my 3 finger across two frets after the bar…?

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