SO I wrote this somewhat long article for EzineArticles just a while ago. It’s purpose is to show you the principles you need to know to play ANY chord as a barre chord. You can find great beginner tips on getting barre chords to sound right if you look through the categories section in the sidebar – this article will just focus on theory :)

A very common request among beginning guitarists is a complete barre chord list – for a variety of reasons. They might want a quick source to refer to when they come across an unfamiliar chord in a new song, or they may want to use it as a benchmark to test their progress into this difficult realm of playing. Either way, the first point to note as that a barre chord list – incorporating every possible barre chord – would be all but impossible to create.

First of all, any chord can be played as a barre chord – which means that such a listing would run into thousands of possible combinations. It is, therefore, a much better idea to learn the principles behind how a barre chord is “constructed” which will enable you to transfer knowledge to play any chord as a barre.

Note: This article will focus on E- and A- based barre chords. Other varieties are possible but these two are the only ones that see mainstream usage.

E-Based Barre Chords

These are all based on the “open E chord” form and are formed by fingering that E Major chord with your middle, ring, and pinky fingers – while using your index finger to barre all six strings in front of this shape. As an example, barre your index finger across the entire first fret and fret the 3rd string (counting from the bottom), of the second fret, with your middle finger. On the third fret, use your ring, and pinky, fingers to grab the 5th, and 4th, strings, respectively. You should now be fingering a perfect F Major Barre Chord – which should look like an E Major open chord moved up by one fret with a barre in front of it. You can try strumming it now but, if this is your first introduction to movable chords, it probably won’t sound too nice on your first try. It’s nothing to stress about!:) You’ll find resources to help you play barre chords at the end of this article – but for now we’ll stay on topic and focus on the theory.

Now, to move this chord up the neck and use it effectively, you need to know which chord you” be playing on each fret (counting the F Major Chord as the first fret). This is, rather, simple – you go up by one “half-step” for each fret. For those unfamiliar with music theory, this simply means that you move up the neck as follows:

F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, and back to F. Note that, for our purposes, there is no B# or E#.

You can use this “progression” for all variations of E-based barre chords. All you need to remember is that you’re playing some form of an E chord in front of the barre. For example, you could lift you middle finger off the 3rd string to play an F Minor Chord on the first fret – because you would be playing an E Minor Chord in front of the barre. Similarly, you could move this up the neck – as illustrated above – to F#m, Gm, etc. Hopefully, you can see the principle now!:) All you need to do is learn all the variants of E that you’re interested in and you can use them to play barre chords of the same type.

A-based barre chords follow the exact same principle – except that you barre only the bottom five strings – and that, naturally, you use an A Major chord, instead of an E, to form these chords. You would be playing A# Major – on the first fret – followed by B, C, etc. as shown in the progression above. As for fingering these chords, remember that there should be a fret between your barre and the fret on which you finger the A Major chord(just as with playing the open A chord). You can hit the fourth, third, and second, strings (counting from the bottom) using your middle, ring, and pinky, fingers – in that order – or use the fairly common method of using your ring finger to barre these three strings – while elevating it off the last string. Again, detailed information on getting these chords to sound right is beyond the scope of this article – which only serves to list the possible varieties you can play. You’ll find helpful resources at the end:)

By now, you should understand how to play E-based, and A-based, barre chords – as well as how to use them to play ANY chord (as close to a complete barre chord list as you’re going to get). Once you understand the concept behind moving them up the neck – and know how to play the relevant variations (minor, etc.) as open chords – you can figure out how to play any type of chord as both an E-based, and A-based, barre chord. I, personally, recommend that you choose the one that allows you to play it lower on the neck – especially if you’re playing on an acoustic guitar.

My next post will probably be a video one again! :)