First, let me acknowledge that barre chords are the single most frustrating part of learning to play the guitar for 90 % of people – including me. They can seem impossible to get right, at first, and have caused many otherwise promising musicians to quit due to lack of patience. That being said, they are probably the most useful set of chords you’ll ever learn. Open chords – as easy to play as they are – are very limited (meaning you can only play a few songs with them) and also require you to have a good memory to remember how to play them all. Barre chords, on the other hand, make it easy to play any chord you like by simply moving them up, and down, the neck of the guitar to create new chords of the same type – it’s far easier than it sounds, I promise! :)

The two most common beginner barre chords – the ones you’re likely to encounter first while learning – are the B Minor Chord and the F Major Barre Chord. In fact, the B Minor Chord has an annoying habit of popping up in all the pop songs that beginners (including me when I started) want to play. To that end, I’ll use it as an introduction.

As you probably know already, barre chords are so named because they require you to lay your index finger across multiple strings (usually five of six) while fretting some other notes beside it with your remaining fingers. Below is a tablature representation of how you fret a B Minor Chord.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <-- fret numbers
i = index, m = middle, r = ring, p = pinky

N.B. The top string on that diagram represents the thinnest (high E string).

As illustrated above, you need to barre your index finger across the
first five strings of the second fret (remember that the strings are numbered 1 to 6 with the thick bass E string as the sixth). You then place your middle fingertip on the 2nd string - third fret - and your ring and index fingertips on 4th and 3rd string of the fourth fret.

Now, you should pick each of the strings to see if they ring out clearly, Chances are they won't, and that's okay! Barre chords take a lot of practice but there are a few mistakes you need to watch out for! Here's a list of the most common problems :

(i) You might be using the flat "palm-side" of your index finger. While this might seem the most natural thing to do, you will find it MUCH easier to play barre chords if you roll your index finger a bit to the side (towards the nut). This will expose the firmer surface area on the side of your finger to the strings - allowing you to better apply consistent, evenly distributed pressure across the strings. This also helps prevent strings from getting caught in the creases in your finger.

(ii) Your fingers might be crossing over into the wrong frets. Beginners learning barre chords for the first time tend position their fingers improperly - especially the index finger. This will probably seem almost unavoidable - at first - as you try to get used to the physical demands of barre chords. A good rule of thumb, however, is that your index finger should be just "behind" the next adjacent fret wire (going up the neck) as this will minimize the effort required to apply sufficient pressure to the barre. Keep that in mind and you should be fine! :)

(iii) Are you using your thumb to grip the neck? This is a big no-no! Your thumb should be lying alongside the back of the neck (right down the middle and pointing towards the nut) where it can provide maximum support. Barre chords require you to exert extraordinary force with your index finger but - with good support at the back of the neck - you'll find them much easier.

(iv) Is your wrist hurting? This is the result of another common mistake. Your fretting hand should not be trying to vice-grip the guitar neck! Rather, all the effort should be executed by your fingers and your wrist should be as relaxed as possible. Try to "drop" your wrist - so to speak - and don't let the guitar neck "rest" in the palm of your hand. This stresses your wrist and makes it harder to get your fingers where they need to be. Ideally, the only parts of your fretting hand that should be in significant contact with the guitar neck are your thumb and fingers! Keep this in mind and you'll avoid wrist strain and catch on to barre chords a whole lot faster! :)

Taking into consideration the tips above, try that B Minor Chord I illustrated again. Try implementing those guidelines in stages - one or two at a time - rather than frustrating yourself trying to remember everything at once! It WILL get easier! :)

P.S. A complete lesson on playing all the possible barre chords (remember it's as easy as moving a familiar chord shape up and down the neck) is beyond the scope of this post but I'll definitely be doing it here - probably as my next post – so be sure to check back! :) Also, if you found this post helpful, share it on Facebook, Twitter, etc. using one of the little buttons below! You can email me at with questions, comments, etc. :)

P.P.S. Check out the new forums I set up to give more personal advice!