Okay, so it’s been just five months since I started this project yet I feel like I’ve learned so much in that time. Barre chords used to be the bane of my existence as a guitarist but, thanks to the motivation that comes with having readers to satisfy, I’ve improved so much more than I think I would have otherwise have done. I’ve had fun with it so far (and don’t intend to stop anytime soon!) but I’ve decided to put together one “complete” post that will include some tips I’ve included in previous posts – as well as some new things I’ve discovered – into one, well-organized tutorial post that should cover everything! I wonder if I’m over-stretching myself…

Let’s begin then! :)


Barre chords – at their simplest definition – are simply chords that require you to “barre” your index finger across multiple strings of a particular fret. As you do this, you will also use some, or all, of your remaining fingers to fret other notes “in front” of the barre.

The Physical Aspect – Getting a clear sound

Now, before we get into the technicalities, let’s talk more about how to execute that barre with the index finger properly (usually the hardest part for beginners). Playing barre chords on guitar takes a lot of finger strength – particularly on a steel-stringed acoustic guitar – because of the amount of pressure you need to exert with your index finger on a given fret. You WILL develop this finger strength over time with LOTS of practice but, in the meantime, your barre chords probably won’t sound very nice…buzzing…dead strings….no fun! :( Don’t fret though! (No pun intended! :P ) There are a few adjustments you can make to your technique that will make a great difference. I’ll list them below.

1) The easiest change to implement, if necessary, is to adjust the position of your index finger. More than likely, when you play bare chords, you’ve been trying to use the flat “palm surface” of your index finger to execute the barre. This introduces to unnecessary setbacks in getting your barre chords to sound clearly!

First of all, you should be using the firmer surface area of the side of your index finger. You do this by “rolling” it – so to speak – towards the nut so that the side of your finger makes contact with the strings. This, in turn, minimizes the amount of pressure you need to exert to get a clean sound – effectively shortening the barre chords learning curve.

The other reason why it’s a bad idea to use the palm side of your index finger is because of the creases. Strings – especially steel ones – have an annoying habit of getting into the creases of your finger and not sounding properly as a result. Another reason to take my advice and use the side of your finger. :)

2) The next easily implemented tip still applies to your index finger. The closer your index finger is to the fret wire of the next adjacent fret, the less pressure you’ll need to apply and, consequently, the better it will sound. This means that if, for example, the barre chords that you’re playing requires you to barre the second fret, your index finger should be just behind the fret wire separating the second, and third frets. Just like the first tip, this reduces the amount of strength you’ll need to exert adequate press – shortening the learning curve some more! :)

3) Your thumb is the next likely culprit! It should be aligned with the 3rd, and 4th, strings i.e. stretched out lengthwise towards the nut while providing support behind those two strings (the middle of the neck). Just to make sure that we’re clear, your thumb should be effectively pointing at the middle of the nut. As awkward as this position might feel at first, it provides maximum leverage for application of pressure by your index finger – again, meaning you’ll need to exert less effort and improve faster! :)

4) Finally, keep your wrist position in check! This might be the most important tip because it also prevents injury! I just explained that  your thumb should be providing support at the back of the neck (I suggest you read (3) again!). What you need to understand now is that you shouldn’t be “holding” the guitar neck with your fretting hand but, rather, supporting the front with your fingers and the back with your thumb. NO other part of your fretting hand – especially your palm – should be providing any SUPPORT whatsoever. Optimally, they shouldn’t even be touching the guitar neck!

Then, you need to “drop” your wrist so that it is well below the level of the guitar neck (which should happen naturally if you’ve followed my instructions right so far!). Ensure that there is minimum tension in your wrist! If you don’t, your fretting hand will fatigue very quickly as you play barre chords – due to poor circulation – and you even run the risk of injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome. :(

Those are the tips you need to keep in mind so that you get the hang of barre chords as quickly as possible! Now onto the technical side! :)

Technical Side – How Barre Chords on Guitar are Formed and Their Use

Barre chords are formed by changing the “key” of an open chord. I’ll explain this better later on but this basically means that you’ll be fretting an open chord (such as E Major), that you should already be familiar with, using your remaining fingers. Naturally, this will require you to change the fingers that you use to fret each note since your index finger will be occupied. I’ve already written up a barre chords chart that explains all the “standard” barre chords in details and how they’re constructed. I’ll refer you to that post now but -before you go – it’d be nice if you could share this post if you found it helpful! :) You can find handy little icons to do that right below! :) Linking to my site if you have your own website is welcome too! Share the knowledge! :D And once you’ve done that, click here to go to my barre chords chart that illustrates all the barre chords you need to know in great detail! :)

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