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. For details about this bit of barre chord theory go here! (opens a new tab)

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!

For this reason, you should 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. To help yourself out, read my complete barre chords guide for all you need to know about maintaining proper technique and getting the hang of barre chords as quickly and painlessly as possible! :D

P.S. You can post any questions you have on the new forums I’ve set up on the site or just come join our friendly new guitar community! :D