How to play Barre Chords!
In order to play more chords than the first ten open position chords you can use your index finger to barre the strings, by doing this you replace the nut of the guitar.
To learn how to fret barre chords we use an exercise called the cycle of 4th.
The exercises will teach you how to fret each individual barre chord shape.
As you play the chords; say the name of them out loud as this will teach you all the notes on the neck.
This means that these exercises do two things:
- Teach you to fret all chord shapes.
- Teach you all the notes on the neck for string 6, 5 and 4.
E and Em Chords become E and Em Shapes
If we take an open position E and fret what was open strings with our index finger we have created an E shaped chord.
This can now be any chord, depending on where you move the chord shape. For example, at the 10th fret we get a D or Dm chord, like this:
Open position E chord and D chord, E shape
Open position Em chord and Dm chord, Em shape
To take this around the cycle of 4th as in the video you need to know where all those root notes are on the E string.
Compare Chordacus image with your guitar neck, when you think you memorised them, try the exercise demonstrated in the video lessons below.
When you can play along to the video you’ll have learned both how to fret an E and Em shape, as well as the names of all the notes on the E string!
A and Am Chords become A and Am Shapes!
First play an open position A, then replace the open strings with your index finger.
Play this chord shape at the 10th fret we get a G. Look like this:
Open position A chord and G chord, A shape
Open position Am chord and Gm chord, Am shape
To find all the A shapes we need to know where all those root notes are on the A string.
Compare the diagram to the guitar, when you think you got it, play the exercises and learn two things at the same time:
- How to fret A and Am shapes
- What the notes are called on string 5.
D and Dm Chords become D and Dm Shapes!
The D chord shape looks like this when made movable:
Open position D chord and A chord, D shape
The Dm chord shape looks like this when made movable:
Open position Dm chord and Am chord, Dm shape
If you struggle with fretting this chord don’t worry, it is rare that you would play this full shape as a barre chord.
Most likely you’ll end up playing only the top three notes. Play through the exercise only like that as well. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
To find the D shapes we need to know where all those root notes are on the D string.
As you play notes on the D string, compare them to the notes on the E string, can you see a relationship? It’s two frets difference.
G and Gm Chords become G and Gm Shapes!
The G shapes are so big that you hardly ever end up playing it unless it’s open. When you practice them it’s best to play fractions of this shape.
There’s more about playing fractions in the Intermediate Guitar Course.
Below you see the open position G and Gm and what they look like as a shape.
Open position G chord and D chord, G shape
Open position Gm chord and Dm chord, Gm shape
To play only the top part of a Gm shape, look for the root on the 1st string. More than often you will only play the top part of this chord shape.
For the G shapes we need to know the notes on the E string.
If you have played the E shaped exercise then this should be cool already.
However, looking at the root and then fretting a G shape instead of E shape feels different.
If you only want to play the upper part of the G shape, then you need to look for the root on the third string.
C and Cm Chords become C and Cm Shapes
Finally, the open position C chord can become shapes, looks like this:
The open position C chord and G chord, C shape look like this on the fret board:
The open position Cm chord and Gm chord, Cm shape look like this:
The C minor shape is tricky to fret in its basic triad form. A good idea could be to play only the notes on strings 4, 3 and 2.
For the C shapes we need to know the notes on the A string.
This should be easy since you all ready learned the A shape.
Seeing a note from two different angles like this increase the learning of the note so don’t stop calling out the notes as you go along!
The root is marked on the 5th string below but you can also root on the 2nd string.
This is especially useful for the Cm shape, this way you can play the chord over string 2, 3 and 4. This would avoid the awkward little finger stretch.
All open position chords can be turned into barre chords.
First you must learn these individually, then connect the chord shapes.
Something we haven’t done here is look at fractions, only touched on it for the G and Cm shape briefly.
Playing fractions of chords is incredibly important and what will take you from sounding like a beginner to sounding like a pro.
To play fractions there are specific exercises available in the intermediate course but most importantly you’ll get real song examples where you can see all these barre chords in action, most of the time only as fractions!