Learn how to play all 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 and have created moveable, barre chord shapes.
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 at the same time.
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 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 lesson 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 exercises 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 shapes
First, play an open position A, then replace the open strings with your index finger.
Play this chord shape at the 10th fret and you get a G chord in an A shape. Looks 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 five
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 strings. Play through the exercise like that as well.
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 shapes
The G shapes are so big that you’ll never end up playing the full shape, apart from when it is an open position chord.
When you take the intermediate course you’ll learn the true use of these chord shapes which is to play fractions of them, not the full shape.
Below you see the open position G and Gm as well as what they look like when they become shapes.
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 top 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 and/or top string.
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 fretboard.
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 would be to play only the notes on strings 4, 3 and 2. In fact, this is my favourite minor chord shape, the root is on string two.
Playing the Cm shape like this avoid that awkward little finger stretch.
For the C shapes, we need to know the notes on the A string. This is easy if you already learned the A shapes.
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.
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 to look at fractions, only touched on it for the G and Cm shape briefly.
To play fractions of chords is incredibly important and what will take you from sounding like a beginner to sounding like a pro.
There are specific exercises available in the intermediate guitar course for this 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!