How to play bar chords

Tutorial with explanations to learn how to play bar chords on the guitar.

The different bar chords on guitar

Bar chords are chords that you have to make by blocking with your index finger a whole fret of the neck.

barre chords guitar
Example of barre chords on the position of the E

It’s a little complicated guitar technique to play bar chords but it allows you to do a lot of things. Among others :

  • to play musical styles such as rumba or flamenco without sounding bad,
  • to make certain effects of style, in particular in the gypsy jazz,
  • to have access to certain chords such as F,
  • or to master a hundred chords with only a few positions.

How to play bar chords for beginners

Barre chord
A position of barre chord

To make a barre chord, you’ll need three things : a little patience, a little work, and most importantly, a few techniques that I’ll give you here.

The fingers placement on the barre chords

As you can see, the position we use between our E chord and our F bar chord is roughly the same :

bar chords

Except that there will be a small change that you have to pay attention to in order to place your fingers correctly : the index finger that we use for the E chord will be used to the F. That’s the solution of how to play barre chords.

So we will have to reproduce the same position by changing a little the place of our fingers. Look closely at the two images below :

F bar chord
F bar chord

When your F barre position is ready, you can shift it to the end of the neck without moving a single finger and get several chords (as you can see in the first picture).

The clamp technique on the bar chord

bar chord position

As you can see on the picture, the first thing you need to know before making your barre on guitar is that you have to create a pincer movement between the index finger and the thumb, like a crab’s claw !

You can practice in a air to make this bar chords movement of distancing then bringing together between the thumb and the index. With your hand wide open, you will have to move your two fingers away from each other and then bring them together :

Position 1
Position 2

This is the move you will need to make when you start a barre chord. You can practice this before moving on.

The thumb placement technique in barre

Once you understand these guitar position changes and can do the pinch movement, there will surely be the problem of sound… and pain :

“it sounds bad”, “it hurts”…

Indeed, the mastery of barre chords on guitar requires a little patience. But some techniques make the work easier for you, such as thumb placement.

barre chord position

As you can see on these two pictures that show you how to play bar chords, the position of my fingers to make it is also important at the front of the neck and at the back of the neck. Indeed, the placement of the thumb is crucial and will allow you to exert much more force in the index finger.

If you look closely at the pictures, you will see that the thumb is slightly off to the right of the handle. It is not facing the index finger. This is the position you’ll need to get to when you play barre chords.

You’ll see that it will sound much better. The only problem is that it may hurt a little more.

No problem, just stop for a bit, take a break, and get back to it. It hurts even the best.

When you master the technique, you can watch for our chords | tab and try to play guitar.

Work and bar chords guitar exercise

Last but not least : if you want to succeed quickly in making the barre chords on guitar and be able to access hundreds of chords easily and with few positions, you have to practice several times a day and every day a little bit.

And to rest, you can play our easy guitar song.