Bar Chords: Ma/Mi
Welcome to Bar Chords!
Bar chords (also “barre” chords) are the next big step in chord playing. Why is it called a bar chord? Well, because a finger (usually the index) is barred across the entire fretboard. This approach is difficult at first, but incredibly beneficial to learn. Why? For the first time every note played is controlled by the fretting hand (unlike our open chords) and we are free to move our chords up and down the neck without having the open strings changing the sound of our chord. Barring makes it possible to reuse these bar shapes all over the neck, in any key and any song we want! Learn a shape once and use it forever–what a deal! All the following chords are done as C-based bar chords (I’m a stickler for consistency!) but you may want to practice this at the 5th fret instead of the 8th after you familiarize yourself with the shape since it’s easier to hold the bar there.
Hand form and tips
Since we have to bar a finger over the span of the neck its crucial to have proper form. Keep the neck upright. Don’t nosedive trying to observe your progress! Keep the neck up so that your wrist can get underneath easily. Your wrist should drop underneath the neck with a minimal angle. Watch the video for help on this.
Align your index finger along the fret (in this case the 8th) and allow your wrist to drop underneath the neck comfortably. Your thumb should be directly behind the index finger, in the middle of the neck (not off to the side.)
Once your index finger looks good go for the ring and pinky fingers, then the middle. These should all be on their fingertips–this balance of straight finger/bent finger is difficult–welcome to bar chords! Don’t forget to squeeze and see how much rings clearly! If you have your index finger aligned properly you should be able to make the stretch.
Believe it or not this will become comfortable with time and proper practice. Listen to your wrist and don’t squeeze chord until every finger is lined up and ready to go (no sense burning yourself out.) Listen to each string and double-check to see if it’s ringing clearly. Avoid any sharp wrist pain and make sure your angle isn’t to extreme. Stop practicing immediately if you experience any extreme wrist pain.
Remember: every great guitarist started at the same spot: the beginning! Build it a brick at a time!
Major Bar Chords
I’m beginning with our major bar chords, one the E string and one on the A string. Both come from two open chords that we learned day one: E major and A major.
Major Bar Chord (E string root)
Major Bar Chord (A string root)
When we study the shapes we find that our E string root bar chord is actually an E major chord with the fingers switched around to allow our index finger to replace the nut of the guitar. By barring over the neck with our index our open E major chord becomes movable! It’s important to make visual connections between seemingly unrelated chords (guitarists are shape players after-all!) Because we are moving this E chord up the neck and the chord is named by it’s root (in this case the lowest note), that makes this chord a C major (the 8th fret, E string is a C note.)
Our A string root bar chord is actually derived from an open A major chord. Due to physical limitations of the human hand we end up playing this one a little differently, but it’s pretty cool all the same.
Minor Bar Chords
Our minor bar chords come from our two minor open chords: Em and Am.
Minor Bar Chord (E string root)
Minor Bar Chord (A string root)
Notice how the first finger replaces the nut on these also. Here’s the E string root bar, derived from an E minor chord shape:
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