Do you strive for clean, buzz-free barre chords?
Well, here’s a lesson on barre chords that will start to put an end to the buzzy B chords and the fuzzy F chords that you may be experiencing.
This lesson includes solid tips to make your barre chords cleaner, meaner, and just plain better.
Watch until the end as I think one of the tips will surprise you… and it doesn’t even involve your fretting hand.
Originally published on September 12, 2017, this article was republished on September 15, 2022.
Press Smarter, Not Harder
Many guitar players approach barre chords with a flat index finger, using the meaty part, or the pad, of the index finger.
This actually makes it harder to get a clean sound!
To fret more effectively, rotate your index finger and use the outside, bonier part to press down the strings.
This gives you a much harder fretting surface as well as better contact with the strings, ultimately allowing you to achieve clear notes with less pressure.
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Use Your Picking Arm for Cleaner Barre Chords
As any one who has played a few barre chords will tell you, they require a decent amount of grip strength – this can quickly tire out your hands and forearms!
If you’re someone who struggles with this, try this work around:
Instead of making your fretting hand do all the work, use your picking hand and arm to push the guitar closer to you, while pushing the fretboard outwards. At the place where your picking hand wraps around the guitar, pull your arm tight so that the guitar neck gets pushed forward.
Thiswill give you a really solid feel on your fretting hand and way better contact with the fretboard, resulting in a much cleaner execution of the barre chord.
Partial Chords Are Just as Effective as Full Chords
While most barre chords involve all six strings of the guitar, you don’t necessarily have to use all of them.
If you’re finding it a bit too difficult to play a full barre chord, there’s nothing wrong with trimming it down into a chord that’s a bit more manageable.
This isn’t cheating – it’s totally acceptable and I fully endorse it!
Use the Barre Chord Shape to Play Any Chord on the Guitar
You might be thinking – why do I even have to learn barre chords if they’re so difficult?
That’s a valid question. And the answer is because with one barre chord shape you can play any chord on the guitar neck.
That type of versatility is just too important not to be learned!
By learning how to play one closed-off barre chord shape, you suddenly have access to every single chord on the guitar – that’s pretty powerful.
Practice using the barre chords instead of open chords in any song you’re playing – just to build up strength and get more comfortable with the shape!
If you’re ready to go from dabbler to guitar player, I highly recommend you check out my course, Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
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Why one bar chord shape over another. Why not just use one shape all the time?
Tony: Thank you for the secrets of Barre chords. I enjoyed it because even though I’ve been doing it for a long time, I never had it explained the way you did. I learned this technique by necessity on my Taylor 855ce 12 string. I enjoy your lessons when I have time to watch them.
Again, thank you!!
it is also helpful to know the barre chords so that if you break a string while performing you can easily keep on playing
without any interuption
Great Tips Tony. I will try out your advice and see how i get on with it. I understand the benefit of mastering the barre chord.
Hey Tony. Every time I watch you talk/teach on bar chords I learn/see/learn something new from you. This must be 6xs now including twice on this video new stuff/light bulb hits me. You got grrreaaat technique & ideas. I’m mostly a visual learner but not totally. Thanks, man. #SmallWin cause you’re willing to donate some talent & time. Sure wish I could afford Fret Wizard & TAC. Coupla years maybe. Medical first. Keep playing. 🙂
Very helpful! Thank you.
I have to sdy that you and Happy Truam just both awesome teachers
Thanks for the info Tony! As a beginner who’s been playing less than 6 months I have found the F chord difficult and this does help to take on the difficulty of bar chords. I appreciate what you share.
Hey Toni, thank you for your time & bar chord help! Question : what happens with Barr chords on 5th string?& if it is the same …does it work on 4th and 3rd strings also? Meaning, if the bar is on the “c” note (3rd fret 5th string barring 5 strings ….is it still part of the major scale? And does that continue working with 4th string?And 3rd string) Also, how do you do a minor bar chord??
Hi, I have a dumb question. It looks like you’re
only pressing down on the bar on the E string
with your index finger. Is that correct?
To answer your question, he’s not only fretting the low “E” string with his index finger. It looks like it, but he’s barring more strings with his index finger.
Here is the BIGGEST problem with the barre chords: People, trying to “teach” you (or help you with) the barre chords, leave out the most important information. That’s the problem. And as a result, you try to barre all strings with your barring index finger like a capo, which you don’t have to…
The reason you needed to ask your question was because it was not clear as to how many strings or what strings you had to barre with your index finger for the F barre chord. Maybe Tony didn’t need to go that much in detail simply because he might have thought that it was “obvious”, but it is not really obvious for a lot of people!
I don’t know why, but here is the most crucial information many leave out: your barring index finger does not need to or have to act like a “capo” on all strings. Why? Let’s take the F barre chord for example. Let’s just forget about your barring index finger for a second now. Tell me what other strings you are pressing down with your middle, ring and pinky finger when you position them for the F barre chord! Ring finger on “A”, pinky on “D”, middle on the “G” string! Right? So, since you’re already fretting the A, D, and the G string before the index (barring) finger, your index finger does not need to barre the A, D and the G string. So, you only need to barre the low E, B and high e strings with your index finger for the F barre chord.
How do you position your fretting hand for the barre chord? Now, tuck your elbow in (so that your elbow touches the side of your body). When you tuck your elbow in, not the fleshy part of your index finger, but a little bit of the left side of your index finger will make contact with the strings on the fret. It is a slight tilt of your index finger toward the left. Nothing “over the top”!
Since you only need to barre the low E, B and the high e with your index finger, pressing down on the first string (the low E) is easy, but the two strings on the bottom may be not so easy if you’re not used to it. Here is what helped me to make a good contact with the two strings (B and high e) on the bottom. When you place your index finger, make sure that the tip of your index finger is sticking out past the 6th string.
In order to get the index finger higher past the 6th string, you need to push your fretting arm out from the elbow. It’s an elbow move! And bend at the wrist. That way, you’ll give your index finger enough leverage to go up high, past the 6th string. You need to experiment how high you need your index finger to go past the 6th string because everybody is different. Good luck!
Tony , Thanks for this Barre Chord Lesson , It Brought back Memories of how I learned Chords before I found out what a Barre Chord was ! After I learned the finger position to create the Barre Chord , I found out that I could use my Thumb on the back of the neck for leverage in getting more pressure on the index producing a “Cleaner “Chord much like your use of the picking arm for that leverage!
Thanks very much ! I struggle with barre chords and just the turn of the index finger made a world of difference
You are simply the best Tony
I’m new to trying to play a bar cords. But this is the first time I’ve been able to make a bar cord ring true on all 6 strings. This truly was one of the best set of tips I’ve ever looked at. Thanks so much!
Thank you for the FREE barre chord lesson.
Now I have the chords to learn if I’m ever going to be cool..
I watched BB King in an interview. The amount of (chord?) knowledge necessary to be that well versed amazed me and might take a few years to learn on my own and with help.
The Cool thing Vincent, you don’t have to learn it all at once. . . ! It’s not a Race to the Finish line, It’s a Journey that can last a life time. . . !! Enjoy the Journey…
Very good and easily understood explanation of the barre chords. Thanks much.
I enjoyed your video especially, the variations of the F chord. My middle finger doesn’t work due to an accident 46 years ago. By using the bar and the 3rd & 4th fingers I can do the chord shape. I do realize this turns it into a minor chord. Thanks Tony!
Thanks Tony, I’ve been playing guitar for over 50 years, but had not heard tip 1 or 2. I’ll be trying them later today.
This is such a Ah ha video. . . When I “discovered” I could play any chord after learning this, it was like I had stepped into a Whole New World. . . !!!
Barr cords are an essential element for using ,say a box theory, I’ve never had a problem with playing them, but I do appreciate you sharing fingering technique, and the way to leverage extra strength technique. ☮️
Respected Tony sir
Thank you very much for the great and best technique of playing barre chords and moving fingers in the shape to play other chords. Your speech, voice and the way of teaching are very nice and easy to understand and grasp. God bless you and your team and your family.
Great video Tony, and it will work for most people, but some of it just won’t work for me. I have big knuckles with huge dips between them. You notice they don’t make capos with lumps in them? There’s a reason for that. I’ve been trying that roll technique for years and for me it seldom works. Here’s what does work, and I hope you’ll pass it on to anyone else with lumpy fingers. Go to the drug store and buy a roll of athletic tape. It’s one inch wide so you’ll need to rip it down the middle with a razor knife so you have two half inch strips.I make them about 14″ long.
Then just wrap it between your 1st and second knuckles four times around. It works great! I wish I could wrap both knuckle gaps, but when you do that it restricts your mobility. Maybe it would work for some people, but not me.
Great always been curious about Barre chords
Best explanation ever Thanks
Great review of barre chords!
Excellent lesson regarding barre chords. For a decade I have struggled to keep my index finger flat against all 6 strings. In a minute your lesson taught me to stop using the meaty part of my finger and use the “bony” part of the index finger for a firmer pressure on the strings. The pull-push of the strumming hand (arm) along with push on the strings with the index finger is kind of like a magic to simplify the dynamics of creating a good sounding barre chords. Knowing the fret board and the F barred chord now makes it easier for me to run the fretboard with all the major chords.
I have been hesitant to really get serious about this, but I will get there, thank you!
Tony ROCKS!! Thanks for making this do-able!
Very useful tips
Especially that tip that says no need to play all the strings