Learn To Play Bar Chords

Let’s start off with why in the world would a guitar player want to learn how to play bar chords?

There are a few different answers, and some of the ways bar chords can be used may surprise you. Firstly, bar chords are great because they really open up the rest of the neck to the guitar player. Open chords are great, but they will only get you so far. If you want to start moving up the fretboard with normal, open-style guitar chords, you must either use a capo, or start being more careful about which strings you’re actually playing. If you want to strum, this often means using either advanced left hand muting technique, or just the top or bottom few strings, which leads to a less complete sound.

On the other hand, by using bar chords, you can play all six strings all the way up the fretboard.

Ironically, bar chords can sometimes make certain songs easier to play. I say ironically, because often times bar chords are thought of as being harder to play than open chords. In some songs though, the difficulty comes in not from the actual fingering of the chords, but rather from the order and speed with which you need to switch between them. Switching between bar chords can require less finger movement, in many cases.

Another great reason to use bar chords is to simply add a new voice to your guitar. There are multiple ways to play most chords on the guitar, and every new location you pick has a slightly different sound to it. I like to call that the “voice” of the chord. Barred chords have a different voice than open chords. That doesn’t make them better, or worse, it just makes them different, and as such, it is great for guitar players to have as many different ways of playing things as possible, in order to really keep things fresh throughout a song.

There’s a great introduction to bar chords available for download, which I highly recommend. All you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form just below, and you’ll get the guide delivered to you directly via email. I do recommend checking it out; I think you’ll enjoy and benefit from it.

How To Play Bar Chords

So, you want to know how to play bar chords.

Fair enough, that’s a worthwhile goal for a guitar player.

Today we’re going to examine one particular aspect of learning how to play bar chords, and that is how to move the chords.

Knowing how to create the chord shapes is one issue, and if you look around on this site, you will find plenty of information on how you can go about doing that. But knowing how to move the bar chord shapes around once you can form them is a very crucial part of the whole equation.

So let’s start with some very basic fretboard knowledge. The strings are tuned E A D G B E, starting from the 6th (or lowest in pitch) and going up to the 1st string.

Every fret raises the pitch of that string by one semitone, sometimes called a half step. Two frets therefore equals one tone, sometimes called a whole step.

Right there, that is the key to understanding the location of everything on the fretboard.

Let’s look at an example, relating to bar chords. First, it is important to know where the root note is. We’ll take a G major chord, root 6. That means the root note is on the 6th string. So, we need to find a G on the 6th string from which to anchor our bar chord.

Start at the E in the open position on that 6th string, and start counting up. E, F, F#, G. There, we’ve found a G note on the 3rd fret. Now, simply form the major chord shape at that third fret, coming off the 6th string, and you’ll have a nice sounding G major.

Whichever string your root note is found on, simply count up from the open position on that string, and you can find the root note for your chord in this fashion. In the lesson, Colin goes into more detail on this and other things you need to know about how to play bar chords.

How To Move Bar Chords

The B Bar Chord (Guitar Lesson)

Ah, that infamous B bar chord. Yes, it has a life and story of its own in the vivid imagination of every beginner guitar player. For beginners, oftentimes that B bar chord is one of the hardest to nail, and at times it can become a source of discouragement as well.

This lesson from Colin of RiffNinja.com is intended to thoroughly discuss the B chord, and put to rest any remaining doubts or questions you have about how to play that chord.

The B chord is essentially a “kink” bar, also called a double bar. This makes it hard, because you have not one, but two fingers that have to create bars, which takes more strength than regular bar chords. Additionally, because of the kink component, you have to really kink your middle finger up sharply in order to let the first string ring out as part of the chord. If you don’t get that part, the chord falls flat and doesn’t sound very good.

The other element that comes into play here is that the B bar chord, at least the root 5 version, is very low down on the fretboard, rooted on the second fret. The closer you get to the nut (ie fret #0), the farther apart each fret is from the next. This means that to span multiple frets, your fingers have to stretch further than they do at say the fifth fret to make the same chord shape.

The B bar chord is difficult, but it is also tremendously useful. B is the V chord in the key of E, and E is one of the more common keys you’ll find used on the guitar.

Learning the B Bar Chord

If you enjoyed that lesson with Colin, I recommend checking out his other lessons on guitar chords.