Guitar Lesson 7

Barre chords

Whereas open chords are played at the top of the neck and contain one or more open strings, barre chords can be played at any point of the neck. Barre chords are formed by pressing your first finger over all of the strings at any given fret. Because it requires a great deal of pressure to fret all six strings with one finger, barre chords are tricky to master and require a bit more practice then open chords! Barre chords are based on open chord shapes but are free to be moved up the fretboard. the following barre chords are based on the Emajor and Aminor open chord shapes.

Can you tell which open chords correspond to these barre chords?



A and G barre:  Emajor open

Dminor barre: Aminor open

A good thing about barre chords is that once your fingers remember the shape, you can easily play any chord by just moving the shape to the right fret. Because the first finger is playing the root note, you must get this finger in the correct position for the chord to sound properly. To practice forming barre chords, start with your first finger and gradually press it onto the fret, play the strings as you do this and try to get them sounding consistent, with the first finger in place you can now put the other fingers into position. It is very easy to get discouraged at this stage by how difficult this may seem but all it takes is practice. Eventually your fingers will just snap into position leaving you to think about where the notes lie across the fretboard. (Do you remember learning to ride your bike?) 

It is always good practice to think about the notes that you are playing in each chord rather than just the fingering shape. Try experimenting with barre chords by leaving out the second finger and see how this affects the sound. Can you tell the difference between a major and minor chord?


Taking your second finger off the barre chord of B major turns it to a minor chord. This difference of one semitone has a significant effect on the sound and is a fundamental aspect of understanding music theory. More to be explained in later lessons…



Barre Chord shapes

Barre chords can be made using different fingering shapes based on the open chords. As you barre the strings you are creating a virtual nut further up the neck and so open chord shapes can be played anywhere up the neck in this way.

For Example:

Taking the A open chord and moving it up the neck, use your index finger to barre the bottom 5 five strings and then form the chord shape with your remaining fingers. It is also possible to barre the three remaining notes with your ring finger.

Now do the same for the A minor open chord. The resulting bar chord has the same minor quality but now you can move it along the neck to the note of your choice – you just have to remember the notes of the 5th and 6th strings.

This Dminor chord is formed from an Aminor barre shape played on the 5th fret


All variations of the open chords can be played as barre chords along the neck. This method opens up the whole neck for chord playing instead of limiting you to the first few frets.

In the open chords lesson we mentioned 7th chords. These offer a different quality of sound to just major and minor and can also be converted into barre chords.



Hotel California

This well known song by The Eagles makes use of various different chord shapes, with special emphasis on the 7th chord, played second in the sequence. Play each chord separately to begin with and try to get each one sounding properly. Then try changing between two chords at a time and think about which fingers can be kept in the same place during a change over - by keeping some fingers in the same place you can change chords more quickly.


There are a few other unusual chords at work here but don't worry about that - just try to build up the pressure of the first finger so that all of the notes ring out. Below is a suggested strumming pattern outlining the sequence of chords in the style of Hotel California. Once you have got to grips changing between the chords just strum what feels right for you - It is more important getting the chords to sound properly than trying to replicate the pace of the original song.

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