Guitar bar chords (also called 'barre chords') allow you to play chords all over the guitar neck. This means that you are not limited to playing solely in open position. Lesson 7 in Guitar Command's 'Learn To Play Guitar In Two Months' series introduces easy barre chords that can be played at different positions on the guitar neck.
How To Play Guitar Barre Chords
When playing a barre chord, the index finger is placed over the fretboard and used to play more than one note. The index finger is said to make a 'bar' over the fretboard, which is where bar chords get their name from. The 'bar' usually covers five or six strings, although it can be fewer. The other fingers of the fretting hand add additional notes as necessary.
Guitar Bar Chords - Easy Barre Chords
In all of the following guitar bar chords diagrams, the root note of the chord is shown in green. The root note is the note that the chord is named after, e.g. the 'C' in C Major.
This means that in order to play a G major, position one of the major bar chord shapes shown below so that the green notes are over G notes on the fretboard. You can refer to the Guitar Fretboard Notes Chart to find out where the notes are on the fretboard.
Major Guitar Bar Chords
The bar chord shape shown above is also referred to as the 'E shape'. This is because if it is played in open position, without a barre, it would be an E chord. Other bar chord shapes are similarly named. See lesson 2 in this series for simple guitar chords.
Minor Bar Chords
Dominant 7th (7) Guitar Bar Chords
The guitar bar chords shown above are the basic barre chords, and the first you should learn. You will notice that they are essentially the same chords as their open position counterparts, but played with a bar.
Movable Chord Shapes
The main benefit of guitar bar chords is that they are 'movable'. This means that by learning just one major bar chord shape you will be able to play major chords with any root note.
For example, the same barre chord shape used to play an A major chord at the fifth fret can also be used to play a G chord at the third fret. This is done by moving the whole hand two frets lower, whilst keeping the fingers in the same relative position.
By learning just one type of bar chord (e.g. for a minor chord), you will be able to move that same shape up and down the neck and play any minor chord.
However, to avoid playing chords very high up the fretboard, or having to make awkward position changes, it is a good idea to learn at least two movable chord shapes for the same kind of chord.
Bar Or Barre Chords?
Although traditionally 'barre chords' is the correct spelling, 'bar chords' can also be used. In this lesson the terms 'bar chord' and 'barre chord' are used interchangeably, and refer to the same thing.
Playing Guitar Bar Chords
Guitar bar chords can seem difficult to play at first, but you will soon get used to playing them. In fact, for many aspects of rhythm guitar playing, bar chords are more useful.
Bar chords offer more flexibility than open guitar chords, as you have more control over barre chords. This allows you to use advanced rhythm guitar techniques such as left hand damping to create complex strumming patterns.