Section 2.1 (New May 2000) (back to index)

Guitar Bar Chords

We will now leapfrog an entire section of learning to play guitar. Open chords, like the E and A chords that you know can be transformed by simply 'barring' across the guitar frets with the first finger. Note that in the pic a capo is being used. The capo is used to change keys in exactly the same way as a bar and is an indispensible aid for a singer/guitarist (and for accompanying other singers). To practise bar chords try using just the first finger at first. Set the left hand thumb in the centre of the guitar neck and CLAMP the first finger down over all six strings. Try playing around with this for SEVERAL DAYS if you need to. You should be able to play any of the strings and have them sound cleanly whilst barring in this way. Do not try the more advanced chords until you can do this.

You can adapt the chords that you already know to make 6 other 'root chords'. Using the E and A chords gives us E, A, Em, Am, E7, A7, Em7 and Am7. All of these chords are made by adding * certain notes to the chords that you know. Aminor is made by simply shifting the E chord up one set of strings. (NB UP here means musically higher - towards the 1st string)


Note that these fingerings are for the OPEN chords. To make the bar chords each finger will be one higher. e.g. the Em7 chord will use the third finger with the barred first - this of course is NOT Emin7 but Fmin7. We can use the knowledge of the chromatic scale to learn all 48 chords that are now available to us. Here is how it works. The E Major chord barred at fret I gives us F Major, at fret 2 it gives us F# Maj, at fret 3 G Major and so on around the chromatic scale . So given the four root chords on A and the four root chords on E times the 12 notes of the chromatic scale we have a library of 48 chords which includes TWO forms of all the Major, Minor, Seventh and Minor7 chords. This is easy to write but could involve YEARS of practise. To practise and learn these chords try playing and learning only the natural note chords. So practise F, G, A, B, C and D major. This of course involves holding down the E root bar chord and playing it at the 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10th positions.

It is VERY important that you try to get every fretting finger as CLOSE to the fret as possible.

* When we remove a finger from a chord, we are usually ADDING a note to that chord. e.g. Lifting the 3rd finger from an E Major chord ADDS the note D to make the E7 chord.

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