In Depth Guitar Lessons and Expert Help


April 10, 2013

Basic Barre Chords

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Written by: Mike Abbott

Although barre chords can be
intimidating, without them, some of
the greatest rock and roll guitar riffs wouldn’t exist!

What is a barre chord?

A barre chord is a chord which is played at least partly by using one finger to press down on more than one string. A barre chord will give you a different sound than a first-position chords which uses open strings. It will be a tighter, thicker-sounding chord. Why should I learn barre chords?

There are thousands of great rock songs which utilize barre chords. “Proud Mary” by CCR, “American Idiot” by Green Day, “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones to name a few. Knowing barre chords will open a whole new world of guitar playing for you by expanding your chord repetoire.

The Basics

We will begin with some simple 2-string and 3-string barre chords to get you warmed up. When barring these chords, the left finger should very flat against the guitar strings with no bend in the first or second knuckle.

1. The finger should be next to the fret, but not touching it.

2. Squeeze between the thumb and finger to achieve the barre.

3. Check that the two or three strings are ringing correctly by playing the strings one at a time.

4. Now, strum the chord.

5. If the chord doesn’t sound right, repeat steps 1 through 4.

Simple 2-String Barre

These three simple barre chords should be fairly simple for you. The important thing is to watch your technique: finger flat, left thumb position, etc..You should not hear any buzzing. On the 2nd fret barre, use a quick, wristy strum to avoid

2 note barre chords


Simple 3-String Barre

On the G and Eb barre chords, the first finger must remain flat while the second finger will curl in order to avoid touching the second string (on the G chord) or the first string (on the Eb chord). At first, your fingers may not want to cooperate. Keep at it and with time, you will prevail!

Once you are successful with the Gm and the Eb chords, try extending your barre finger in order to slightly touch the fourth string. This is a very useful technique that will enable you to strum the chord without accidentally striking the 4th string. You will then be able to play reggae strums like “I Shot the Sheriff” among others!


3 note barre chords

Simple 4-String Barre

On these barre chords, Am7 and A7, a little more strength will be required because you will need to press down four strings at once. (The D chord is a 3 note barre). If you have trouble with these, try moving your left thumb down (toward the floor) slightly on the back of the neck. You will use these chords extensively in blues and rock songs.

4 note barre chords

About the Author

Mike Abbott
Mike is a pro guitarist and music educator.  He has performed with such diverse acts as the Rolling Stones Horns, Sammy Davis Jr., and Burt Bacharach.   After spending much of his music career in New York City, He now is a very busy guitarist in the Denver area, performing and teaching extensively. Mike's latest work is a book, The Guitar and Amp Sourcebook, published by Harper Collins and released in December 2012.



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