Tips and exercises to perfect those barre chords

It is completely normal to feel frustrated when learning how to play barre chords. It looks easy, you just have to lay your index finger over all six strings and keep it there (until you need to change frets of course) but even if you can get your fingers in the right place you might not necessarily be able to make it sound good!

You are not alone! Nearly every single guitarist has encountered the same problem as you when attempting to learn the dreaded barre chords.

– “Can’t I just avoid playing barre chords?”

There are ways around barre chords – by transposing a song you can make chords ‘open’ (not barred) but if you want to advance as a guitarist I would recommend practising!

Top tips when practicing barre chords:

  1. Don’t try playing a chord
    Begin with simply practicing how to cover the 6 strings – this is easier said then done! I would recommend starting on the eighth fret as it as the lowest string tension and will hence be the easiest starting point.
  2. Press your thumb against the back of the neck
    This will make it easier to apply pressure from  your index finger creating the best sound.
  3. Don’t just think about pressing hard.
    You also need to watch the positioning of your finger, try to fix the buzz by moving your  finger slightly up or down or try rolling it to the side a bit.
  4. Build up strength in your fingers.
    The first few times you play it will hurt! But the more you practice the easier it will become as calluses and experience help you to develop a clearer sound.
  5. Don’t give up!
    It’ll get easier 🙂


Exercises to perfect your barre chords:

  1. Build up strength in your index finger
    Spend 10-15 minutes a day practicing your index finger along the eighth fret. Pluck each string and listen for a clear sound from each string.
  2. Familiarize yourself with playing on the different frets
    When you are comfortable on the eighth fret try making your way up the neck of the guitar to the first fret ensuring that you can effectively play each barre.
  3. Practice barre chords starting with C
    Once you have mastered the barre with just your index finger you areaccord-c ready to start practicing real chords, hurrah! Head back to the eighth bar placing your middle finger on the G string, your ring finger on the A string and your little finger on the D string, this is the C chord played as a barre chord (see the image to the right).
    Using the same finger position slowly make your way back down to the first fret.
  4. Play a song using barre chords!
    Have a go at:
    Valerie – Mark Ronson ft Amy Winehouse
    Stay With Me – Sam Smith
    Blank Space – Taylor Swift (with the Bm as a barre chord!)
    Across the Universe – The Beatles


Check out our tutorial to help you master barre chords whilst playing Hey Jude by the Beatles!

Best of luck! Remember you can find free guitar chords on Jellynote.


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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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