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Barre Chord Problems
Chords of Discouragement
There has never been a guitar student that has NOT struggled with guitar chords... In fact, I bet if we could, and we ran up to Eric Clapton and said "Hey Eric! Great Jacket, and by the way: Did you struggle with barre chords the first time you tried 'em?" the answer would be "Hell yeah! Who didn't!?". So take heart, you're in good company.
The primary reason why Barre chords are so difficult is because they require flexible fingers and strong hands. If we look at the mechanics of Barre Chord fingering, we see that most (or all) barre chord shapes span at least three frets - this means that you need to have a fair measure of flexibility in your fingers to reach all the right notes on the right strings.
And then as far as barring itself goes, well it requires a lot of pressure on the strings to sound reasonable and a strong hand does this best. That's why you should never learn barre chords before you've mastered the basic open chords. Why? Simply because the open chords will help you with the necessary muscle development in your fretting hand so that by the time you reach barre chords, you've got a fair measure of power when it comes to fretting and you'll be able to exert more pressure on the strings themselves.
Here are some tips to help you solve your barre chord problems:
- If you haven't been there, check out the barre chord lessons on this site. The step by step approach and accompanying video's will help you master barre chords more accurately then by learning them from a textbook.
- Use your thumb. Place your thumb at the back of the neck and have it rest in the middle of the wood directly behind your index and middle finger. You can now help your other fingers by exerting pressure with your thumb from the back of the neck, thereby helping your hand to press down harder against the strings. If you do it right, it makes a huge difference... See this lesson for a picture of what it should look like.
- Place your index finger close to the fret itself. Remember that the 'frets' are not the open spaces on the the fretboard, but the metal dividers! Place your barring finger close to the fret and it'll make it easier to press down all the strings.
- Learn and Practice the basic open chords first. Ever done a bench press at the gym? Well you don't start out with 100 pounds and try to do 1 or 2 lifts (I know some people do, but that's another story...). You start with 30 pounds and do 12 lifts! Then as your strength increases, you take the weight up. Well, in this little metaphor of mine, barre chords represent a 100 pounds - so don't start there, go lower (open chords) and practice these for the first couple of weeks until you can fret and change between them fluently.
- Give it some time. For most people, barre chord problems automatically disappears with time and practice. Barre chords are simply difficult because they require a greater deal of dexterity and exertion on the freboat than other chords. These will grow as your skill increases with time and barre chords will simply cease to be a headache-inducing problem :-)
New Guitar players usually run into barre chord problems. This page will try and alleviate some of your suffering and pain :-)
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