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FAQ: What are barre chords?

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A:  Barre chords (pronounced 'bar') are a type of guitar chord where your index finger is used to press multiple strings on a single fret.  Barre chords are called 'moveable chords' since, unlike open or standard chords which you only play on the three or four frets, they can be played anywhere on the fretboard.

Barre Chord
In this picture on the left, the index finger is fretting every string on a fret.  This forms the basis of a barre chord.  Your index finger thus acts as a 'bar' pressing down many or all of the strings on a single fret.  The rest of your fingers will now finish the chord formation by fretting other strings to the right of your index finger.
E Major Shape Barre Chord
The picture on the right is that of a barre chord using the 'E major shape'.  Unlike standard chords where the shape of the chord changed every time you played a new one, barre chords use only one shape (per variation) that you move up and down the fretboard.  The one on the left is the common shape Major barre chords come in and by maintaining this single shape and simply moving your hands up and down the fretboard, you're in effect playing different keys.
Standard chords where you do not have to barre with your index finger are called 'open chords'.  Barre chords are significantly more difficult to play than open chords since they requires more strength and effort from your fretting hand.  When starting to learn barre chords, your index finger will likely get very tired.  If you're a new guitar player, you should first learn many open chords before learning barre chords.

For a list of barre chords visit the guitar chord charts section and download the extended guitar chord chart which maps out the most popular barre chords.

This free guitar lesson covers anything and everything on barre chords you need to know and will teach you how to play them on a step-by-step basis using video.
Q: What are barre chords and how do they differ from normal chords?
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