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guitar-lessons-request@vast.unsw.edu.au From: Guitar Lessons 
Subject: GUITAR L.O.T.W. - # 23
Status: O

Title: Barre Chords 
Level: Beginner (Advanced) / Intermediate
Style: Technique - Barre Chords
Instructor: Denny Straussfogel 

For those guitarists that have been stuck playing "easy guitar"
versions of songs or not playing certain songs at all I guarantee that
learning barre chords will be the single biggest leap you will ever
make in playing ability, and it's no where near as difficult as some
folks think. (I'm REALLY not overstating this! By learning a few basic
forms, you'll be able to play any song in any key. So when you see all
those C#m7, you'll think "no problem" rather than "I can't play that.")

The key to playing barre chords is developing the ability to "barre"
(fret) all six strings of the guitar with your index finger. Of course,
you have to do this  "cleanly" and get a good tone out of all six
strings. I suggest you start by  holding the guitar in the "classical"
position with the body of the guitar on  the LEFT knee (I'll assume
you're playing a right-handed guitar) and the neck  held up at a 45
degree angle. This puts your left hand in a much better position  for
everything. (You'll be amazed at how much more speed and "reach" you'll
have and you can always return to playing with the guitar in some old
familiar position once you've mastered this technique.)  Since
everyone's index finger is shaped a little differently, you may have
to  experiment a little to get a good tone. Usually contact is made
towards the side  of the index finger rather than right on the flat
part. You  have to have your thumb  pushing against the back of the
neck, not wrapped around it. Just pinch the neck between thumb and
index finger, with your finger covering all six strings (at the fret of
your choice) and work until you get a passable tone from all the
strings. This might not happen all at once; you need to build up a
little strength, and toughness on your finger. (I've never developed a
callous there, as  on the fingertips, but it has gotten a little
tougher.) Anyway, this is usually the  most frustrating part of
learning barre chords.  Don't give up if it doesn't  sound great at
first, it will with practice.

Now to the chord forms. The only theory you need to know is that the
frets on a guitar are analogous to the keys on a piano. Since you'll be
fretting all six strings you can move the entire chord for an F chord
up one fret and you'll be playing an F# chord. One more fret and you'll
be playing a G chord, one more a G# chord, and so on until you run out
of fretboard. So you can see, by learning a single form, you can play
as many chords as you have frets. There are two basic forms, and they
can be converted into  minors and/or sevenths by simply raising a
finger. One form requires a finger  rearrangement to do the minor, so
you could call it a different form. Okay, so  there are three forms. By
learning these three forms, you can play any, yes ANY  major chord,
seventh chord, minor chord, or minor seventh chord. (B-flat minor
seventh? No problem!) Major sevenths and major ninths are easy too once
you get the barring down. So here are the forms. Let's barre the 3rd
fret and look at the form for a G chord there ("i" indicates fretting
with index finger, "m" with middle finger, "r" with ring finger, and
"p" with pinky.This might be an unusual diagram format, but it's what
you see when looking over the top of the neck)

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        G chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

to form a seventh, simply lift your pinky 

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        G7 chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

to form the minor, put back your pinky, and lift your middle finger (You
can use your middle finger to help with the barre until your strength
increases.)

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Gm chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

to get a minor seventh, raise both middle and pinky fingers 

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Gm7  chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

Now remember the utility in this is that if you slide everything up one
fret you'll be playing a G#, G#7, G#m, and G#m7, respectively. Slide up
another fret and you've got A, A7, Am, and Am7, and so on right up the
fret board. In the opposite direction if you slide everything down one
fret from the "G" position, you'll have F#, F#7, F#m, and F#m7. One
more,fret down  and you'll have something that should be somewhat
familiar, at least on the four high strings, an F, F7, Fm, and Fm7.
Actually, if you slide one more fret down, using the nut of the guitar
as your barre, you're back to an E, E7, Em, and Em7, which you probably
already know, using different fingers.

Okay, now the second form. Again, barre the 3rd fret and a C chord is
played as

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        C chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

to get the seventh, raise you ring finger

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        C7 chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

[Ed. Note:  The sixth string (E) is not fretted or played.  The
fifth string (A) is the root note of the chord.]

The minor is the same basic form with the second string dropped a fret,
but the fingering needs to be rearranged, hence, a third form which is
really an extension of the second. Also, you'll notice this is similar
to the "G" form given above, with the fingers all moved up a string.

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Cm chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

and the minor seventh by raising your pinky

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Cm7 chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

And finally, major seventh, and major ninths played out of this form as 

e||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Cmaj7 chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

e||---|---|-i-|---|-p-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-i-|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        Cmaj9 chord 
D||---|---|-i-|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|-x-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

As in the first form, by moving the whole thing up or down the fret
board you can play as many different chords as you have frets.

One last word. Persevere. It may be a little frustrating at first, but
if you force yourself to practice and play using the barre chords, your
strength will increase, your hand will stop cramping, and you'll be
able to play all songs in the book. Good luck.

Denny Straussfogel 


Postscript for the adventurous: 
To play a ninth chord (not a major ninth, just a ninth) you need to
barre the three high strings with your RING finger. These chords are
found in a lot of mellow jazz pieces. The form for a C9 is

e||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
B||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
G||---|---|-r-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---        C9 chord 
D||---|-i-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
A||---|---|-m-|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---
E||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---

The first (bass) string is muted (not played). As usual, move it up or
down the fret board and you've got any ninth you want.

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