Barre chords are not exactly easy to play. But they are definitely worth the effort — unless you have a guitar with horrible action (the distance between the strings and the frets).

There are several advantages to playing barre chords:

  1. Barre chords will minimally allow you to play every major or minor chord with ease.
  2. Understanding barre chord theory will allow you to transpose into other keys without much problem.
  3. Barre chords provide a stepping stone for learning Power Chords.  I call power chords “abbreviated barre chords”.  Power Chords use only the lowest two or three notes of the barre chord, and sound better than any other chords when played with any distortion effect.  (Power chords use the chord formula 1-5.  There is no third note, and therefore can be substituted for either a major or a minor chord.  A power chord is noted with -5 as a suffix.  The G power chord is written “G5”.)

How can I get my barre chords to sound better?

Because barre chords played in the first fret are closest to the nut, the amount of angle between the string and the fretboard is increased.  This causes them to be more difficult to play, more difficult to obtain clear sounds.

  1. Don’t stop playing if your barre chord doesn’t sound super clear.  It takes time for the muscles in your hands to strengthen, so keep playing even if there is a little buzzing or muting.
  2. Making sure your barre finger is straight (not curved) is a help, especially when your thumb is directly behind it allowing more pressure to be applied at the barre finger.
  3. One other important point for barre chords is your wrist.  Your wrist should not be behind the neck of your guitar, but below it.  This helps with straightening your barre finger and increasing the pressure between the thumb and barre finger.

Click here to download a PDF file of Intro to Barre Chord Theory.