Earned a bachelors in music from the University of the Arts in 1997, Member of the Registry of Guitar Tutors since...

4 Ways To Hold Barre Chords

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you FOUR rules to follow so you can make your barre chords sound better IMMEDIATELY.

A challenge that faces every beginning and even intermediate level guitarist is mastering the barre chord.

If the finer details of hand mechanics aren't approached in the correct manner as soon as these chords are learned it's impossible to master them.

The 4 Rules:

1. Place your thumb on the back of the neck and facing away from you toward the headstock.
2.Arch your hand.
3.Establish a barre with your finger PARALLEL to the fret.
4.Move your elbow away or toward your body

Placing your thumb flat on the back of the neck facing away from you will allow you unrestricted movement to achieve the best angle to hold your barre chord.

If your thumb is not facing toward the headstock you are limiting your range of movement. Where is the best place for your thumb? Flat on the center of the neck or slightly lower.

If you don't arch your hand you'll be locking your hand in one position with no freedom of movement and chances are high that you'll be muting the higher strings.

The best advice I can give you is to relax your hand and make sure to see space between your hand and the fingerboard.

One of the biggest challenges I see with students is keeping their barred finger parallel to the fret. This is why I wrote the word in caps above.

Place your finger flat up against the fret and allow your elbow (more on this in a moment) and thumb to pivot so you can gain more strength in your barre.

By moving your elbow toward or away from your body you can add strength to your barre and gain a much cleaner sound.

The movement of your elbow will allow you to pivot on your thumb (if it’s in the proper position) and roll either your 1st or 3rd finger slightly on its side for a consistent placement across all strings.

Following the above steps in tandem with the video demonstration will surely improve your barre chords immediately. With daily practice, you’ll be on the correct path to mastering your barre chords!

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Great advice - great lesson. What kind of drills will help transitioning between open chords and barre chords - it takes me two measurs just to make the change!


Great advice - great lesson. What kind of drills will help transitioning between open chords and barre chords - it takes me two measurs just to make the change!

Alternate technique

Dear Chris,

I find it easier to play the D Major (557775) chord by using fingers 2, 3, and 4 to hold down the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings respectively instead of using your technique of using finger 3 to barre all three strings. Is my technique incorrect?



Re: Alternate technique

Hey, Alpha Romeo.

Your technique is quite popular, too, so I wouldn't worry about it. I guess it all depends upon what you find comfortable. "To each, his own!" as they say. :)

Just remember to take it easy and build strength in your fingers gradually. You don't want to force your fingers to try something they're not used to and end up hurting them.

Good luck!

Re: Alternate Technique

I've been trying out the technique shown in the video, and you're right - it does get easier with practice. I'm loving using only two fingers to play the chord, because now, I have two fingers spare to try out variations. Thanks, a lot, Chris and Guitar Fan.

I like it.Its great.

I like it.Its great.