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Barre chord exercises please

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darthnihlus
(@darthnihlus)
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Joined: 15 years ago
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I'm really focused on getting the E shaped barre cord if it kills me. It seems my challenge is getting my ring and pinky in position. I usually place the middle first then the ring/pinky , finally the barred index. I practice going form open G to F at the slowest metronome setting (40 bpm) but still not there.

What effective exercises can you recommend to help me master the E shaped barre?

Thanks,
T


   
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Wes Inman
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Learn to hold an open E chord using your middle, ring, and pinky.

E Major

e--0---
b--0---
g--1m--
d--2p--
a--2r--
e--0---

Now, it is not a bad thing to practice going from an open G chord to a barred F chord at the 1st fret. At the same time, you are making playing more difficult than it needs to be. When you have been playing guitar a long time you learn to cheat... It is not really cheating, but you learn to make playing as simple and easy as possible. Now, there are exceptions to this, sometimes you have to fret a difficult chord to get certain voicings. But generally, if you are just going from G to F, use the barred E chord for both. It is far simpler to simply slide your hand up and down two frets than making a big change like the open G to barred F. So make it easy for yourself. :D

Couple of things you can do to make barre chords easier. First, make sure your thumb is behind the neck, not draped over the top. Your thumb should point toward the headstock, not up toward the ceiling. I believe it was Dogbite who called it the "hitchhiking thumb". That is a perfect description, your hand should be in this form.

In the past I have posted pictures of barre chords, but most of them actually show poor form. They will show the thumb pointing toward the ceiling. This puts unnatural stress on the thumb and can cause injury. I know this from experience, I had great difficulty with my thumb (super painful) for many years primarily because of improper thumb position. But here is an excellent photo showing the proper form for your thumb.

This guy is doing everything right. He does not have the guitar down at his waist. That will cause the wrist to bend under. Note that his wrist is straight. This is great form. Also notice that he doesn't turn the guitar up toward him to look, that also causes the wrist to bend. He is looking over the guitar. Good form.

Your index finger should not be straight as when you point. It should be curved slightly. You also want to roll your index finger slightly toward your thumb. It is not completely on it's side, but about halfway. Here is a good example.

So, the main thing is good form. When you get the form correct, barre chords will not seem nearly so difficult. Just stay at it, use light fretting pressure, and practice, practice, practice! :wink:

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Chris C
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+1 to what Wes says above.

Always go for the easiest option first. There's plenty of time later to make it hard for yourself. If I was playing an open G and F then I'd probably use only a partial bar across the E and B strings for the F (and not play all 6 strings). I find it easier to do, and I'd find it easier to get to a C from there, which would be a likely suspect to be used with those two anyway.

To practice the E shape bar chord, perhaps you could start further along the neck. Apart from anything else it can be easier to push the strings down when you're not right next to the nut. Maybe put your index finger across the 5th fret. The bottom of your E shape will now be on the 7th fret and you'll be playing an A. From there you have several options:

  • 1. Slide up or down two frets – to a G or a B. Simple
    2. Move sideways one string. Your A Major just turned into a D minor. A bit harder as you have to pick all the fingers up and move them.
    3. Move diagonally – i.e. up or down two frets and across one string.
  • You can have a lot of fun doing this, and making it progressively harder. You can also make it interesting by making up little tunes, and working out which chords you're forming in each spot, and then figuring out why some combinations seem to make better ‘chord progressions' than others. Finally chuck in some that are complete changes of position to somewhere else. Make it fun and tuneful, and you soon get it.

    Cheers,

    Chris


       
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    Vic Lewis VL
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    I learned Barre chords the old-fashioned way - by playing songs with barre chords in them. One of the first things I did when I started learning was to buy the Complete Beatles Songbook, and start working my way through it.Of course, back in those days, I knew nothing about alternate voicings for chords, or transposition to another key, or capos, so I just had to struggle with them the best way I could.

    I didn't stick with the guitar for long back then, though, and for the next 20-odd years just messed around with it - there were times I didn't even have a guitar. When I finally decided to learn properly, a few years back, the barre chords seemed to come back easier than most things.

    So that'd be my advice - learn songs with barre chords. It's a bit like learning to swim by jumping in at the deep end, but after a few struggles it'll be worth the effort.

    :D :D :D

    Vic

    "Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


       
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    Rgalvez
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    So that'd be my advice - learn songs with barre chords. It's a bit like learning to swim by jumping in at the deep end, but after a few struggles it'll be worth the effort.

    Correct. The motto here is 'No pain, no gain'.


       
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    KR2
     KR2
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    I read this topic hoping to find some exercises for increasing the speed of open to barre chord transitions too.
    But other than what you are already doing (going from G to F with a metronome), I haven't found any other method that helps speed up the process.
    My first song, House of the Rising Sun, has the chords, Am, C, D, F, Am.
    I won't argue which is more difficult, D to F or G to F, but I place pinky first because ring finger just falls into place once I get the pinky right. Then getting the middle finger right becomes the next problem and then finally using the index to barre the rest of the strings. All done in tenths of a second . . . (sigh).
    I know that it's not going to come in days or weeks.
    Progress for me is measured in months as far as increasing the speed from open chord to barre chord.
    So, DON'T expect it to come quickly but DO persist.

    KR2

    It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


       
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    Denny
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    You might want to check out this DVD. "Pete Huttlinger's Wonderful World Of Chords." Great barre chord exercises.

    Denny

    http://www.homespuntapes.com/shop/product.aspx?ID=1471


       
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    Cat
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    Sounds too much like "work", to me! Just FEEL something when you play. Then it'll all fall out of the sky.

    Cat

    "Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


       
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    Vic Lewis VL
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    Sounds too much like "work", to me! Just FEEL something when you play. Then it'll all fall out of the sky.

    Cat

    Sadly, it is hard work - but that's what you have to put in. What you get out of it is proportional to what you put into it. Someone once called Jack Nicklaus the luckiest golfer who'd ever lived - he agreed, but added "....and isn't it funny, the more I practise, the luckier I get!"

    Or as my old dad was fond of saying, "the only place you'll find pleasure and reward before work is in a dictionary."

    OK, those are cliches - but they could also be called truisms, because they ARE true. The more effort I put into achieving something, the more satisfying it is when I reach that goal - or even see progress, no matter how slight, on the road towards that goal.

    Only the truly gifted - or those who've been slaving away for years - can just pick up a guitar and play anything they want to play. The rest of us mortals have to work at it. I remember an interview with Clapton about the time he released the "Me and Mr Johnson" album, in which he expressed his admiration for Robert Johnson's guitar playing - he'd had to unravel each song, note by note, and was amazed at the various textural subtleties he'd found. He said it changed his whole approach to guitar playing, and he'd virtually had to re-learn the guitar. And this is a bloke who's been widely regarded as something of a guitar deity for forty years or so!

    So, keep on hammering away at those barres - time, practise and hard work WILL pay off.

    :D :D :D

    Vic

    "Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


       
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    Rich_Halford
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    Vic - re the Clapton/Johnson thing, I also read an interview where Eric said there was something he couldn't do and he couldn't work out how Johnson had done it. Eric Clapton couldn't do it :shock:

    Re barres and so forth. I am amazed at how quickly some players who post here say they progress. Thats not saying I don't believe them, its saying that I seem to take forever compared to most, but I am still getting there.

    To learn the E shaped barre chord I did the following things pretty much every time I picked up my guitar:

    - Tried to strum 'Faith' by George Micheal. Its a G and an A ('E shape barred' and 3rd and 5th frets)
    - Tried the opening strums to 'Torn' - you know, dada-dada-dum-de-da-de-dada-dum (F chord)
    - Tried playing 'Creep' by Radiohead (look it up on EasySongs and listen to it on YouTube)

    The point is that thesethings combine the chords with an interesting strum pattern, so for some reason I found it less dull than just repitition. It has taken me 3.5 years (I think) to be able to move to and play a clean F chord. I still can't play Creep properly, still can't slide barres around, but I keep working at it and know it will come......eventually.

    I guess my point is perserverance - keep at it and you'll get there. For me its not about how fast I get better, its about how much I enjoy the journey.

    And lastly (and you were thinking I'd already gone on enough...) try other peoples guitars. I'm lucky, I now have 3 acoustics and I find that playing a different guitar sometimes changes things. Maybe it just encourages me keep plucking away or re-enthuses me, whatever, it keeps me progressing.

    Enjoy the journey. Even if it often makes you want to reverse over your instrument in a truck.


       
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    KR2
     KR2
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    Excellent post, Rich.

    It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


       
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    Rgalvez
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    For the people that look discouraged about barre chords and difficult chord shapes this sentence comes from Ted Greene's classic book 'Modern Chord Progressions' :
    ' You will probably find that quite a few of the examples in this book will not be as easy to play as you would like them to be - in fact , some may even seem impossible at first, causing you to grace my name with a few four-letter titles. DON'T GIVE UP! Remember how hard barre chords were at first? How is it that you can play them now? One magic word: PRACTICE. You don't get something for nothing on the guitar, but Nature has a way of streching and reshaping your hands if you meet her halfway. Even a person with small hands, who is willing to practice will be able to play these examples (don't be alarmed at cramps, calluses and other assorted aches and pains...they're all part of the learning process). Key words: PATIENCE and DETERMINATION.'


       
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    Chris C
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    The point is that thesethings combine the chords with an interesting strum pattern, so for some reason I found it less dull than just repitition. It has taken me 3.5 years (I think) to be able to move to and play a clean F chord. I still can't play Creep properly, still can't slide barres around, but I keep working at it and know it will come......eventually.

    I guess my point is perserverance - keep at it and you'll get there. For me its not about how fast I get better, its about how much I enjoy the journey.

    That's exactly it. :D

    When I first started playing I'd tack on a couple of minutes messing around with bars at the end, but with no pressure or expectation of getting it right. When I finally got around to tackling them seriously I was half way there already. And I always turn any practice into a little bit of music - usually improvised - and that keeps me at it.

    The most important things for me were:

  • a) Reading somewhere that a full bar was often the hardest one to nail, and that mini-bars across less strings were mostly easier, but were also what was more often used and needed anyway. Now some may disagree with that, but it's an approach that has served me very well. Learning how to select which strings to fret cleanly and strike selectively has been well worth every second spent learning theory and every minute spent practising it. Not just for ease of playing, but to get exactly the sound I want too.

    b) Working from easy to hard. All chord changes involve nailing some sort of finger re-positioning. Some are way easier than others. Some changes allow you to leave one or more 'anchor fingers' in place and just move others. Some bar chords just slide up and down and keep the whole shape intact. Others keep the index finger on the same fret and move one or more of the other fingers, and so on. I started with the easiest changes - made up little riffs or tunes or whatever to fit them - and then moved onto harder ones once I had the easy ones sorted.

  • So matter what you do, it takes hundreds of hours to train your fingers to hit all the right spots quickly and accurately, and the process is never really complete (there's always the next mind bogglingly 'impossible' change to some weird thing you never heard of before....) so it makes sense to make the time enjoyable, and to do it in easy steps. At least that's the way it seemed to me, and it's worked so far. :mrgreen:

    Cheers,

    Chris


       
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    Cat
     Cat
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    Yeah...the post took me way back to my own trouble holding barre chords. So I guess we ALL were there one time or another. Hope my reply the other day wasn't taken in any sort of way other than to STRESS that "feeling" is the better part of playing. Heck, once something as elementary as a barred E is mastered...just strum a slow E chord and LISTEN to it decay away to complete nothingness. Savour every overtone, imagine where you may take things from there. Magic!

    THAT's what I meant!

    Cat

    "Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


       
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    Vic Lewis VL
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    I've been trying to think back to when I first started playing around with barre chords....and I think the reason I had relatively little trouble with them is down to one thing. Nobody told me they were supposed to be hard! I think one of the first songs I tried to learn using barres was "World Without Love" - the old Lennon/McCartney song which was a hit for Peter and Gordon. In "The Complete Beatles" songbook which I had (and still have!) the chords are given as Eb - xx5343, G7 - 3x0001, Cm - xx5543, Ab - xx6544, Fm7 - xx1111, Bb7 - xx3334, and Abm - xx6444.

    I reasoned that the change from G7 to Cm would be so much easier if I played them both at the 3rd fret - from 353433 to 335543 - so I started changing all the chords to barre chords. The Eb (horrible to play the way the book showed!) I moved to the 6th fret, same with the Bb7: the Fm7 got moved to the 8th fret.

    So I'd got G7 and Cm at the 3rd fret, Ab and Abm at the 4th, Bb7 and Eb at the 6th, and Fm7 at the 8th fret. Seemed more logical to me than messing about changing from open chords to barres.

    It wasn't till much later that I realised you could transpose songs and use different easier chords....when I found that out, the chords got changed on this song in a hurry!

    Eb > C
    G7 > E7
    Cm > Am
    Ab > F
    Abm > Fm
    Fm7 > Dm7
    Bb7 > G7

    Which made it much easier. It wasn't until years later that I found out about capos....and that by playing the new chords with a capo at the third fret, I could play the song in the original key!

    (Grumpy Old Git Rant coming up....) Things are so much easier now than 30-odd years ago - access to information is so much easier. I probably learned more in the first month after joining GN than in the entire previous 30 years! Pity the 'net wasn't around in the 70's!

    :D :D :D

    Vic

    "Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


       
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