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Barre Chords - An Observation

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Elecktrablue
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I was watching a friend play the other night and he uses a lot of barre chords, which I've always found rather difficult. In watching him, though, something caught my attention. I watched him barre a G. His pinkie was on the first string, his ring finger on the sixth, his middle finger on the fifth which left his index finger, of course, for the barre. Then I watched him form a G without a barre... just a regular, everyday G chord. And again, his pinkie was on the first string, his ring finger on the sixth, his middle finger on the fifth and his index finger was just kind of hanging out like my pinkie usually does. So I watched even more closely and he did the same thing with a D, a D7, an A, an E and an Em. He just completely left his index finger out of the equation, I suppose leaving it free for the (possibly upcoming?) barre. So, this made me start thinking, which can always be a dangerous thing, that maybe this was why I was finding barres so difficult. So, I've started, after all this time of learning to use my index finger to form virtually every chord, trying not to use it and to use my pinkie instead (I'm just moving everything over one finger) which means that I am basically re-learning all my chords with a different fingering in an effort to make barres feel more natural. The difficulty I am encountering, though, has me laughing most of the time. My fingers want to do what I've been training them to do all this time and they really don't want to cooperate. It almost feels like I'm starting all over again just learning (and struggling with) basic chords (and for some reason that makes me giggle!). Anyway, I would really like to hear from some of you more advanced players regarding what you think about what I'm trying to do. Am I on the right track? Am I just sitting and giggling for nothing or will there be a payoff in the end (which is what I'm hoping!)? Your input and advice will be greatly appreciated! And, thanks in advance!

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Tim_Madsen
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I first learned to form a G the way your friend does, I was told it would help me transition to other chords. I don't use my index finger for about half the other chords you mention. I can't say it would help with barrs since I can't from a single one.

Tim Madsen
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until they know how much you care.

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Metaellihead
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Most likley he leaves out his index because it's easier to transfer over to different chords. Particularly from G to C, D, or Am.

-Metaellihead


   
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Narn
 Narn
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I'm not sure if I'm qualifed to give an real answer, but I can give an opinion.

Some fingerings using a pinkie make sense, I usually use the G fingering you mentioned, and when I struggle with barre chords I attempt to get my index finger down last. So in a sense it does make sense (does that make sense) to try and have that finger free for an upcoming barre chord. However, for various chords, ie. A, it would seem to make more sense to have the pinkie free for an easy Asus4 (for example) should you need it. Using the p,i,m would also seem not to be a great fingering for C as it would seem to make any change to some other variant of C (ie, C7, Cm7) a real game of twister. Likewise can be true variants of D, and some Es .

My point, unless you are using a great many barre chords, and are sticking to three finger chords otherwise ( for the most part) I don't see how alterting the usual fingerings for most open chords would be of benifit. It would seem to me to have much more utility to have your pinky free to ease some chord changes or to add embelishment than it would to have your index free and hanging around in the back. The usual fingerings have likely become the usual fingerings for a reason. I'm a firm believer in doing what works and I can see the reasoning in using p,i,m fingerings for some chords that are commonly used as barre chords. However, I think this approach on an ongoing basis can also be limiting if it is the only way it's done. My thoughts are to leave your usual fingerings as the usual fingerings and work on barre chords as a separate entity. The additional skill and dexterity you get from the addition finger work out will be of beifit to you.

Perhaps someone with more knowlege than I would care to comment on this? (BTW I don't have a guitar handy so I may have a screwed up image of some of the chords I have mentioned, forgive me if I have.)

Just my $0.02. (Not really, the way I ramble it's more like my $2.00.)

Take care.

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Nils
 Nils
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I have found and was taught that there are multiple ways to use your fingers to form just about any chord.

A good example is the one you outlined with fingers 2,3, and 4 instead of fingers 1,2, and 3 for the open G. I use both depending on which chord I came from or am going to. This is true for many chords and I apply the changes when I am figuring out a new progression to make the chord changes more comfortable, quicker and cleaner.

I am a little confused on how your friend is forming the barred G however. There are multiple voices but the only barred version I know of or can find is the E form barre on the 3rd fret.

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Rum Runner
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I'm now into my 5th month at the guitar, and I, too, am working with alternate fingerings. I now do the G with both i,m, & r as well as m,r, and p. It depends on what chords surround the G in the song. Going to or from a C I almost always leave the index out of the G.

I have been working on barre chords all summer and am making progress. One thing I started doing was forming an open E without the index. There is one certain song where I go from the E to an F#m, and by fingering the E w/o the index it makes the transition to the F#m easier because I just slode the two smaller fingers up a few frets and then apply the barre on the 2nd fret with my index. So there are certainly advantages at times to fingering patterns wothout the index.

If you are trying to learn barre chords it also makes sense try to leave the index out of open chords for practice. One difficulty in forming barre chords is in strengthening that pinkie, and whatever you do to use it more in your everyday playing will help. At lest that is what I am finding.

Whereabouts in Texas are you? I'm about 30 miles east of the state line. I was actually in the Lone Star State last weekend.

Regards,

Mike

"Growing Older But Not UP!"


   
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Elecktrablue
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Well, thanks, y'all! This gives me something to think about (and experiment with!). From reading your responses, I'm thinking that learning alternate fingerings might not be a bad thing in the long run and that learning (and struggling with) barres as a separate entity is probably the way to go. The guy I was watching is a lead player (and an excellent one), which is probably why he uses so many barres. If he didn't intimidate me so much (because he's so good and I'm so not) I would ask him to show me a few things. I guess I just need to get over my inferiority complex and do it. He had to be a beginner at one point, too, I suppose! :-)

Oh! And I'm from a little town about 30 miles west of Fort Worth, 60 miles west of Dallas!

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Rum Runner
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West of Ft. Worth, eh? Never been to that neck of the woods, but Texas is so big a state. We were in Kerrville for the Music & Wine festival over Labor Day. Ever been to or heard of the Kerrville fesivals? They are a great scene for musicians, as there are so many who just wander around the campgrounds with their instruments and there are jam sessions going ot at many of the campsites.

Anyhow, there was a very recent thread on this Forum titled Barre Chords: Sore Thumb where one poster linked to a web page that had what for me was an amazing tip that is just transforming my abilities in this area. Go check it out if you haven't. The whole point of the article is to make sure you are using arm muscles rather than hand and finger muscles to hold the barre down. It's making things so much easier for me.

Regards,

Mike

"Growing Older But Not UP!"


   
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Elecktrablue
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Yeah, TX is pretty darn large! And, yes, I'm familiar with Kerrville and the festivals..... I used to live in Austin and San Antonio so I've pretty much covered that entire hill country area! I sometimes go to New Braunfels for their Oktoberfest, which is not too awfully far from Kerrville and I go to Austin quite a bit for the music. If you've never been to Austin, the next time you're around Kerrville you ought to make it a point to spend at least one night there. Just head toward 6th Street, get out of your car and wander up and down. There is every conceivable genre of music coming out of a multitude of little, intimate clubs, and the atmosphere on the street is rather like a carnival with people of every imaginable walk of life scurrying around and 'barkers' out in front of the clubs trying to get people to come in to see their shows. I've seen some amazing musicians in those tiny little clubs! Well, here.... http://austin.about.com/cs/sixthstreet/p/sixthstreet.htm

And I will check out Barre Chords: Sore Thumb! Thanks!

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"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"


   
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Palehorse
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I am still a newbie, but my instructor is a true master, here's his take on this:

Keep the first fingure OUT of the chord whenever possible, BUT not for the sake of bad form. What I mean is, if you are doing something like evanescence "Field Of innocence" then you need to do an Am with your index involved because the nature of the arpeggio and chord change dictates that this is easiest. And in the song "wish you were here" by Pink Floyd, the same applies to Am. (It just makes sense in these two songs to use the first fingure in Am).

However, as a rule, a standard, leave out the index. Why? Well when you E shape bar, you can make a chord by the note name at the E strings fret. Example the fat E string:

E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E

The above are the notes on the E string to the 12th fret. By barring and using the E form you can form all the chords above. Change the form to an Em and VIOLA you now have all the above in minor.

Need more chords? Form an A shape, bar and guess what? Same rule applies, you get all the notes on the A string into Chords. (just like E above) Turn it into an Am now you have the minor answer.

This ALSO works with D shape.

If I am wrong about any of this feel free to point it out as I don't want this in my head wrong, but this is the way I understand it.

Never sacrifice the song's best form. The best route is the easiest and quickest route.

But do try to develop a non-depency on the index finger.

Wow in three months of lessons this is the first pratical advice I have given another player...

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greybeard
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I'm not sure that I agree with your teacher that you should keep the index finger out as standard. I would say that you should feel as comfortable doing it that way as the "normal" way. Practice both, equally.

I finger the normal A chord in 3 different ways, generally. Which one I choose depends on the chords I'm coming from and going to. Don't get fixated on one method - get accustomed to different options.

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Elecktrablue
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[quote="Keep the first fingure OUT of the chord whenever possible"

In another forum that I frequent a woman said that her instructor told her basically the same thing.... leave the index out unless it's necessary to form the chord, freeing it up for barres, but ONLY if barres are played frequently. She said that her instructor told her that if she only used barres once in a while then she should stick to 'standard' fingerings and learn her barre shapes as they came along, but that if she was going to play barres in most things that she played that it would be best for her to learn the alternate fingerings for easier transitions.

Barres are coming up quite a bit for me lately in the music I'm choosing to play so I think I'm going to learn both ways (or is that all three ways?). Standard fingerings, alternate fingerings and barre fingerings. Yep, three ways! I've pretty much got the standard fingerings down pat, so that leaves two.

I am going to see that same guy play again this evening and this time I intend to get over my innate shyness and ask some damn questions!! :-) I'll post what he says!

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-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"


   
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stock28
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Learn and practice different fingerings for as many chords as you can. Then when you play a progression use the fingerings that require the least amount of movement. There may be a standard way to finger a chord but there is no right or wrong way as long as it covers the notes.


   
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