The Easiest Way to Learn Barre Chords

What’s the easiest way to learn barre chords? Barre chords can be challenging for beginner and even intermediate guitarists. Most players who are struggling with barre chords think that they don’t have the strength to play them cleanly, but many times, it’s simply due to bad technique.
This video will demonstrate to you what we think is the easiest way to learn barre chords, and get started in general with bar chords. This is the method that I like to teach my students.
Basically, you’ll start with an ‘Em’ chord, but fingered with fingers 3 and 4 (rather than the usual 1 & 2, or 2 & 3). Just remember to leave your first two fingers open, as you’ll be using them for the barre chord. In the video you’ll notice that when I’m playing the ‘Em’ chord my thumb is at the top of the neck just like any other open chord. Barre chords are different; with bar chords your wrist is bent, and your thumb is squeezing the back of the neck. Watch the video:
So you’ll see in the video that there’s two positions for your chord hand:
  • Open chord which has your thumb hanging over the top of the neck (and the palm of the hand is flush on the back of the neck)
  • Barre chord which has your thumb is in the middle squeezing and your wrist is bent.
The Easiest Way to Learn Barre Chords

With open chords the thumb hangs over the top of the neck

Now, we’ll take the ‘Em’ chord that we’re playing and slide up to the fifth position (which means your first finger will be used to barre the fifth fret). Watch the video to see how the fingering hand position shifts from ‘open chord’ (thumb on top) to ‘barre chord’ (thumb in the middle of the neck and wrist bent) as you are making this move.
You want to practice this to the point that both the open and barre chords ring ‘clean’ (i.e. with no muted strings). This will take some practice but with a little work it’s definitely doable. If you’re having trouble getting the barre chord clean, try using your middle finger and hold it over your first finger (which is doing the barre) to give it more strength (see the video).

While barre chords can certainly be challenging, we think this method may be the easiest way to learn barre chords out of the gate.

The Easiest Way to Learn Barre Chords

With barre chords, the thumb is in the middle of the neck pinching with the first finger in front

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