Barre Chords

A nightmare for most beginner guitarists!

Anyone who has attempted to learn the guitar and stuck with it for a reasonable period of time will experience the notorious barre chord blues. In particular, the F chord has become infamous for wreaking havoc on budding guitarists causing discouragement, frustration and a general sense of helplessness.

Perhaps the toughest aspect of the barre (or bar) chord shape is the unnaturally straight angle at which the first finger has to apply pressure to the entire fret. This quickly takes it toll on the muscle between your first finger and thumb. The location of the F chord (in the root 6 position) on the guitar neck also lends an extra degree of difficulty because the tension of the strings is much greater directly next to the nut than further down the fret board.

Watch Video Lesson: 5 Tips For Perfect Barre Chords

I found these really helpful 12 steps on, check them out:

  • Your first (index) finger is responsible for a lot when playing barre chords. Lay your first finger across all six strings (try the fifth fret for this lesson).
  • Very slightly bend the index finger. A straight and rigid index finger is not what we’re looking for.
  • Roll the finger back slightly, so that more of the side of the index finger closest to the thumb is in contact with the strings.
  • Apply pressure on the strings. Strum to make sure each string is sounding.
  • Now add the following fingers: third (ring) finger to the 5th string, 7th fret. Fourth (pinky) finger to the 4th string, 7th fret. Second (middle) finger to the 3rd string, 6th fret.
  • Using a pick, play each string, one at a time, to make sure each note is ringing clearly. Try and correct those that are not.
  • You have just played an A major chord (‘A’ because the type of chord corresponds to the note you play on the sixth string. If you played the chord at the 8th fret, it would be C major.)
  • To play an A minor chord, simply remove your second (middle) finger from the 3rd string. The first finger will now be responsible for fretting the note on the 3rd string also.
  • Now, try playing the other common set of barre chords. To play a major chord with root on the fifth string, use your first finger to barre the fifth fret on strings five to one.
  • Add the following: Second finger on 4th string, 7th fret. Third finger on 3rd string, 7th fret. Fourth finger on 2nd string, 7th fret. This is a Dmajor barre chord.
  • To make the chord minor, re-adjust as follows: third finger on 4th string, 7th fret. Fourth finger on 3rd string, 7th fret. Second finger on 2nd string, 6th fret. This is now a Dminor chord.
  • These four chord shapes are the essentials in barre chords. Learn these, and you’ll be able to play many of the pop songs you hear on the radio.


  • Try slightly pulling the body of the guitar towards your body, using the arm of your picking hand. Also gently pull the neck towards you with your fretting hand. This makes fretting barre chords somewhat easier.
  • The chords will not sound clear at first. Do not get discouraged. They will sound great soon enough.

Watch Video Lesson: 5 Tips For Perfect Barre Chords


  1. Richard Sullivan

    Thank you for your help. I can see where this is very helpful.

  2. Tony Gable

    This is a follow up to my last comment.. I am still trying to get the 1st finger to barre all 6 string. I can get all except the B sting to ring however it is very difficult even to get that. By the time I’m through spending time and effort on this task I’m so disappointed and don’t even feel like practicing anything else. I have to get over this because I don’t want to give up playing. I think there should be a faster response to the comments in these sections.. Also How do I find a video of Mark teaching this most difficult part of playing guitar??? I guess I’ll have to look on YouTube. Thanks.. Hoping for a reply soon.

  3. Tony Gable

    I am having a terrible time getting my index finger to be straight when pressing down on the strings. I keep trying but to no success of barring the complete fret. I even try it up the neck where the strings are easier to press but I cant seem to get them all to ring out. If I can’t even barre a fret , how am I supposed to even attempt the entire F chord?. Between working on the barring and spending time learning the chromatic notes on the fretboard I feel like I’m losing actual playing time during my practices. Can you recommend a more structured routine, before I get tooo frustrated and stop working on the barres? Thank You.

  4. Jameson

    I still having difficulty with this F cord but I am sure I will get it right soon . Is there any other way that somebody can practice this muscle between your thumb and first finger without a guitar? For instance with a ball or finger practice equipment.

    1. Jon Coursey

      Hi Jameson! My advice would be this: the best way to practice the F chord is by playing the F chord. In saying that, there are some interesting studies around mental visualization (the one I’m thinking of was done on basket-ballers improving free-throw percentages with mental visualization). If you have time to practice, but no guitar, you could find benefit in visualizing the placing of each finger on each string of the fret board.

      Also see Mark’s video lesson on the ‘Pressing Technique’ – a way to program guitar chords in to your muscle memory.

  5. jim kelly

    brilliant! the first time i ever tried to barre chords without a capo, good advice.

  6. Tina

    Excellent !! Thank You… Worked for me, this helped me out Great info….

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