If you are like every other guitar player, you are currently or have in the past, struggled with forming and playing clean sounding barre chords. Read below as Marty answers an email from a student that is struggling with barre chords.
Be sure to check out out the end of the article. There is a surprise video where Marty teams up with a special guest to show you some of their barre chord tricks. Check it out!
hands down . . .
Hey Marty, I am Rachel from Kenya. just wanted to say
thanks for the amazing lessons. I think what you’re doing is awesome. I had given up on my acoustic guitar for a while because it was too hard. you inspired me to give it another try and now i am really enjoying it. you rock!! FYI, i have a bit of a problem in holding my barre chords. HELP!!! my fingers are way too short and i find it hard to hold them. thanks again. look forward to your feedback as well as your videos. cheers.
Ahhh, those nasty BARRE CHORDS! (Cue in the heavy string music with screaming in the background.)Seriously, I get this type of email just about every day. I get this question ALLLLLL the time. It might be the single biggest reason that people get discouraged and consider quitting altogether.
Thing is, the solution is SO SIMPLE that you’re going to laugh when see it.
Okay, so what am I talking about?
Look, there’s nothing evil about playing barre chords. Once you learn the simple technique I’m about to give you, you’ll stop worrying about them and just get on with the business of playing.
By the way, there’s a lot of experienced players who don’t don’t even know the trick I’m about to tell you,so pay attention . .
If you are having trouble getting your bars to sound clear and clean, or if you think your fingers are too small or that your hands just not strong enough to get a good bar, then try this:
Let me explain. I once had a student who was a skinny little kid. She had small hands and in every way was a typical 8-year-old girl.
But while many big strong guys ask me all the time how to play barre chords, this little kid had no problem playing barre chords.
How did she do it? She knew instinctively to use her
Here’s how you do that . . . To hold down a bar, pull the guitar hard against your chest with both
arms, almost as if you were trying to break the guitar in half.
Don’t use your thumb and fingers to squeeze the guitar neck. Those thumb muscles are relatively weak and will get fatigued pretty quick. But your arm muscles are strong and won’t tire easily. You’re also using shoulder and trunk muscles with your body weight.
So your thumb is just there to stabilize the left hand. It’s there to merely channel or direct the brute strength of the arms to the hand and fingers. You should almost be able to play the barre chord without your thumb at all.
Note there that I said ALMOST. Yes, the thumb is necessary in playing the barre chord, but if you
practice it without using your thumb then you’ll really get the concept of using your arm strength….
…. which means once you start using your thumb in the limited way I’m talking about then your barre chord playing will become stronger and more accurate.
Do you get what I’m saying? In many ways, that thumb is essentially a PASSIVE, NOT ACTIVE participant in playing the guitar — especially with barre chords.
Another way to look at it is that you are using LEVERAGE. This is one of those little (yet BIG) concepts that can help your guitar playing immensely.
So, to summarize:
Use your arm strength to hold the bar. Try to break the guitar in half against your chest by pulling with both arms. If you are doing it right, you will feel it in your forearms, elbows, and/or shoulders and you will feel the guitar dig into your chest.
Try it sometime and get those barre chords wired!
> If you want to make things even easier on yourself, get the “action” lowered on your guitar. You can get this done at a guitar shop. The “action” on your guitar strings is the amount of space between the strings and the guitar neck. The lower the strings, the less you’ll have to push down on them. If you use my “arm strength” tip above, you shouldn’t need to do this, but it’s an option you should know about.
You WILL get there if you stay with it, I promise!
Take care and keep playing . . .