Barre Chord Tips From Marty Schwartz

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!


>>>TIP: Becoming the guitarist you were meant to be isn't a matter of hoping or dreaming.  It's about DOING.  And the only way to DO IT is with a well-structured PLAN that keeps it FUN so you stay motivated.
You can see that plan right here:
Hey, Marty here.Time to address one of the most common questions I get,
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.

I feel your pain …. but don't quit!!  It's just not necessary.
I'm going to give you a little-known secret to solving this problem with barre chords.

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:

Forget about your hands and use your ARMS instead.

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

ARM STRENGTH to hold down a bar instead of her hand.

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!

Here are some other tips for playing barre chords:


 > Keep your elbow (of your fret arm) close to your body. When you keep your elbow close to your body, you again enable more leverage and you won't be fighting yourself as much. Take advantage of the physics!

 > 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.


 > If you're still having trouble, consider using lighter strings. Lighter strings are easier to manipulate and this makes barre chords easier. So if you're using medium gauge strings, consider going to a light or extra light gauge.


 > Practice on an electric guitar if you're using acoustic. The strings are easier to move around on a electric guitar.


 > Try putting down your bar first, THEN make the shape with your other fingers — and then try it the other way around. In other words, practice it both ways to see which is more comfortable for you. Everyone is different. Once you find a preference, practice it as much as you can to develop muscle memory.


 > Finally, BE PATIENT with yourself. Don't sweat if it doesn't sound perfect at first. Never forget that playing guitar is a complex skill … which is one of the reasons it's so satisfying when you finally get it. 🙂

You WILL get there if you stay with it, I promise!

Take care and keep playing . . .


P.S. If you think this type of tip is useful, then imagine  how much help you'll get when you get more than FIFTEEN HOURS of step by step video instruction that  you can pause or rewind as many times as you need.
It's the closest thing to having me right there next to you, and that's what you get when you grab my 12-DVD  Beginner Guitar bundle today with free shipping.  You can check it out here:
As an added bonus, check out this exciting video where Marty teams up with Griff Hamlin of Blues Guitar Unleashed to discuss their tips and tricks on playing barre chords.  This is only the 2nd time these two have appeared in video together.

Check it out!