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Playing bar chords on acoustic guitar

Guest JonTheOwl66

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Guest JonTheOwl66

Hi fellow guitar players!


I'm a relatively competent guitar player, but one thing I've never been able to get my head round is bar chords. 


I've always had to adapt my minor chords because I just can't figure out how you 'bar' index finger is supposed to be. 


I've tried looking it up. It hasn't really helped. Nobody has ever once mentioned how your index finger is supposed to be reacting to the strings.


Do you press down all 6 when doing bar chords? Do you press down none, just cover them?


I've absolutely no idea and I can't work it out. 


When I press down all 6 it comes out muted. When I leave my finger hovering it also comes out muted.


The only way I've been able to get it actually resonating reasonably is if I press down on the big E and A strings, but it results in a fair amount of vibration. When I use E and A it does sound like it but like I said, vibration and ever so slightly different to how it should. 


Can anybody explain to me what I'm doing wrong? 


Sorry for being an absolute gaylord too.

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The short and admittedly glib answer, is practice. I'm presuming that you are using a steel stringed guitar or maybe a 'flamenco" style nylon stringed instrument....whilst practice will develope the suppleness required for barring, you may find it easier to look at other options to help. I've always found that playing with other musicians helps enormously...you just have to keep up!


Have you tried a narrower necked guitar like an Ovation for instance? (I fell in love with the Ovation neck years ago when I picked up one and it just seemed to "melt" into my hand, and that was a 12 string)...very expensive I know, but there are plenty of more reasonably priced boxes out there these days. It is, of course, down to personal choice but a narrower neck does make it a lot easier for starters.


The way we are built is a factor....just take a look at how Clapton or Martin Simpson bar......if only I could get somewhere near that!....I can only dream!


I've met Martin Simpson a few times and been to a couple of his workshops.......practice, prcatice, practice...he swears by it.


Saying that, plenty of musicians manage without much barring....maybe try experimenting with alternative tunings.


Have you had lessons?.....any decent tutor will be able to help, and what's more, I'm sure you would enjoy it.


And that is by far the most important ingredient....enjoyment..

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It might not look cool but try sitting with the guitar in a classical style position facing a mirror, lower your so elbow so there is a straight line running from your barre finger down your forearm,

It also helps to position your thumb in the middle of the neck behind the barre finger and squeeze/clamp the finger and thumb together this should eliminate any buzzing.

Other than that it really is just practise, hope this helps and let us know how you're getting on.

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Guest Steve French

I was taught (as a weak and feeble child) to start off by holding the finger on the two thinnest strings first (at first fret) then working down the fretboard before gradually adding an extra string each rotation. This builds accuracy and strength in the fingers (as well as an understanding of the fretboard for beginners).

Just a quick note, to practice control with pressure when playing barre chords try practice playing natural barre harmonics across the fretboard.

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All good advice...and the classical style is to have your thumb behind the neck and press down the barre with your index finger...you don't have to press that hard, relax.


In rock and jazz use the thumb to press down the 6th string and just play a first position F shape etc with the index finger barring strings 1 and 2.  With this you don't have your thumb behind the neck, but just grip it in your hand.  This frees you up to play scales and chord embellishments without moving your hand position.


If you're struggling to barre then it's probably your finger position rather than how hard you're pressing.  Try to press just behind the fret, not necessarily in the middle....check each string individually for dead spots....relax and reposition until it's right.  You don't have to use a gorilla grip.

Edited by Tyto Alba
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index finger MUST press down tightly on the neck,supported by the thumb at the back of the neck,this can be painful even for seasoned players if prolonged so dont go beating yourself up over it,play a E major with your index finger free,starting at the 1st fret(F) play this chord for 5-10 mins per day and eventually the buzzing sound will disappear,good luck jon.

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Also try rolling your index finger away from the fret slightly, so you are pressing more with the bony edge rather than the fleshy part. You don't have to press so hard then.

Whatever position you adopt with the thumb (middle of the neck is best imo), make sure your fingers are parallel to the frets. Dropping the elbow and wrist is the best way to achieve this, and it helps eliminate buzzing.

Most importantly, burn your acoustic and get an electric.

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