Dansm's Beginner's Guide to Chords

The Barring Finger

Barre chords are an integral part of playing guitar. Probably 80% of all chords are barre chords in various forms. The hardest part of barre chords is learning how to use your index finger to barre all six strings at one fret. This page is designed to help you with this. Don't expect to be able to do this overnight--it took me three or four months until my fingers had enough strength to be able to barre at all. So take your time and don't get discouraged. Good luck!
The first exercise will help the finger position of your barring finger. Work at this one for a while; you won't be able to do the chords until you can do this. Let's get started!

First, place the edge of your index finger at the second fret across all 6 strings. The part of your index finger which should be touching the strings is shown in red in the diagram below:



Now, simply strum as you normally would. Make sure you are holding down all six strings while you are strumming. This will be very difficult at first, so don't get discouraged. The main difficulties are getting the proper orientation of your finger on the strings, and having enough hand strength to hold the strings down. Keep working at it, trying different hand positions and finger positions to see if they may help. Also, make sure you are using your thumb to hold down your index finger. If you have a strength problem, try some of the exercises on my page on strengthening your hand, especially the exercise on "Strengthening Your Thumb."

Once you can consistently hold down all six strings while you strum, you can progress to the barre chords. When you learn the shapes of the chords, and can therefore play the chords in songs, you will be able to practice this more and it will eventually come to you. I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
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1997 Daniel E. Smith. Last updated 12-20-97