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Introduction to Bar (or Barre) Chords

E Major Bar Guitar chord form

Let's look now at some more moveable chord types that are very useful alternatives to the open position chord forms. These chords will allow us to move up the neck, and provide some variety of tone. However, they are going to be more challenging at first. But with practice, you will eventually play them effortlessly!

We will start by examining our E major chord on the open position. Now imagine re-arranging your fingers so that you are making this chord with fingers 2,3,& 4 instead of the 1,2,& 3 we use for the open position E major. Now imagine sliding this chord up so that fingers 3 and 4 are on the fifth fret, as shown in the chord chart at right.

Now, imagine that we are also going to slide the nut up to maintain the E major chord form. How can we do this? We can't actually slide the nut up. However, what we can do is place the index finger across the third fret to simulate having the nut at the third fret. Keep in mind that the 1 finger need only apply fretting pressure to the notes not held by fingers 2, 3, & 4. You may find this fingering hard to master at first. Keep working on it and you will get it.

G Major Bar Guitar chord, E form

Now, what kind of chord do we have? Is it still an E major? Let's look at the notes and see. From string 6, we have a G, D, G, B, D, G. If we strip this down to exclude the repetitions, starting with the most bass note on the sixth string, we have G, B, and D notes: G major. Note that we are using an E bar chord form, but the chord is G major. Do not confuse the name of the bar chord form (E) with the actual chord (G).

Now play this chord and then play a G major in the open position. You will notice that it has the sound of the G major open posiiton, but slightly different. We call this difference in sound quality of the same chord voicing.

This chord is also a moveable chord just like our fifth chords. So we can slide it up and down the fretboard just like with the fifth chords. The note on the sixth string will determine what the chord is. For example, if using this form and the index finger is on the fifth fret of the 6th string (A note), this will be an A Major chord. Slide up two more frets and you have a B Major. You may occasionally see this chord form identified as a Grand Barre, so named because of the "grand" bar across all six strings with the index finger. Go through all the major bar chords in the E bar form and compare them to the sound of the same chord on the open position.

Now let's look at a very useful aspect of this chord form. We can change the chord type with very little change of our hand position, just like with the open position chords. Let's begin with an analysis of the intervals in the major form, then make some alterations to get various chord types. We will start with the minor chord. To get from G major to G minor, we must flat the third interval by one half step. Look at the chord charts below and compare the fingerings, and interval numbers across the bottom of the charts. You can see that to get from major to minor, we need only lift one finger from the major form.

G Major Bar Intervals G Minor Bar Intervals

Now let's take a look at the Major Seventh and Dominant Seventh varieties of these E Bar Chord forms. Notice in the case of G Major 7 that we have had to make significant alterations to the chord to be able include the 7th interval, given the layout of the guitar and the limits of what our hands can do. For the Dominant Seventh chord we merely drop the first interval note on the fourth string, so that our existing placement of the bar finger will yield the flatted 7th interval note.

G Major 7 Bar Guitar chord Intervals G 7 Bar Guitar chord Intervals

Bear in mind that all these chord forms are moveable, and the chord key will be identified by the bass note on the sixth string. Try substituting these chords in place of the open position chord as you practice I-IV-V chord progressions. Use the Major Seventh chords as substitutes for the major triad chords, and the Dominant Seventh as a substitute for the V chord. This will make for some awkward leaps along the fretboard. We will look at a way to eliminate that problem in the next lesson. For now the idea is to get familiar with the sound of these chord voicings, and see how they sound within a chord progression.

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