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And Now...Barre Chords! (Guitar Lesson)


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David Isaacs

And Now...Barre Chords!

You knew it was coming! This is the lesson where we stop dancing around full fingered moveable chords and dive head first into the most common barre chord shapes. They're not as bad as you may be fearing. Isaacs' straight forward, musical approach particularly shines on this often avoided topic for beginners.

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 19:21Difficulty: 2.0 of 5


Mastering barre chords is one of the biggest challenges for most beginning guitarists. But the payoff is worth the effort, because barre chords are moveable and can be played in any position. One shape allows you to play all 12 chords, one for every note of the chromatic scale. When you consider that the open position forms only give us 5 major and 3 minor chords, it’s easy to see how the barre forms are a powerful and important addition to your vocabulary.

Let’s start by revisiting the simple 4-string F you learned a while back. You can see this formation at 00:17: a partial barre at the first fret covering the 1st and 2nd strings (possibly the third as well), with the middle finger at the second fret of the 3rd string and the ring finger at the third fret of the 4th string. This is a perfectly usable form of the F chord, and in some situations it will be the best option. But let’s add some more notes to fill out the bass.

In general, you’ll probably find that it’s easier to build a barre chord by planting the other fingers first. Because the index can easily extend away from the other fingers, most people find it more comfortable to lay it across the strings after the other fingers are secure. In this case, we’ll start by holding that 4-string F and releasing the ring finger. Replace it with the pinky and move the ring to the third fret of the 5th string. You may want to release the index as well. Make sure all three remaining fingers are secure and relaxed, sitting on the fingertips and allowing all the notes to ring out. These three fingers form your point of balance, the center of gravity of the hand.

Extend the index finger fully by uncurling the knuckles, dropping your wrist slightly towards to floor as you do. You should now be able to bring the index in to touch all six strings, but don’t try to lay it flat! Your extended finger will have a slight natural curl…this is OK, because your other three fingers are already covering the inside strings. If you allow the index to turn slightly towards the headstock so the side of your finger contacts the string, it creates a powerful “hinge” that should hold down the 1st and 2nd strings at the first fret. If those two notes aren’t sounding, experiment with the position of your finger: you want to make sure that the base segment of your finger is on the strings, not the knuckle. The side of that base segment is the closest to a flat surface, and you might also notice that when you take the hand away from the guitar the thumb lays easily against that part of the index finger. This spot applies pressure most efficiently and helps hold the strings down securely. Bring the fingertip in to contact the 6th string, remembering that you only need to make that one string sound. You may find that the pad or even the side of your finger lands most naturally. Everyone’s hands are a little different, so find the spot that feels most comfortable – or at least, the least awkward!

If you’re not able to make all the strings sound, focus on the other three fingers and make sure all the notes sound clearly. When you bring the index finger in, try not to let the other fingers change position. This is a matter of finger independence, which does take time to develop. If you find that you can’t get a clear sound, don’t despair. Don’t force it or try to grip too hard. Work with it for five minutes or so, take a break, then come back to it for another five. Then leave it for the day and move on to something else. Repeated work on this chord will help develop the independence you need, but it’s also important to rotate your practice. Breaking up your practice sessions keeps the mind sharper and works on multiple issues in each session.

Once you can make the full F chord sound clearly, you can move it to any other fret to create a new chord. For our exercise “Shake It”, we’re going to glide up to the third fret, moving our F chord up a whole step to a G. This is the big concept and the great value of barre chords: as you move along the neck, you climb the scale. So first fret F becomes third fret G.

Pay attention to the syncopated rhythm of “Shake It”. You’ll hear this clearly at 2:43 of the second video. Remember that we’re applying the strum concept that should be familiar by now: since the strumming hand stays in motion, the G chord that appears on the last eighth note (the “and of 4”) will be played by an upstroke. Be sure to follow the chart as you watch the video so you’re clear on the form. As always, listening and watching before you start to play helps set up a mental framework. This way you know what you’re trying to do before you do it. “Talk” or tap the rhythm to absorb it into your ear. Practice slowly, keeping the beat, before you start playing along with the track.

The last section of the second video begins to add some variations to the rhythm, and also includes some percussive elements. This is something we’re going to continue to build on as we move forward. Once you start to get comfortable, this one should be a lot of fun…and it’s also pushing forward into new territory that will make hundreds of new songs accessible to you. If it’s challenging, just give it time and don’t give up…you’ll get there.







Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


Slowblues167Slowblues167 replied on March 31st, 2017

Love the lesson. Again - where's the chart? It's referenced in the video but is not provided as a resource.

FunkyHFunkyH replied on January 16th, 2017

Thanks a lot! Awesome lesson (and series!) Thanks from Germany

poolie727poolie727 replied on January 14th, 2017

I love ah hah moments and this was one of them. When David mentions that the F cord can be moved up the neck two steps to be a G cord, well two more steps and it's an A cord, and so on. Don't know why that never soaked in earlier.

PaulthebikePaulthebike replied on July 31st, 2016

Good lesson but no proper printout as in video

scannon120scannon120 replied on April 13th, 2016

Thanks David, there is a whole lot here and thanks for making it look achievable.

arceaarcea replied on December 19th, 2015

Nice Job David Thanks

jcaputo1jcaputo1 replied on December 1st, 2015

It a really nice 4 cord song. Good enough to have Lyrics to it.

jcaputo1jcaputo1 replied on December 1st, 2015

Enter your comment here.

silentnoisesilentnoise replied on November 16th, 2015

fun stuff. thanks. I'm amazed at the difference in teaching techniques on jamplay. I'm very happy I found it.

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied on November 2nd, 2015

An extremely talented teacher, you've helped me a boatload.

danonwheelsdanonwheels replied on August 19th, 2015

Your an Awesome Teacher David.....You've helped me a lot man Thanks from the UK

Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Whether you've never played before, or your coming back to guitar after brief startup attempt, you'll find everything you need to get going in this series. David uses real musical examples to teach even the most basic concepts and techniques.



Lesson 1

The Series Introduction

Don't get stuck learning chords, scales and theory with nowhere to apply the things you work on. Take the "David Isaacs" approach and learn the guitar by using real music. You'll be playing along with...

Length: 2:32 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Lesson 2

Strings & Things

Tune up, learn your way around your guitar, and explore a simple, musical picking exercise to help you learn the string names. You'll be playing right out of the gate!

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Hands on the Fretboard

Learn hand position, posture and see how to set up your playing for success when it comes to your fret hand. Dave goes in depth with his discussion and demonstration of hand mechanics. Don't miss this...

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Your First Song!

Learn the E7 minor and Am chords and then immediately put them to use with a simple song. Play along to the provided backing track and feel like you're part of the band...It's only your 4th lesson! Keep...

Length: 15:32 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Power to the Chords

Power chords are some of the most simple and ubiquitous tools for playing and making great songs. Learn the most basic shapes and put them to use right here! Dave also discusses the beginnings of strumming...

Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Music & Melody

Learn a simple melody and take in a little info about what a 'key' is. You can learn the melody and have a friend strum the rhythm. Or, do it the other way around!

Length: 18:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Two Finger Chords & More

These simple, musical tools can take you a long way. Use your index and middle fingers to play a simple Am chord and a simple E chord. You'll also learn how to read chord charts and play through another...

Length: 16:46 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

A Simple Melody

You will be introduced to a simple A minor scale and then learn a song that helps you get your new scale under your finger tips!

Length: 12:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Finger Independence

Do you ever feel like you are wearing mittens while you are trying to practice your guitar playing? If you have ever experienced this sensation, this lesson is for you!

Length: 11:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Let's Major on C Major

You'll be introduced to the C Major scale and then you'll be able to put it to use over a soothing acoustic guitar rhythm bed. Have fun!

Length: 10:37 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

The C Chord and G7 Chord

Here you'll get to spend some time applying some fundamental chord shapes. Dave shows how to switch between these two chords seamlessly and, as usual, has a creative example ready to go so you can put...

Length: 18:39 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

G and C Working Together

I know what you're thinking..."I just learned these!" Well, you did learn a C chord and a G chord, but this lesson goes over ways to play these chords together in a chord progression that REALLY sounds...

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Playing Most Songs

You've probably heard it before, but most songs out there can really be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In this lesson, Dave gives you the tools to play most of the songs you know and love!

Length: 14:04 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythm & Charts

We're moving into some new territory with this series now. You'll now be focusing more and more on material that you can play in a band setting. Up until now, you've been applying the basics to real music,...

Length: 24:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

A Taste of the Blues

Learn about the blues form and strum along with a cool, laid back, bluesy track. You'll be able to take the material in this lesson a long way down the road! Don't forget to have fun with it now though...

Length: 12:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Major Pentatonic Music

Learn the C major pentatonic scale and put it to good use over a catchy tune! You'll be surprised how simple this is and how very musical you can be with just 5 notes arranged in a musically interesting...

Length: 8:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Four Fingers and a Chord

The mighty and intimidating F chord is one that most beginners see as a major hurdle in learning the basic chords on the guitar. Dave offers some ways to make the F chord more approachable. Once you examine...

Length: 15:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chord Shapes & Arpeggios

Work on precision with your picking hand and more finger independence with your fretting hand using a soothing practice track called "Chimes". You'll get a good taste of combining melody and rhythm playing...

Length: 15:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Work Those Rhythms

Dave works you through eight different strumming variations, discusses how to feel the groove while keeping the rhythm, and shows you how to take a handful of examples and create any strum pattern you...

Length: 14:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Complete C

Look at the C major scale once again. This time however, you'll get to complete the first position C major pattern. You'll play every note within reach of your first 4 frets. You'll also learn a catchy...

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Return to Chords

Work in the Am, Dm, and Em chords and play them in a melancholy, yet soothing example. You'll also get to work on your basic strumming.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Shifty Pentatonic

Learn the E minor pentatonic scale with a small position shift that will get you out of the open position and moving around the neck a little bit. This is where it really starts to feel like you are owning...

Length: 13:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Let's Major on A Minor

Earlier in the series, we explored the C major scale. In this lesson, the A minor will get some love. Learn the basic open position and use it in a new melody.

Length: 15:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

In 7th Heaven

Back to some chords now. In case you couldn't tell from the title, we'll be focusing on 7th chords for this lesson. You learned A7 a while back, and now you'll learn E7 and B7.

Length: 13:32 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Walkin' The Blues

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back! You've covered a lot of ground so far! You've been playing real music now for some time, and in this lesson, we're going to learn a walking blues line. What is...

Length: 10:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Moveable Chords

Chords that don't have any open strings in them AND chords whose open strings fit comfortably within the chord all called "moveable chords". Learn how to play a couple chords up the neck.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Moveable Pentatonic

In this lesson, you'll take another big step forward when it comes to working outside of the open position. You'll feel like doing some jamming too!

Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Syncopated Strumming

There are eight more strum patterns for you to dig into in this lesson. This time, they are a bit trickier. Follow along with the rhythm charts and take each example in chunks if needed. Combine them with...

Length: 19:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

And Now...Barre Chords!

You knew it was coming! This is the lesson where we stop dancing around full fingered moveable chords and dive head first into the most common barre chord shapes. They're not as bad as you may be fearing....

Length: 19:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Advancing with Blues

As the musical examples continue to distance themselves from that stereotypical beginner sound, Dave works through this track with a simple, moving melody inside a blues progression.

Length: 14:47 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Make It up as You Go

Some of you may have been waiting for this one! Now we'll focus on some improvisation...Some lead playing. It's not about knowing all the scales or trying to be fancy. It is about using what you know...

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Like a Drummer

Learn how to create motion and percussive interest with your strumming. If you look at and listen to how drummers accent general grooves, there is a lot of insight there in to how to make your rhythm playing...

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

New Chords, New Strums

Learn B minor chord and continue developing your feel and grooviness when it comes to strumming. Be sure that you are combing over older lessons as well so that you can incorporate many ideas into what...

Length: 21:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

A Start to Alternate Picking

Develop precision in your picking. Learn when it's best to use alternate picking. Get comfortable with a few exercises and then apply the technique in a musical context!

Length: 20:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

A Little Bluegrass

We're going to continue with rhythm playing and 16th note strumming, but this time we're going to touch on some laid back bluegrass playing. This is another simple style of playing to add to your arsenal.

Length: 10:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

A Bit More on Barre Chords

Learn a few more barre chord forms and get more advanced with your strumming. As you've come to know and love with these lessons, you'll have a chance to learn a new song!

Length: 13:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Here You Are

You've made it a long way if you've made it to the end of this series! In this final lesson of Mr. Isaacs beginner course, you'll spend some dedicated time moving both major and minor barre chord formations...

Length: 21:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About David Isaacs View Full Biography Nashville-based Dave Isaacs has made a name for himself as one of Music City's top guitar instructors, working with both professional and aspiring songwriters and artists at his Music Row teaching studio. He is also an instructor in the music department at Tennessee State University and is the coordinator and artistic director of the annual TSU Guitar Summit.

A seasoned performer as well, Dave has released eight independent CDs and gigs steadily as a solo artist, bandleader, and sideman. He continues to write, record, and perform as well as arranging and producing projects for other artists.

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