Saturday, 30 March 2013

Confession #11 - Learn Root 6 Barre Chords!

Barre chords are very popular chords for a few reasons:
  • One, they are pretty easy to play,
  • Two, they allow you to play a bunch of chords using only one chord shape, and
  • Three, the bottom strings of the chord make a cool rock sound.
So what is a barre chord?

WARNING!  Barre chords can be very hard on your fretting hand.  Make sure that you warm-up first (see Confession #6 - Warm-Up!).  If you start to feel any pain or discomfort in your fretting had, stop immediately!  If you keep on playing, you can do serious damage to your fretting hand.


Let's take a look at a basic open E chord.  Generally, you will use fingers 1, 2 and 3 to play the open E chord, like this:

But what if you used fingers 2,3 and 4, like this:

Then finger 1 (your index finger) would be free to do other things.  No, I don't mean making rude gestures at the drummer.

Let's use the 2, 3, 4 fingering, and then slide each finger up one fret like this:

If you strum all of the strings now, its not going to sound very musical.  Why is that?

When we slid fingers 2, 3 and 4 up one fret, we changed the pitch of 3 of the 6 strings by 1 semi-tone (see Confession #8 - Learn the Major Scale! if you are unsure of what a semi-tone is), but the pitch of the other 3 strings was unchanged.


How do we change the pitch of the other 3 strings by 1 semi-tone as well?  We do this by barring finger 1 across all the strings at the first fret, like this:

Now the pitch of strings 1, 2 and 6 have also been changed by 1 semi-tone.  The resulting chord is an F chord.

By barring finger 1 across all the strings at the first fret, we are using our finger as a moveable nut (the 0th fret is the guitar's nut).

TIP:  It takes a fair bit of pressure with finger 1 to properly fret strings 1, 2 and 6.  If you aren't using enough pressure, they either won't sound properly or at all.  Make sure you are barring just behind the fret.  Also, tuck you elbow in at your side.  This will provide some leverage to create the needed pressure.


We can take this shape that our 4 fingers are making and slide it up and down the neck to make different chords.  For example, if your barre the 3rd fret while holding the same shape with fingers 2, 3 and 4, you'll be making a G chord, like this:

How do you know that this is a G chord?  Here is the G chord chart again, but this time with the names of the notes, instead of the fingerings:

This is a G chord because the note at the 3rd fret of the sixth string is a G.  That's the note that gives the chord its name.


Because the name of the chord comes from the name of the note on the sixth string, a barre chord based on the shape of an open E chord is called a "root 6 barre chord".  The note on the 6th string is the root note of the chord.

Because it is based on the shape of an open E chord, it is also sometimes referred to as an "E shape barre chord".


Now that you know how to play a root 6 barre chord, you can play a whole bunch of different chords, just by moving this shape up and down the neck.

This week's video includes 2 examples that are based entirely on root 6 barre chords.  The first example is a simple chord progression based on the I, IV and V chords in the key of E (being E, A and B major chords). Note the use of the 'folk rhythm' (see Confession #10 - Learn the Folk Rhythm!) over the IV chord (i.e. the A chord played at the 5th fret).

The second example is something I came up with that uses E major and E7 shape barre chords.  Lift finger 4 (your pinky) and you'll be playing a 7 chord.  In case you are wondering, I am changing keys in this progression. Don't ask me which ones.  I came up with this by ear and thought that it sounded cool.


As you are experimenting with the root 6 barre chord, you will be learning the names of the notes on your sixth string.

Note in the chart for the G chord above, that the note at the 5th fret of the fourth string was also a G.

So, once you learn where a note is on the 6th string, you now also know where to find that same note on the 4th string, like this:

As you are learning your root 6 bare chords, you are also learning the names of the noes on the sixth string  and the names of the notes on the fourth string.


Take another look at the G chord above.  The notes on the bottom 3 strings are G - D - G,  the second G being one octave higher than the first.  From a theory perspective, these notes are the root, the fifth and the octave in the key of G (I'll explain the theory in a future confession).  If you play just these bottom 3 strings, you get that cool rock sound.

Turn up your amp, turn on the overdrive channel, strum the bottom 3 strings, and let them ring!

Next Week's Confession - Learn Root 5 Barre Chords!

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