Saturday, 6 April 2013

Confession #12 - Learn Root 5 Barre Chords!

In Confession #11 - Learn Root 6 Barre Chords! we learned how to play a bunch of different major chords by sliding an E shape chord up the neck, and using our first finger as a barre.  There is another very commonly used barre chord called a Root 5 barre chord, or an A shape 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 A chord.  Generally, you will use fingers 1,2 and 3 to play the A chord, like this:

But what if you used only finger 3, like this:

Then finger 1 (your index finger) would be free to do other things.

Let's use the 3 only fingering, and then slide it up two frets like this:

As in the the lesson on Root 6 barre chords, if you strum strings 1 thru 5 now, its not going to sound very musical (remember, when playing an A chord, we don't strum the sixth string, so don't do it when you are playing A shape barre chords).  When we slid finger 3 up two frets, we changed the pitch of 3 of the 5 strings by 2 semi-tones (see Confession #8 - Learn the Major Scale! if you are unsure of what a semi-tone is), but the pitch of the other 2 strings was unchanged.

EDIT:  In each of the 3 diagrams above, the second string should not have an "O" beside it. (It's a pain to redo the diagrams.)


How do we change the pitch of the other 2 strings by 2 semi-tones as well?  We do this by barring finger 1 across all the strings at the 2nd fret, like this:

Now the pitch of strings 1 and 5 have also been changed by 1 semi-tone.  The resulting chord is an B chord.

By barring finger 1 across all the strings at the 2nd fret, we are using our finger as a moveable nut (the 0th fret is the guitar's nut).

Don't worry if the barre with your third finger prevents the first string from sounding.  As you'll see in the chart below for the C chord, all 3 notes of the chord are included in the notes played on strings two thru five.

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 and slide it up and down the neck to make different chords.  For example, if you barre the 3rd fret while holding the same shape with finger 3, you'll be making a C chord, like this:

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

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


Because the name of the chord comes from the fifth string, a barre chord based on the shape of an open A chord is called a "root 5 barre chord".  The note on the fifth string is the root note of the chord.

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


Now that you know how to play a root 5 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 an example that is based entirely on root 5 barre chords.  The example is a simple chord progression based on the I, IV and V chords in the key of A (being A, D and E major chords). Note the use of the 'folk rhythm' (see Confession #10 - Learn the Folk Rhythm!) over the IV chord (i.e. the D chord played at the 5th fret).


As you are experimenting with the root 5 barre chord, you will be learning the names of the notes on your fifth string.

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

So, once you learn where a note is on the 5th string, you now also know where to find that same note on the 3rd string, like this:

As you are learning your root 5 barre chords, you are also learning the names of the notes on the fifth string  and the names of the notes on the 3rd string.


Take another look at the C chord above.  The notes on the bottom 3 strings are C - E - C,  the second C 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 C (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 More Barre Chords!

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