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How to play barre chords!

September 20, 2017

 

 

I get asked a lot about barre chords!

 

It's sad, but lots of people tell me that they skip over a lesson if it has the dreaded B minor chord in it, even if it's a song they've always wanted to learn.

 

Recently I made a video about how to play them - you know, really play them, not just skip over them or pretend they don't exist!

 

 

If you haven't watched it already, you should probably check it out when you have a couple of minutes to spare.

 

But if you haven't got a couple of minutes to spare, let me sum up some of the key points for you:

 

What is a barre chord?

Generally speaking, a barre chord is when you use the index finger on your left hand to cover more than one string at the same time.

 

Sounds painful, but it doesn't have to be - even if, like me, you are cursed with tiny hands!

 

So why do people get so stressy about them?

It all comes down to technique, and knowing what you're doing!

 

If a chord requires you to push down on all four strings at the same time, the natural instinct is to try and press your index finger down really, really hard.

 

That can cause your hand to cramp up, and it becomes doubly frustrating when not only can you not play the barre chords, but now with a crampy hand, the basic chords also seem like an insurmountable challenge!

 

Ok, so how do I avoid cramp in the fingers? What's the 'secret' to barre chords?

Good question (finally)....

 

The secret is... all in the thumb!

 

Yes, with a well placed thumb up the backside of the ukulele (oo-er...), you can anchor your left-hand and give it a bit of extra support, so you don't have to clamp down as hard with your index finger.

 

Clamp your thumb in the centre of the back of your ukulele, and then get the barre in place with your index finger.

 

You'll find with the thumb solidly in place you won't even need to push down so hard with your index finger. Your thumb is a lot stronger than the index finger. That's why we play thumb wars not index finger wars!

 

Anything else I need to know that might come in handy?

Yes! Barre chords are really good at figuring out how to play a chord quickly if you can't remember.

 

Because once you've got a good, strong barre in place, it can be a shame to let it go.

 

So let's say, for example, you're playing the chord of B:

 

And you've got that barre chord nice and tight on the second fret...

 

If you slide the whole shape up one more fret, you've got the chord of C.

 

Two more frets and you've got the chord of D!

 

Another two frets and you're playing a chord of E.

 

And it works for every single shape as well, so if you're playing a minor chord, a seventh chord, a minor seventh, or any other shape with a barre in it, you can be safe in the knowledge that if you slide it up and down the fretboard long enough, you'll eventually find every possible chord you could need!

 

 

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility! It won't sound good at all if you just slide up and down the fretboard the whole time playing barre chords, so try not to overuse this superpower too much at first, no matter how tempting it may be! (Just ask any heavy metal guitarist who's recently discovered power chords...)

 

Ok, I've skimmed through the blog, and watched your video while I had 6 other tabs open on my browser and was WhatsApping my friends at the same time. Why am I still struggling to play barre chords?

 

You'll still need to take a bit of time to really get the hang of this! Start slow, and don't be afraid to take breaks if you need them. Maybe just practice your barres for a few minutes a day to begin with?

 

Your thumb and fingers will need to get used to moving in a whole new way to begin with, and that will take time! Not to mention giving your brain a chance to catch up with all the new shapes and information you've just learnt.

 

Ok, thanks, that seems like really good advice. Is there anything I can do for you in return?

 

Sure, why not! Perhaps you could click on one of the Amazon banners at the top of the page?

 

Or maybe check out this link to a Kala Travel Tenor ukulele! Even if you don't buy this particular uke, if you do end up getting anything at all from Amazon in the next 24 hours, then I get a tiny percentage back from them and it helps me to keep this site running and post more regular content like this!

 

It's a deal! I'll click on it right now! 

 

Thanks, you're the best!

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