10 Essential Barre Chords Every Guitar Player Should Know

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Written By Will Fenton

Founder of MidderMusic. From numerous bands to stints working in music shops, read more about me on the 'Here's My Story' page!

Learning barre chords on guitar is crucial for every guitar player.

But mastering barre chords can be a bit tricky for beginners because it requires finger strength and dexterity.

However, guitar bar chords are extremely useful – with one shape, you can play any chord on the guitar neck.

So in today’s article, we will teach you how to play essential barre chords in an easy way! 

What Is a Barre Chord? 

So what are bar chords on guitar?

In short, a barre chord (or bar chord) is played by pressing down multiple strings with only one finger. So, it’s like a bar pressing down the strings across a single fret.

A barre chord is also movable, which means that you can move the whole chord shape up and down the neck.

In other words, learning barre chord shapes allows you to move between chords quickly. 

By learning essential barre chords, you can move your finger to a different fret and play in any key.

However, many beginners struggle with guitar bar chords. It takes effort to press down a string properly, and if your fingers aren’t strong enough (especially your index finger), you might find the action a bit challenging.

Nevertheless, with the right approach and enough practice, you’ll probably get there sooner than you think.

But first thing first – let us show you how to play the most basic guitar barre chords.

Basic Barre Chords

1. E Major Shape 

One of the first Major barre chords you should learn is the E Major bar chord.

It’s the most common major barre chord. 

These forms have roots on the 6th (low E) string, so they’re also known as 6th root bar chords.

In a barre chords chart, the E Major barre chord would look like this: 

E Major barre chord.
  • Index finger – bar it over every string on the initial fret
  • Middle finger on the 3rd (G) string and the fret beneath the bar
  • Ring finger on the 5th (A) string and the 2nd fret under the barre
  • Pinky finger on the 4th (D) string and the 2nd fret (the same fret as the ring finger)

This is the easiest way to play the E major bar chord.

Just like most guitar barre chords, this major chord is moveable. Therefore, you can play over 15 different chords by moving this barre chord to different positions of the fretboard.

These are some of the examples – you just need to place your index finger on the marked fret:

  • C: barre the 8th fret
  • C#: barre the 9th fret
  • D: barre the 10th fret
  • D#: barre the 11th fret
  • E: barre the 12th fret
  • F: barre the 1st fret
  • F#: barre the 2nd fret
  • G: barre the 3rd fret
  • G#: barre the 5th fret
  • A: barre the 5th fret
  • A#: barre the 6th fret

2. A Major Shape

The A Major bar chord is based on an open A chord.

It’s arguably one of the most useful moveable barre chords.

It goes like this:

A Major bar chord.
  • Index finger over the indicated fret to the 5th (A) string
  • Middle finger on the 4th (D) string, two frets below the bar
  • Ring finger on the 3rd (G) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger on the 2nd (B) string, two frets under the barre

And to play different major chords, you need to put the bar on these positions:

  • C: the 3rd fret
  • C#: the 4th fret
  • D: the 5th fret
  • D#: the 6th fret
  • E: the 7th fret
  • F: the 8th fret
  • F#: the 9th fret
  • G: the 10th fret
  • G#: the 11th fret
  • B: the 2nd fret

3. E Minor Shape 

The next essential bar chord you should learn is the E Minor bar chord.

The E Minor can be played the same way as the E Major shape but with your 2nd finger lifted off.

E Minor bar chord.
  • Index finger over every string on the desired fret
  • Ring finger placed on the 5th (A) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger on the 4th (D) string, two frets under the barre

To play minor chords, you need to barre the following frets:

  • Dm: the 10th fret
  • D#m: the 11th fret
  • Em: the 12th fret
  • Fm – barre the 1st fret
  • F#m – barre the 2nd fret
  • Gm – barre the 3rd fret
  • G#m – barre the 4th fret
  • Am – barre the 5th fret
  • A#m – barre the 6th fret
  • Bm – barre the 7th fret

4. A Minor Shape 

The A Minor shape is also one of the most important barre chords.

These barre chords have roots on the 5th (A) string.

A Minor shape
  • Index finger – bar it over the indicated fret to the 5th (A) string
  • Middle finger placed on the 2nd (B) string on the fret beneath the barre
  • Ring finger on the 4th (D) string, two frets under the bar
  • Pinky finger pressing down the 3rd (G) string, two frets below the bar

To play various minor chords, you just need to place the bar here:

  • Cm: the 3rd fret
  • C#m: the 4th fret
  • Dm: the 5th fret
  • D#m: the 6th fret
  • Em: the 7th fret
  • Fm: the 8th fret
  • F#m: the 9th fret
  • Gm: the 10th fret
  • G#m: the 11th fret
  • Am: the 12th fret
  • A#m: the 1st fret
  • Bm: the 2nd fret

5. E Major 7th-Shape

The next chord you should practice is the major seventh in the 6th root.

E Major 7th-Shape.
  • Index finger barred over every string on the desired fret
  • Middle finger set on the 3rd (G) string beneath the bar
  • Ring finger on the 5th (A) string, two frets below the barre

6. A Major 7th-Shape

If you want to play the major seventh in the 5th root, you need to do this:

A Major 7th-Shape.
  • Index finger – bar it over the first five strings on the necessary fret
  • Ring finger on the 4th (D) string, two frets beneath the bar
  • Pinky finger on the 2nd (B) string, two frets under the bar

7. E Minor 7th-Shape

To play this minor seventh in the 6th root, you have to do the following:

E Minor 7th-Shape.
  • Index finger – bar it over every string on the wanted fret
  • Ring finger on the 5th (A) string, two frets under the barre

This is a relatively simple barre chord as it normally requires you to fret just one note and play all six strings.

8. A Minor 7th-Shape

This minor barre chord is also relatively easy to play.

It goes like this:

A Minor 7th-Shape
  • Index finger – bar it over the first five strings on the chosen fret
  • Middle finger placed on the 2nd (B) string on the fret under the barre
  • Ring finger set on the 4th (D) string, two frets beneath the barre

9. Esus4 Shape

The Esus4 stands for “suspended 4th”.

It’s in the 6th root, and it can be played in several ways.

The easiest way to play an Esus4 barre chord is by using this fingering:

Esus4 barre chord.
  • Index finger – barre it over every string on the desired fret
  • Middle finger on the 5th (A) string, two frets below below the barre
  • Ring finger on the 4th (D) string, two frets below the barre
  • Pinky finger on the 3rd (G) string, two frets under the bar

10. Barre Chord Variations 

All of the barre chords we showed you above are popular bar chords that are not so difficult to master.

However, as a beginner, you can also try to play simple barre chord variations.

The thing is, partial chords can be just as effective as full chords. 

And you just need to trim the chord shape and play an inverted chord that is much simpler.

You can get inverted chords if you remove the bass root note that falls on string 5 or 6. 

These are chord charts for some of the most common bar chords variations: 

Barre Chord Variations.

Practicing Barre Chords 

As we’ve already mentioned, mastering barre chords is not an easy task.

However, there are some things you can do to make things easier.

For starters, you can start by training your index finger as developing strength in the index finger is crucial. You can simply create a bar on any fret and strum the strings until you get a clean sound.

This will also give you an idea of how much pressure you need to apply to get a good sound.

Also, when barring across the strings, make sure that you’re pressing close to the fret – you’ll get a cleaner sound with less effort. 

Another useful tip is to practice fretting around the middle of the guitar neck. This will make things easier for your hands.

You can also experiment with wrist positions – a good position should be comfortable and allow you to easily access the strings.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to what suits you best. Of course, these guitar playing tips can be very helpful, but the clarity of the chord also depends on your hands, previous experience, and finger strength.

The important thing is to take it slowly – practice the essential barre chords (or easy bar chord variations), learn the easy way, and progress towards the more challenging positions. 

It takes time to play barre chords smoothly, so you have to be patient and persistent.

But we promise you – it will be worth it! 

Essential Barre Chords – Final Thoughts 

Playing barre chords on guitar can be a bit frustrating in the beginning.

But if you start with easy chord shapes and take your time to practice, you’ll be able to play them well in no time.

As you progress, you’ll also develop strength and dexterity, and everything will be so much easier! 

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