Barre Chords Unlocked: Key 1: Expansion

There are two keys to mastery of barre chords.

  1. One coordinated Gesture of expansion
  2. Adduction of the index finger

When done correctly very little strength is required. The technique requires balance and coordination. Even very young children can play complex classical repertoire on the guitar that requires extensive use of the barre. Have a look at the young Lie Jie on YouTube to see an 11 year old girl doing just this.

Very little strength is required.

If you are playing electric guitar the task is much easier again due to the low string action.

Both these elements must work together for successful barre chords. What do I mean by successful barre chords?

  1. Barre chords which don't tire the hand
  2. Barre chords which allow freedom of fingers 2, 3, and 4.

Let's look at the elements one by one and then put them together in a couple of musical examples.

1. One Coordinated Gesture of Expansion

First - Let a gesture of expansion flow from your back, through your arms, via the fingers, and onto the strings.

The strings are not so much "held down" as they are "embraced" by the subtle expansion of your back.

How do you know if you are engaged in a gesture of expansion? One simple test is that your elbows will move away from your sides. In a contracting gesture the elbows will tend to move towards your sides.


  1. The left arm moves to present the passive hand over the appropriate position on the guitar neck.
  2. The hand rotates to align the fingertips with the chord or scale.
  3. The index finger aligns the proximal, medial and distal phalanxes, forming a "barre".
  4. "Cradle the Guitar" with an expanding posture
  5. The thumb remains passive.
  6. The thumb contacts the neck but does not squeeze.

Read the next article in this series: Barre Chords Unlocked: Key 2: The Barre

This article is an excerpt from:

Barre Chords Unlocked
Barre Chords Unlocked.

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