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.

Features:

  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.

Click here to download Barre Chords Unlocked for free!

Barre Chords Unlocked: Key 2: The Barre

2. The Barre

The index finger is the mechanism by which we convey pressure from the back muscles to the strings.

Most of the time the side of the index finger nearest the thumb will transmit the pressure to the strings.

If you try and play a chord by "gripping" the strings you will limit the mobility of the fingers and increase fatigue. So, to reiterate, the energy comes from the overall posture, not from the gripping action of the fingers.

Let's get familiar with the roles of the fingers in a barre chord by practicing on a table.

Again, here are the joints in the left hand:

Place your left hand palm down on the table.

Now relax the hand and fing the natural position on the fingertips. The natural position of the fingers is slightly curved.

Straighten the Distal and Middle phalanx of the index finger.

Move the proximal phalanx of the 1st finger away from the 2nd finger.

Check that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers are still free to move about.

 

Now move the 4th finger away from the others. This movement is occasionally necessary for chords.

There we have it! These are the finger movements necessary to play barre chords.

Next we will apply these movements to the guitar.

Next: Barre Chords Unlocked: The 1/2 Barre

This article is an excerpt from:

Barre Chords Unlocked
Barre Chords Unlocked.

Click here to download Barre Chords Unlocked for free!

Browse and download all the books by Peter Inglis.

Barre Chords Unlocked: The 1/2 Barre

The 1/2 barre is defined as a barre that covers less than 6 strings.

Let's practice this with the a common barre chord of F major in 1st position.

Steps in forming the 1/2 barre:

  1. Move the proximal phalanx of the 1st finger away from the 2nd finger.
  2. Straighten the Distal and Middle phalanx
  3. Move the arm away from your body. Allow the pressure of the arm to flow through the finger structure to the strings.

Steps 1 and 2 occur at the same time in application. You should practice them separately until you have integrated them into your playing.


Move the proximal phalanx of the 1st finger away from the 2nd finger.


Straighten the Distal and Middle phalanx of the 1st finger.


Move the arm away from your body.
Allow the pressure of the arm to flow through the finger structure to the strings.


Adjust the elbow position until the other fingers are in position to fall onto the notes.

Next: Barre Chords Unlocked: The Full Barre

This article is an excerpt from:

Barre Chords Unlocked
Barre Chords Unlocked.

Click here to download Barre Chords Unlocked for free!

Browse and download all the books by Peter Inglis.

Barre Chords Unlocked: The Full Barre

Let's practice a full barre using the chord of C minor with a G in the bass.

Steps in forming the full barre:


Straighten the distal, middle and proximal phalanx of the index finger.


Move the left arm away from the body to communicate pressure through the index finger.


Adjust your elbow until the fingers are in position to fall onto the notes.

This article is an excerpt from:

Barre Chords Unlocked
Barre Chords Unlocked.

Click here to download Barre Chords Unlocked for free!

Browse and download all the books by Peter Inglis.

Barre Chords Unlocked

What will we learn in this book?

How to play barre chords easily and without strain.

Who is the book for?

This book will help three main categories of guitarist:

  1. Beginners.
  2. Frustrated guitarists who want to get the guitar out of the closet and have another crack at it.
  3. People who wish to avoid strain injury.

Read more: Barre Chords Unlocked