Guitar Barre Chords

22nd May

A barre chord lesson

guitar-barre-chordsMake no mistake about it – a barre chord, or bar chord as it is also (although incorrectly) called, can be a real challenge to all budding electric guitar players.

It should go without saying that it is definitely not easier to do correctly and efficiently on an acoustic guitar.

In the following, we will examine some of the ways you can alleviate things and make it easier for yourself to pull of a barre chord/bar chord without calling it quits prematurely, wanting to pull your hairs one by one out or being in urgent need of painkillers or physiotherapy :-)

There are quite a few things you can do both to your playing as well as your guitar, in order to make guitar barre chords quite a bit more manageable.

But first…

What is a barre chord?

The correct spelling of this way of playing a chord is barré. Here, you’ll commonly use your index finger (and occasionally more than one finger) to press down multiple strings across the fretboard on your guitar. You may think of the index finger being a guitar capo or a “bar” pressing the strings down, and perhaps this is where the name bar chord came from.

This action of barring the strings across the fingerboard enables you to play chords not restricted by the notes of the open strings on your guitar.

Bar chords are some times also called moveable chords: The logical reason for this, is that you can easily and quickly move the various chord shapes on the guitar neck as you see fit.

Lowering the bar

I have had several people asking me how they should go about managing these “dreaded bar chords”. In fact, I suspect more than one person has given up the idea to learn electric guitar all together simply because they didn’t manage to play barre chords at all.

The sad thing really is this: The same folks have been chocked at how much easier it could be once their guitar was properly set-up. You see, a badly adjusted guitar makes playing these chords very hard even for experienced players.

To learn more about the importance of proper guitar set-up and our recommended guitar set-up guide, you can read more at this post: Guitar setup. I can guarantee you this: You will likely be amazed at how much easier a properly adjusted guitar is to handle. It can almost be a make or brake issue as far as playing barre chords goes…

How to play barre chords

There are quite a number of small but significant things you can do to you playing technique to make these moveable bar chords easier to do. This includes how to anchor your thumb on the backside of the guitar neck, opposite of the barring finger/s; where to place and how to tilt your bar finger to get cleaner notes and more.

It is always easier to see this in a video, rather than reading a lengthy, written explanation. I reckon the below video should be very helpful to you.

(Don’t) lean into it!

Another thing you should be aware of is that many beginners tend to slump or lean over their guitar in order to see where they place their fingers.  This is a bad habit in general, and really bad for being able to play guitar barre chords properly.

What happens is that it becomes much harder to hold your anchor thumb in the proper position on the guitar neck. It is also much harder to maintain enough pressure with the fretting hand and thumb if you don’t sit straight and hold your fretting hand at a proper angle.

Take it easy!

As with everything else, it is tempting to force yourself and being impatient. Just remember that mastering bar chords takes time. No matter how good your technique is and no matter how good your guitar set-up is, it still takes time to build up sufficient strength in your hand as well as “muscle memory” and coordination.

Remember to go easy on yourself and take brakes. Do some simple barre chord exercises for half an hour maximum to begin with, then play something else (or take a brake all together)!

Follow the above guidelines and you will soon have these chords down :-)

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Used Electric Guitar

9th January

Beginning With A Used Instrument

used electric guitarFinding a used electric guitar – or used acoustic guitar for that matter – should probably be one of the simplest and most straight forward tasks a budding guitar player could ever undertake.

The shops are constantly full of second hand guitars and these stringed instruments are being advertised in guitar magazines and online sites such as Craigslist and eBay by the thousands each and every day.

Add to that another massive number of classified ads running in newspapers and other magazines, plus used guitars changing hands trough bulletin boards and personal contact.

There are many valid reason why someone wanting to learn how to play guitar would want to consider buying  a used guitar.

At the same time there are quite a substantial number of potential pitfalls and things you should be aware of when you might be considering purchasing a second hand guitar.

In the following, we’ll take a closer look at all this.

Why buy a second hand guitar?

Why would you want to consider buying used in the first place? After all there’s an abundance of  really good brand new beginner guitars and the prices are way low too! These days, finding a new electric guitar bargain is basically compared to a Sunday stroll in the park.

Well, the way I see it, is that you may get a better quality instrument for the same price … if you know what to look for. Secondly, you will get an instrument that is played and thus has had the chance to “settle in” properly. Again you will need to know what to watch out for.

What to look for in used guitars

First of all you will absolutely be best off if you can manage to get help from someone who knows how to test guitars properly. Just trusting your eyes and the words of a seller is not the way to go about it.

If you have someone helping you out, then you may consider trying all sorts of used electric guitars – well known brands as well as the totally unfamiliar ones. You may be positively surprised by what you can find :-)

If you go about this without qualified help, you should stick to the better known brands. For a start, you may want to check out what other players are saying about the actual make and model at: Harmony Central.

If you like what you see here, you should examine and play the instrument thoroughly. It should go without saying that I advice you not to purchase a used guitar without having the chance to test if first when you’re a complete beginner.

Here are some of the things you should check:

Neck: Is the guitar neck straight? Look along the length of the neck. It should look perfectly straight. If you press down one of the outer strings at the first fret and the 12th fret, you should see just a tiny, tiny gap between the string and the fret in the middle – around the 5th or 6th fret. If the neck is bowed or got a “lump”, don’t buy – unless the owner can adjust the neck for you at the spot.

Frets: check all the frets. Loose frets is a no-go. Play all strings one note at the time all the way up and down the neck. If you hear any major buzz or dead notes (or indeed the same note on two different frets when you go up or down the string), you have a problem. You may also run your fingers (carefully!) along both sides of the neck to feel if the guitar frets are sticking out. If they are, you may check the frets more closely, since there may be a problem with the wood drying out. Finally, check the frets for major grooves and fret wear – some wear is common and not a problem.

Guitar wood: Check the back side of the head stock for hairline fractures or cracks. A broken headstock that has been fixed by a pro is not a problem. Done by someone who don’t know how, it is probably not worth taking the risk. Check along the length of the neck for fractures as well. How is the neck and body fit? Does it seem tight and solid? This is very important on glued in necks!

Hardware: Are all the guitar tuners working properly? Is it possible to adjust the bridge height and the bridge saddles? If there’s a tremolo bar – does if function well? Are both strap buttons in place and screwed on tight?

Electronics: When you plug the guitar in and test it (which you definitely want to do of course), is all switches working properly. You may sometimes try to tap all pick-ups lightly and carefully with a screwdriver to make sure they work – at least you should hear how the sound changes as you play the guitar and use the switches and pots. Scratchy pots can most likely be fixed with contact spray but  do use a little caution! You want to check that the guitar cable fits firmly into the output jack of the guitar, and that there are no sound drop outs.

Playability: How does the guitar feel? Is it hard to press down the strings at the first fret? Is the neck width and size OK to you? Use a guitar strap and check that it hangs and feels OK.

Intonation: If you know how, you should probably also check the guitar intonation. I will advice you to bring a guitar tuner and that you learn how to use it before you start looking at guitars. Go online and do a search for how to check intonation on a guitar. There’s also a video below which shows you how to do this.

If you go through these steps and you don’t rush into things, you should have no problem finding a nice used electric guitar, perfect for your playing style and needs.

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