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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Guitar Setup

2nd January


Guitar Set-Up: Get Into The Action

Having your electric or acoustic guitar properly set up and adjusted is way too often overlooked when you want to learn electric guitar skills.

One of the best places I have found to dig into this vital aspect of having a guitar that will bring out the best in you for years to come is this: Learn and Master Guitar Set-Up. Do check it out when you have the time.

Disclosure: We are compensated when you purchase products reviewed here through our links. We do our best to test each product thoroughly and recommend only the best. The opinions expressed here are our own.

Here’s the thing: You would more than likely think I was making it all up if I told you how many times people came to me asking about problems they had with playing their beginner guitar – and it just boiled down to an inferior or non-existent guitar setup.

“I can’t do a barre-chord for my life”. “It hurts playing the guitar”, or “This guitar is killing me”, people would say. Then, after a few simple tweaks, it was time and time again like a burden was almost magically lifted from their shoulders!

Having a guitar that is well adjusted will many times relieve you of so much extra strain and discomfort that it is almost unreal. The opposite, having a badly adjusted guitar, is a real confidence and motivation killer. Yes, it is many times that bad…

A more expensive guitar will come better adjusted from the factory and/or the dealer. Some times you can even have the guitar tailored and adjusted for your specific playing style and comfort.

Here are the most common factors in order to set up a guitar so that you will stay motivated and continue playing on a regular an on-going basis.

Set up your guitar – the basics

guitar set-up

Before doing anything else, you should have your neck checked. First, you will need to have the guitar frets checked. Any loose or uneven frets may give you a host of problems further down the road.

Usually, this is not a problem. You will now put on a fresh set of guitar strings (after you have cleaned the fretboard of course :). The string gauge – how heavy or light your set of strings are – will determine the set up. Most beginners will in general use fairly light strings as these are easier to play.

The next step is to check that the neck is straight with the strings tuned to concert pitch. Almost straight, that is – you will need just a tiny neck relief in the neck (think of the guitar neck as being like a very wide and extremely shallow “valley”). If you press down one of the outer strings on the first and 12th fret, there should be just a tiny fraction of a gap between the string and the fret somewhere in the middle – around the 6th fret.

When you get hold the info at the page I mentioned, you should have no problem with doing this yourself. I would however ask you to be careful unless you know what you’re doing. The neck truss rod found in electric and acoustic steel string guitars will need to have just a quarter of a turn at the time most of the times. Go gently and use the proper guitar setup tool!

When the neck is set up properly, you may adjust the height of the bridge. On an electric guitar this is very easy. An acoustic guitar will need to have the bridge saddle manually adjusted. Again, this is not hard … when you have the right tools and know how.

The final step – if needed – is to adjust the depth of the nut (found between the guitar tuners and at the first fret). Here you will definitely need proper tools and knowledge. You do not want to file away on a guitar nut or cut the slots too deep!

What a relief!

This may seem like a lot of work and perhaps even something you will never manage yourself. Yes, often times you will need to have your guitar checked by a qualified repairer.

However, you can save quite a bit of time, hassle and money by knowing what to look for and what you can manage yourself. The guitar setup guide I mentioned is perfect for that, as well as teaching you proper guitar maintenance.

And rest assured – a properly adjusted electric guitar may well be worth a small investment in time or money.

I’d love to hear your comments and experiences about it!

Spotlight Series Guitar Set-Up with Greg Voros

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Guitar Questions and Answers 3

26th December


Your Guitar Questions Answered, Part 3

guitar question and answersYes friends, it’s indeed time for another round of our common guitar questions and answers.

Anyone keen on how to learn electric guitar as stress free as possible should definitely check them out!

As always, please feel free to leave your question in the comment field below or contact me. Remember, there are no stupid questions, just bad answers.

Fasten your seat belts, strap on your guitar and let’s get rocking!

Help choosing an electric guitar

Q: Can you help me pick out a good electric guitar? I’m all new to this…

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A: Any answer to a question like this one is basically down to a matter of personal preference. What might appeal to me doesn’t always go down at all with someone else.

However, if you stick to the better known guitar brands from reputable dealers, you are less likely to run into any major problems or regrets.

The best piece of advice I can give is this: Visit your nearest well equipped music store and try out as many instruments as possible. Also, you may want to ask friends and perhaps other musicians if you can try their guitar … just briefly to get a feel for how it sits, the weight and balance, the overall sound, etc.

Most people you don’t know will probably not let you play their instrument just like that. If so, then politely ask if they would do you a favor and very briefly demonstrate how it plays and sounds. Don’t forget to ask other players why they chose that particular guitar to begin with. Most guitar players are cool and they will try to help you if you just ask.

There are some basic, yet major differences between guitars. You have the guitars with single coil pickups (like the ones you’ll see on most Fenders) and then you have humbuckers (like most Gibson guitars are equipped with).

Then you have all sorts of combinations and add-ons – like scale/vibrating string length (longer, shorter), wood types, neck styles and neck angles, finishes, hardware and controls, vibrato system or hard-tail instruments, fret board wood types … on and on it goes :-)

It somehow boils down to this: Having both, I can assure you some of my cheap guitars plays just as well as very expensive ones. Just changing the pick-ups, hardware and electronics on a lower cost guitar these days, and then having it properly adjusted/set up, will most likely give you a whole lot of guitar for your hard earned cash.

Me, I play mostly my cheaper guitars live – somewhat modded, I should add. If you tried one of my second hand and quite cheap Teles or Strats, you might very well think they were ten times their actual price.

Fresh out of the box, most low-cost guitars may not sound or play like much. As much as anything, this is due to the fact that the better instruments come set up from the factory or shop for great playing comfort!

Can’t really hammer this down – do get some qualified help in a reputable store or by someone who knows what he/she is doing. Then, try out as many guitars as you possibly can.

Tips on how to become better at playing guitar

Q: Any specific tips on how I can become a better guitar player? I’m a little past the absolute beginner guitar level.

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A: One of the keys (pun intended) to mastering the guitar is to get the scales and patterns “under your skin”. You might for instance begin slowly to practice the major and pentatonic scales in all positions.

Gradually work up your speed as long as you can stay relaxed and get an even sound from all notes. If you make mistakes, then just back up and start over.

When you have a basic feel for the neck and how to position your fingers, you might want to learn what notes you are playing in all scales and positions on the fingerboard.

This will build a reference or frame to understand how you can transpose things which are working in one key to another key or to another song all together. Also, knowing the notes, scales, patterns, chords etc. makes it easy to  communicate properly with other musicians who don’t play guitar.

I tend to advice beginners at times to use a metronome, click or similar, to better learn timing and flow.

It is considered important (at least I think so) to understand the structure of the songs that you play along to. What key is it in; any intro; how many verses; where’s the chorus; does it have a bridge, is it transposed from one key to another, time signatures etc?

You might want to try to play a song in another key. Why not slow it down or speed it up a little (or a lot). It is quite surprising how the overall feel changes when you change the tempo!

You should definitely learn the chord positions are all over the fretboard. Doing inversions – playing a chord on say the three or four lower strings as opposed to other strings – or playing higher or lower on the neck … how does the same chord or pattern sound and feel?

A capo is something you might want to try. It sure changes the feel and sound of your guitar! If you are adventurous, you might even try to change to an alternate (open) tuning, G or D (or A, E) are the most common ones.

Also try out playing both with your fingers as well as a pick – again, way different sound and feel :-)

Interacting (playing) with others will always be beneficial, in particular if they are better than yourself and the chemistry is good. You’ll quickly begin to pick up new stuff in addition to learn interaction, how to listen to time shifts, how other musicians are playing on and off your own ideas, how to stay in the groove and much more. Important for sure!

Oh, and let us not forget, lots of practice and then practice some more :-)

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