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The Barre Chord Alternative: Learn These Easy-to-Play Block Chords

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

Playing the same old barre-chord shapes isn’t just boring—it sounds boring too.

Block chords provide a great alternative to barre chords. They’re typically associated with jazz guitar playing, where they follow the melody line, but they can also be used in any style of music—on both electric and acoustic guitar—to free you from reliance on barre chords. Better still, they let you create more advanced-sounding chords that are, despite their sophisticated sound, easy to play because they use only four strings.

In this new video lesson, guitar instructor Simon Candy offers a great lesson on how to play and use block chords.

“These chords are great no matter what style you play and can be used in both a rhythm and soloing context,” Simon writes.

The video opens with Simon demonstrating block chords in action, after which he breaks down the technique to show you how it works. As he explains, block chords will extend the full range of the fretboard for you and include the major, dominant and minor types of chords.

“These are the three main sounds in music, so these chords are going to be very versatile for your guitar playing, whatever style you’re playing,” he says.

To work further with these chords beyond what’s shown in the video, download Simon’s free ebook Jazz Concepts for Acoustic Guitar-Block Chordsright here.

For more of Simon’s videos, visit his Acoustic Guitar Lessons YouTube channel.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player (opens in new tab) magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World (opens in new tab), a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.