How to play barre chords: the 4 most important shapes

How to play barre chords
(Image credit: Future)

If you know how to play an open E chord, F should be easy – just move it up one fret, right? If you’ve tried that, you’ll know it doesn’t work, because the open strings need to ‘move’ too. 

Full barre chords use your first finger like a capo, so you can use just a couple of shapes to play any chord. This process opens up a whole world of chords that can’t be played in open position. Eventually, you’ll learn to apply pressure evenly across all six strings with your first finger. 

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.