Barre chords are an integral part of playing guitar. Probably 80% of all chords are barre chords in various forms. A barre chord is formed when you use your index finger to fret all the strings at one fret, then add other fingers to form a chord. This use of the index finger is called a barre. Once you have barred the strings, that fret, in effect, becomes the nut, and any chord you build on top of the barre regards that fret as the nut.

Placing ones left index finger over all of a guitar's strings is the distinguishing feature of a barre chord. Barre chords allow the chord to be played anywhere down the neck of the instrument.

The key to a chords sound is the relative difference between each of the string's tone. Since at most four strings can be fretted the usual way (one for each finger), at least two of the strings on a six string guitar are left open, or unfretted. This also means that using the same fingerings at other positions along the neck will change the relative differences between the strings. The fretted strings change tones, but the open strings don't, and the chord won't sound right.

But since the barre chords fret every string, the relative differences stay the same at any position. That makes the barre chords movable and much more versatile. The downside is that they are harder to learn and require more finger dexterity. You'll need to keep a straight index finger while contorting your other fingers to their frets; you'll have to use your pinky much more.

These diagrams show how barre chords are played. F1 through F4 represent the fingers, starting with the index finger. The O's at the top of the first chord are open strings, and the X's are strings that aren't played.

An A-major chord with open strings:

X  O           O
+==============+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  F1 F2 F3 |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |

A B-major barre chord, taken by moving the A-chord down two frets (the index finger lays across all the strings on the second fret):

X
+==============+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  F1 |  |  |  F1   <-- index finger lays across here
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |
|  |  F2 F3 F4 |
|  |  |  |  |  |
+--+--+--+--+--+
|  |  |  |  |  |

Another method of playing higher chords is to use a capo, a device that clips onto the neck and frets the strings like your forefinger would with a barre. A capo, however, is difficult to move while playing, giving much less flexibility than using your finger.

Barre chords are just phenomenally useful. The trick, of course, is remembering them. Well... assuming you can get your fingers to stretch in such unnatural ways. Everyone I have tried to teach the basics of guitar to has had trouble making pretzels out of their fingers and asked me to show them something else. This is a shame, because barre chords are so versatile. You can figure out almost any chord you need to know as long as you know the chord forms.

Most people who are unfamiliar with barre chords do not realize that they are already playing one or two of them. The standard forms of E, A and D, their minors and all the variations thereof are barre chords, but the nut is doing the tricky part, barring the fret for them. By holding down all the strings further up the fretboard, the relationship between the strings stays the same and you no longer have those nasty-sounding open strings. This is, in effect, the same as placing a capo on the guitar, but the capo is far less mobile than one's finger. All the same chord forms applied further up the fretboard with your index finger barring the appropriate fret will result in most any chord you could possibly wish to play. There are three basic forms of barre chords: those whose tonic notes are played on the 4th, 5th and 6th strings.

Punk rockers make liberal use of barre chords, usually the more basic ones, but you will find some sort of barre chord in most guitar music. There are even a number of essential chords that are almost never played as anything but a barre chord, such as Gm and a great many B and F# chords. People who avoid these are missing out on a lot of great songs like The Eagles' Hotel California, Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain, and Steely Dan's Do It Again. That's the tiniest fraction of a fraction of a percent of the songs that make use of them, so clearly they are quite handy to know.

The following is a list of most of the more common chord forms. The chord type is written at the top of the diagram, which is a representation of the fretboard of a guitar with the high E on the right and the low E on the left. The "o" indicates a position where you should place a finger, while the "x" indicates a string that must be muted (touched lightly so that it will not sound when strummed). There are certain conventions regarding finger placement, though the effect is the same if you can pull it off some other way. I would have used numbers to indicate finger placement, but it tended to make the diagrams harder to read and you can do it whichever way you like, anyway. Bear in mind that these forms are all relative and must be moved up and down the fretboard. On the right of each section is a list of the frets which you must barre to produce a chord with the corresponding tonic.

major   minor   7th     min7th  maj7      6th
o||||o  o||ooo  o|o|oo  o|oooo  o|||oo   string
|||o||  ||||||  |||o||  ||||||  ||oo||
|oo|||  |oo|||  |o||||  |o||||  |o||||   0 = E
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||   1 = F
                                         2 = F#
6th     min6th  aug5    sus4    7sus4    3 = G
o||||o  o||o|o  ox|||o  o|||oo  o|o|oo   4 = G#
|||o||  ||||||  |||oo|  ||||||  ||||||   5 = A
|oo|o|  |oo|o|  ||o|||  |ooo||  |o|o||   6 = Bb
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||   7 = B
                                         8 = C
9th     min9th  add9    maj9th  dim7th   9 = C#
o|o|o|  o|ooo|  o|||o|  o||o|o  o||o|o  10 = D
|||o||  ||||||  |||o||  ||oo||  |o||||  11 = Eb
|o|||o  |o|||o  |oo||o  |o|||o  ||o|o|  12 = E
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  13 = F
                                        14 = F#
min7b5  11th    min11th 13th    min13th 15 = G
o|oo|o  o|o|o|  oooooo  o|o||o  o|oo|o  16 = G#
|o||||  ||||||  ||||||  |||o||  ||||||  17 = A
||||||  |o|o|o  ||||||  |o||o|  |o||o|  18 = Bb
||||o|  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  19 = B
                                        20 = C
maj13th m/maj13 m/maj7  m/maj9  6/9     21 = C#
|oo||o  o||o|o  o||ooo  o||oo|  |ooo||  22 = D
o|||o|  ||o|||  ||o|||  ||o|||  o|||oo  23 = Eb
|||o||  |o||o|  |o||||  |o|||o  ||||||  24 = E
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||



major   minor   7th     min7th  maj7   5th string
xo|||o  xo|||o  xo|o|o  xo|o|o  xo|||o   tonic
||||||  ||||o|  ||||||  ||||o|  |||o||
||ooo|  ||oo||  ||o|o|  ||o|||  ||o|o|   0 = A
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||   1 = Bb
                                         2 = B
6th     min6th  aug5    flat5   sus4     3 = C
xo||||  xo||||  x||oox  xo|||x  xo|||o   4 = C#
||||||  ||||o|  ||o|||  ||o|||  ||||||   5 = D
||oooo  ||oo|o  |o||||  |||oo|  ||oo||   6 = Eb
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||o|   7 = E
                                         8 = F
7sus4   9th     min9th  add9    maj9th   9 = F#
xo|o|o  x|o|||  x|o|||  x|oo|o  x|oooo  10 = G
||||||  |o|ooo  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  11 = G#
||o|||  ||||||  |o|ooo  ||||||  ||||||  12 = A
||||o|  ||||||  ||||||  |o||o|  |o||||  13 = Bb
                                        14 = B
1/2dim  sus2    7sus2   6/9     11th    15 = C
xo|o|x  xo||oo  xo|ooo  x|oo||  xooooo  16 = C#
||o|o|  ||||||  ||||||  |o||oo  ||||||  17 = D
||||||  ||oo||  ||o|||  ||||||  ||||||  18 = Eb
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  19 = E
                                        20 = F
min11th 13th    min13th maj13th m/maj7  21 = F#
xooo|o  xo|o||  xo|o||  xo||||  xo||||  22 = G
||||o|  ||||||  ||||o|  |||o||  |||oo|  23 = G#
||||||  ||o|oo  ||o||o  ||o|oo  ||o||o  24 = A
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||||		



major   minor   7th     maj7th  maj7        4th string
xxo|||  xxo|||  xxo|||  xx|||o  xxo|||        tonic
||||||  |||||o  ||||o|  ||||o|  ||||||
|||o|o  |||o||  |||o|o  |||o||  |||ooo   0 = D    13 = Eb
||||o|  ||||o|  ||||||  ||o|||  ||||||   1 = Eb   14 = E
                                         2 = E    15 = F
6th     min6th  aug5    sus4    7sus4    3 = F    16 = F#
xxo|o|  xxo|o|  xx|||o  xxo|||  xxo|||   4 = F#   17 = G
||||||  |||||o  |||oo|  ||||||  ||||o|   5 = G    18 = G#
|||o|o  |||o||  ||o|||  |||o||  |||o||   6 = G#   19 = A
||||||  ||||||  ||||||  ||||oo  |||||o   7 = A    20 = Bb
                                         8 = Bb   21 = B
dim7th  1/2dim7 m/maj7                   9 = B    22 = C
xxo|o|  xxo|||  xxo|||                  10 = C    23 = C#
|||o|o  |||ooo  |||||o                  11 = C#   24 = D
||||||  ||||||  |||oo|                  12 = D
||||||  ||||||  ||||||                                

Note:
The m/maj chords are min/maj written out fully.

The 1/2dim chords were originally annotated as half dim Ø with a note saying that the Ø meant to play an open string. I had never run across these chords before and could not tell what my course meant by that. I left them in just in case someone out there knows what they are. If you do, please let me know. Anyway, removing them would have messed up my nice neat columns. :)


If you encounter any mistakes in here, please tell me! I had to do a lot of this by hand, so I may have goofed up, though I think I got it all right.

I am aware that this information is also provided in How to Play any Guitar Chord. I felt that my node was more complete and is placed where it can be more readily found.

Sources:
www.guitar.to

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