I've been trying to learn the F chord for a while now, and I am having a very hard time playing the barre chord. I've read that pulling back slightly with your finger and using the body of the guitar for leverage is a good way to play them. What is the best way to learn barre chords that will set me up for long-term success?
I was struggling witch my barre chords, but then my teacher showed me two great exercises. I've been doing them for a week or two and - it's a miracle - barre chords started sounding!
1. Pure barre practicing
Just hold all the strings on fret 7 with you first finder and nothing else and check if all the strings sound clear. You can help with your second finger. When all notes are clear, move to fret 6. And so on until you reach fret 1.
2. Tough barre exercise
Hold you barre on fret 7 and with other three fingers do this pattern picking one note at a time:
Keep holding the barre on fret for the whole exercise! by the time you get to string 1, your hand will hurt like hell, but that is the purpose - to get you hand strong. Rest for a while, and do the same thing on fret 6. and so on until fret 1.
Do this every day for 2 weeks - and barre chords will go like nothing.
I think the only answer to this one is...keep doing it.
The reason you're struggling is because your hand and fingers aren't strong enough yet to do it easily. It's like weight lifting, the more you do it, the stronger you'll get.
Try playing barre chords further up the neck, around the 5th fret. You might find it a little easier than F on the 1st, then as you get stronger, work it back down the neck to the 1st fret.
The way I learned was just through old-fashioned repetition. I started with fifth chords, eg F5.
You can play nearly every Green Day song ever written if you learn fifth chords.
Next I moved on to the minor barre chord, eg Fm.
This took a lot of practice to get my index finger to press hard enough to make the G string ring clearly. Play some other chord and move into an Fm. Just keep practicing that transition until you can make it sound good and accurately place your fingers. Once I had built up the muscle memory and neural networks for Fm, I moved on to the major barre. For me, it was easier to learn the minor chord first and then worry about bending my middle finger to play the major third of the chord on the G string.
Then I had to learn the 5 string major barre chord pattern, eg B.
Practice, practice, practice, and you'll get it.
I did following those (hard: F is a real bastard) steps:
A) learn to play "la bamba": C, F, G.
The change through C and F will kill you. That's where we'll focus. Speed is not interesting, perfect sound is. Play the chords very slow ensuring you get perfect sound from ALL the strings. You posture can do a LOT for your playing so check accurately how to sit / stand and hold an electric / acoustic / classic guitar :) In order to complete and master step A you can use this trick:
B) push and pull on the hard chord
Put a perfect F chord and then take your fingers away from the neck (1 mm) and then put fingers back. Do it again. Again. Strum strings to ensure every string is PERFECTLY playing. Now take your fingers away from the neck more and do it again. Then even more and do it again. The more you do this the more you'll be able to take your hand completely off and get it back with strenght and accuracy.
When you're done scream la bamba as loud as you can 'til your family hates you.
and never... NEVER forget:
c) Do not mix it with Twist and shout.
Have fun :)
One tip I have is to move higher up the neck. Play the F shape at the 5th fret instead of the 1st (so you'll be playing an A). It's easier to press down the strings further away from the end, and will help you develop finger strength more gradually.
Try learning a Bm cord first. It's the same fingering, but everything is 1 string lower so you don't have to bar the low e (you don't play it). It's a bit easier to play than the F and will help you build up some hand strength. Once you start to get that down, start learning the F again and it will be easier.
Play the open E major chord without using your index finger (only use fingers 2, 3 and 4) until you get comfortable with it.
Then move up a fret and start trying to use your index to bar all 6 strings.
That's what I did back in the day
This is such a frequently asked question, I've written the following article on my website: The F Chord There's basically only 2 ways to play an F Chord: a) Barre Chord b) Hendrix Chord
BARRE CHORD The Barre chord is obviously the use of the index finger across the entire set of strings. The reason this is difficult is due to the tension of the string from the nut to the first fret... it's the hardest place of the fretboard.
Some of the responses here state this as well.
HENDRIX CHORD Essentially, you are NOT playing a barre chod. You are using variations of the C Shape and using your thumb over the neck to fret the E Bass string (marked X). You are only using the index finger to fret 2 frets instead of the intire first fret.
Now some people advise correctly that you can try OTHER BARRE CHORDS to get used to the feeling. This is correct.
My first chord was actually a B minor. Again, same "technique"... B minor is really an A minor SHAPE played with the bottom three fingers and using the first/index finger as the barre. The tension on the 2nd fret strings is alot less than the 1st fret so it will definitely be EASIER to perform. In addition, your index finger gets used to the pain (killing a few nerve endings!) and you will be fine.
It took me 3 to 5 days just to hold the chord. But the ULTIMATE TRICK.... is to change from other chords into the BARRE CHORD.
So coming back to the F Chord, my guitar teacher introduced the F Chord as the Hendrix shape first before getting us to play the BARRE version after we had successfully played and practiced the B Minor and F# Minor.
There are some good ideas in the other answers (for example, working higher on the neck first, to get the chord right, then working your way down). But there are two critical physical reasons why bar chords are hard for beginners, and they don't address these directly:
So those two things add up to a big strength and coordination challenge for the left hand. Here are a few things that will help more quickly then simply slogging through difficult changes until your hand hurts:
A) Make sure that your first finger is close to the target fret, is pushing through its middle knuckle (i.e. "arching", so that the middle strings get good pressure), and that your left thumb is offset towards your elbow - this helps the whole left arm put more pressure on the strings.
B) Do this exercise once a day for four weeks to strengthen those tiny muscles around the first finger big knuckle, and I believe that you'll see a dramatic improvement in your barring:
If your hands aren't developed, you'll start to feel it in your forearms, probably, after 20 or 30 repetitions. Work your way up to 200. Since this exercise is "isometric" (no weights) you can't hurt yourself, so go until you are completely slowed down with the extensions, and you have significant "sensation" in your forearms.
This is going to help all of your guitar work, especially the left hand, and if you've been completely extending, you've also been working those small muscles that are essential for barring. In any case, you'll get quicker results than if you just slugged away at chord changes, in my experience.
Finally, for the independent movement of the LH fingers not "tied down" with the bar, bar up higher up on the neck and play scales with the remaining three fingers.
Remember to set yourself a long-term window for improvement - "in four months I should be able to do this" - keeping in mind that playing music is a life-long thing!
The error people tend to make concerning barre chords is to believe it requires strength. It does require some, yes, but the real trick is not to try to barre all the strings.
To play an F major, you don't need to barre all the strings, so in my opinion exercizing by barring a whole fret without other fingers is just the fastest way to hurt (or/and discourage)yourself. Truth is, when you play an F, you only need to barre two strings : the B and the high E.The way I do it : I press the low E with the tip of my index, I fret the other fingers (that's C with the ring finger, 3rd fret of A, F with the pinky, 3rd of D string, A with the middle finger, 2nd of G string). At that point, Im not barring the 1st fret. Then, not flattening the index finger, but bending it, I fret the last two strings with the flesh of my index finger. The curvature of the index means that you do not need to press where other fingers are already fretting (that is, the A, D and G string).
For this to work, you need to handle the guitar properly : your thumb is perpendicular to the neck, around the middle. Doing so, your other fingers face the bottom of the guitar, not the celling. When your in that position, just rotating the wrist in a counter-clockwise motion snaps the string behing the bony side of your index, facilitating the barre chord. I always explain to my students that it's as if your want to break the neck between your fingers. You're not pushing with the muscle of the palm of your hand (the one you use when squeezing a ball) but with your wrist muscles.
If you take a chord like the B minor, it's even better : you do no need to barre at all to fret the A string and the E string : you just push with the tip of your index on the A string, arc your finger and fret the E string with the fleshy bottom of your index.
What kind of guitar? Playing an F chord is somewhat different on my classical (wider neck but with less string tension) vs my steel string (narrower neck, but much more string tension).
You might try changing to a lighter gauge of strings which would bend easier and hopefully make it easier to do the bar.
If you want fun with barre chords, try drop-d tuning. All that means is you drop the lowest pitch string (standard: E) to a (D).
Once you do that, the first 3 strings (played open) are DAD. If you strum the guitar open then, you get a power chord (A+D is a fifth and "sounds good" together).
Now move your finger up and down the neck. If you barre the 1st fret, and strum the first 3 strings, you are playing D#, A#, D#. That's another power chord!
Barre the 2nd fret, you're doing E, B, E, yet another power chord!
It turns out that anywhere you barre on the neck in drop-D tuning gives you a nice sounding power chord.
Playing around in this configuration is good to start with because you have nice sounding chords, and only need to use 1 finger to do your barre chord.
The easiest way to explore Barre chords is playing in an Alternate Tuning. There are many
There is also
One addition to what everyone else has said:
Before learning barre chords, make sure your guitar is set up properly. A high action combined with heavy gauge strings will make it difficult even for an experienced guitarist.
Ask a guitar player to try it out. They'll be able to tell you if it feels wrong.
If there are problems with the guitar, take it to a guitar shop to get set up properly.
I think it's easier to learn on a nylon-strung guitar, because although the neck is wider, the strength required to press down the string is much lower. It then becomes another leap to progress to steel-strung acoustics.
It's vital that you hold the guitar properly, so that you can reach the fretboard without curving your wrist too far. If you can see the fretboard without leaning your head forward, you're probably turning the guitar towards you too much.