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Having slowly come to grips with E shape barre chords I'm now grappling with A shaped ones. The two popular fingerings I have seen involve one finger each on the 2, 3, 4 strings or alternatively using the ring finger across all three strings. I'm struggling with both but am having a slightly easier time with a hybrid fingering involving the pinkie on the 2 string and the ring finger across the 3, 4 strings.

However I haven't seen this taught anywhere. Before I put in too much practice I'm just wondering if technically there are any problems in using this fingering or if it will cause me any problems down the line.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

My advice would be to practice all ways of playing each chord shape as some will be useful in some positions but not in others, for example when playing that shape at the 19th fret I can't use three fingers- they just won't fit, so I tend to cram in whatever fingers feel comfortable depending on what chords come before or after.

You may find it more useful in the long run to practice with middle, ring, pinky as this makes it very easy to play barre versions.

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In Flamenco you'll find the A played with two fingers or A-shaped barre with three fingers. So there is nothing wrong playing it this way if it suits your needs right.

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An advantage of the approach you describe is that if one finger is solidly fretting the second string, it won't matter if another finger lightly touches it. Having the upper-fret barre finger cleanly fret some strings while cleanly missing the next nearer one is hard; it's much easier to fret 3-4 if the finger is allowed to touch 2 without cleanly fretting it.

A problem with this approach is that transitions to the parallel minor chord are somewhat difficult; to cleanly fret strings 3-4 while cleanly missing 2 may require using separate fingers for strings 3-4. Using separate fingers for the upper notes of an A-minor-shape barre is, at least for me, easier than trying to crowd three fingers for the upper notes of an A-major-shape barre, but the transition from A major to A minor is a bit awkward.

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There is no reason why if you have large fingers you cannot do a two string barre with middle or ring fingers but this is not really the easiest way of doing it.

What I find works pretty well is the half positions or what some I think call the cage system. Instead of going from a normal open A chord and breaking your locked hand and then going for another fingering rather use the I-M-A fingerings for your open A chord and while keeping your hand locked just slide your whole shape down.

The economy of movement is much better this way and you do save yourself a lot of hassle and frustration.

What I also find very useful is before you do barre chords to first get you I finger ready to bar 6 strings. It is a very useful exercise to try and barre only with your index finger before you get the other left hand fingers in on the action. Concentrate nice and hard on getting all six strings to ring out well. This will also help get some strength in your left hands.

And finally if you still find that you are still finding it difficult what I really would like to advise is to see if you cannot invest in a guitar with a reduced scale length. It may very easily work better for you.

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