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I have seen guitarists barre directly on the fret and also in between in the frets. All diagrams of fret chords show to play in between frets. Which is correct? Or, does it matter? Thank you.

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  • 1
    Never put your finger directly on a fret! It dampens the string.
    – TonyK
    Jun 6 at 15:33
  • 2
    @TonyK unless you intend that effect :)
    – Džuris
    Jun 6 at 17:06
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    @Džuris: Well, OK... "Never try to put your car in reverse gear while moving forward, because it destroys the gearbox." "Unless you intend that effect." :-)
    – TonyK
    Jun 6 at 20:06
  • Surely a line's been crossed between dampening a string and destroying you car's gearbox?
    – Edward
    Jun 6 at 23:51
  • I've never seen anyone barre directly on the fret. If you play slide guitar you want the slide directly over the fret though.
    – blueskiwi
    Jun 7 at 14:51

2 Answers 2

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The link in comments provides a very good answer regarding fretting notes but when dealing with chords other issues start to emerge. Take an open A chord played with 3 fingers or an open Em with 2 fingers. Our anatomy does not allow most of us to comfortably place every finger right up against the fret so we put them on a slight diagonal to accommodate the different lengths of our fingers and the way our hands address the neck.

In the case of barre chords, our anatomy has a say in how we place the index finger on the board. Of course being as close to the fret is ideal because it requires the least amount of pressure and bends the strings less but some may find that their index finger cannot line up parallel to the fret and still place the other fingers to complete the chord. Others may find they can have their index finger perfectly parallel to the fret and right up against it. Others can achieve parallel but have to give themselves a little distance from the fret in order to be able to place the other fingers.

Bottom line, go with what sounds and works best and is most comfortable for you. Its ok if you can’t put part or all of your finger up against the fret. Just make sure you use just enough pressure to get the notes to sound cleanly but not so much that the notes become sharp. Experiment, look in a mirror, play the notes of a chord one at a time to see if all the notes are clean, use a tuner to see if you’re pulling or excessively pressing any notes to make them sharp. Nothing is etched in stone, use trial and error to see how you can get your best sound comfortably and with the least amount of effort based on the size, shape and flexibility of your fretting hand.

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Generally the closer you are to the fret the better. The problem here is (as John said) that anatomically it is hard to apply pressure in an exact straight line. Also the bottom of the finger behaves differently that the tip, with applying the pressure over a bigger area and having soft parts in the way. This means that there is a higher risk of not applying enough pressure to some parts and of "overhanging" parts blocking the string. Thus it can be reasonable to go slightly behind the fret. If you do not manage to press down all strings equally going further back allows you to press the strings you do already have down even further down, so you might get the other ones. Of course, this is not quite good for reasons of intonation and for reasons of strain.

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