I'm a self taught guitarrist and hobby musician who composes original music and who creates transcriptions/arrangements of music from other artists for classical guitar.

I've recently learned about guitar left hand bar (or barre) notation and I've been updating some sheet music I made previously by adding this new-found barre notation.

In one of my guitar arrangements, I came across three consecutive 8th notes in which only natural harmonics on the 12th fret are played using the same left hand finger (finger 3), as shown in the figure below:

Three quarter notes with natural harmonics notated with barre notation.

I'm not sure if this can or should be notated as a bar/barre, given that we don't actually press the fret with any left hand finger. Can this be notated as a left hand partial bar/barre on the 12th fret (as shown above in the figure)? Or is there a more appropriate notation for a sequence or chord of natural harmonics played on the same fret and with the same left hand finger? If there is, what is it?

Disclaimer: the standard notation and tab on the figure above were done in the sheet/tab editor software Guitar Pro 8, which notates:

  • (full) bars/barres by writing B <fret roman numeral>.

  • partial bars/barres by writing 1/2 behind the B <fret roman numeral> (which is the case in the example shown in the figure above).

  • One more comment about the notation. I think the very first g note is supposed to belong to the top voice? Then it should have the stem pointing up, and then you may connect its beam with the following b. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 10:45
  • @user1079505 Actually this is from a song with three voices, and that G is from the bottom (lowest) voice. I had to mix the middle voice together with the others so that stems don't intercept eachother and for general sheet presentation, so that's what might be causing some confusion. Also, Guitar Pro 8 automatically put the top voice pause on the bottom of the sheet (the dotted quarter note rest) instead of in the top, but there's nothing I can do about that (I think). Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, I have impression that notation of classical guitar harmonics is not very well standardized. In particular, reading artificial harmonics is sometimes a bit of a riddle.

But I don't see an issue with the notation example you show. Barre notation in this case is redundant, since the finger numbers are given. But it sticks out, so it makes you extra alert that you need to place the third finger flat on the strings, and hold it for the next notes too.

Here is an interesting example from the ending of Barrios' Preludio Saudade, requiring two partial barre to be played at the same time, at the 7th and 12th fret. Barre notation is not indicated, yet I think the intent is quite clear.

enter image description here

This is also an example of of a different convention of harmonics notation: the notated pitches are of notes which would sound if one played open strings without harmonics, and numbers indicate the frets where harmonics are supposed to be played.

Barre mark is particularly useful, when the first notes of the sequence can be easily played without barre, but the following ones require barre, while it's too late to switch smoothly. It is not the case in this example, though.

  • I can't reach both the 7th and 12th frets to play that 2nd bar. Doubt many could. I'd have to end up 'barring' the 12th fret with r.h. thumb!
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 7:50
  • @Tim youtu.be/mXNQmxOSoD8?si=_Qok2KeYG7CfOv1d&t=110 Here's a video showing a woman with rather small hands performing this piece just fine. Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 15:50

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