This chord diagram is from the GarageBand chord trainer (I'm a beginner). How is it possible to put a barre down on the third fret without also muting the top E string?

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    I'm wondering why one would play it this way. In this type of barré chord, 2,3 and 4 are normally used for the D, G and B strings. Jan 28, 2015 at 12:53
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    This in one of those "don't worry, just practise" situations. Playing the guitar involves some ergonomics that are fairly impossible to people who are not trained, but your fingers (muscles and joints) will automatically adapt when you play a lot. At first, this chord may seem impossible, but at some point you'll find that you actually can play it. Many guitar players will be able to attest to this.
    – Lee White
    Jan 28, 2015 at 13:37
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    Its worth noting that some guitarists will consider this chord fingering a cheat. I prefer to use the fingering that uses all 4 fingers, but recognize that on some rare occasions this fingering can be a better choice.
    – amalgamate
    Jan 28, 2015 at 14:26
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    Anybody who views ANY method of playing an instrument as 'cheating' has some authority issues they should work through in private. Anyway, when I see that notation I assume the X means use the index finger to mute that string. If the X is on two strings , sometimes I wrap my thumb around from the other side to mute both of them. Call the police! Jan 28, 2015 at 22:31
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    @DarrenRinger: Some methods of playing instruments may make things "easier" under certain conditions, but limited in what they can do. For example, in standard tuning, the easiest way to play an A7-D change is probably to use the index finger four a top-four-strings barre on the second fret and middle finger on first string third fret, then pull the index finger back to a three-fret barre and move the middle finger to second string third fret. On the other hand, being able to do that won't help much if one needs to play any other kind of chord change. Calling such a thing a "cheat"...
    – supercat
    Jan 29, 2015 at 18:18

7 Answers 7


I use this kind of "A-shape" barre chord all the time, although I must admit I rarely teach it to students. I actually find it easier than using fingers 2, 3 and 4 to play the three fret 3 notes. All you have to do is bend your third L.H. finger backwards, so that the joint nearest the knuckle moves forwards and away from string 1.

Here's a picture of me using this technique:

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  • Technically you would leave the low E string alone, don't even press it or mute it and just use the first string to press the a string down (barring) the bottom 5 strings and strum from the A string down. But typically while strumming, beginners tend to hit all the strings at one time. So muting the E string with the first finger works too.
    – ClosDesign
    Jan 28, 2015 at 21:19
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    Sure, @ClosDesign. I usually damp string 6 with the end of my index finger when playing "A-shape" barre chords, but I'll be honest, I was having enough trouble holding the camera while taking this picture... And I agree, one should try to only strum five strings anyway, but I think damping is a good idea to be on the safe side. Jan 28, 2015 at 21:28
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    I think damping is better technique because you're not always delicately strumming - you want to be able to get carried away and move around while singing. Ingraining the "end of index finger" technique means you don't need to change your strumming depending if you want the bottom string or not.
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 29, 2015 at 17:52
  • When I feel like using standard tuning, I use an approach like that, but also fret the second string with the tip of my middle finger. When using a finger for a partial barre, it's very hard to not have it touch the first string which it isn't deliberately fretting, but with the ring finger deliberately fretting the third and fourth strings, and the middle finger fretting the second, the ring finger may safely touch the second string without having to fret it cleanly (since the middle finger will fret it cleanly in any case).
    – supercat
    Jan 29, 2015 at 18:11
  • I use my third finger to fret strings 3 and 4, and my fourth finger to fret string 2. I also use my second finger to reinforce the bar and press down on my first finger. Unconventional, yes, but I've never been able to torque my third finger like a circus freak. Plus, it has the added benefit of quickly tossing in the half version of a minor 7th but at the cost of easily doing the full version (I usually prefer the sound of the half version).
    – user18567
    Jan 29, 2015 at 18:34

Not everybody can do this but the trick is your finger forms a 2nd, partial barre at the 3rd fret, but bends so it raises above the highest string. Some people play A like this as standard however I believe it partly comes down to luck how long your fingers are, how practical this technique will be.

Check out this awful drawing:

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  • 3
    Good illustration !. I'd like to add that if your finger does not want bend like this then just find another way of playing it. Everybody's hands are different. I have fingers that will not bend back under any circumstances without risking physical injury, but they are too fat to fit fingers 2, 3 and 4 on adjacent strings at the same fret so I've learned to press the three strings using 2 fingers. There's no universal method that works for everybody. Aug 12, 2015 at 7:13

Both answers are great, but do you know there are other ways to play this chord here. The index barre can be over all 6 strings, which can all be strummed. It just gives an inversion of Bb. 3 fingers can be used, on 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. Otherwise, two fingers can be used, with two strings held down by one finger, and the other with another finger. As Bob says, it's hardly a beginner's shape, but I also use it in preference to my other suggestions. It's o.k. to mute the top string, which note is actually replicated an octave lower.

The shape is of course movable to make any major. Try it around frets 6-8, where there might be more success as the fretboard is a little wider.

  • An advantage of the two-finger technique is that it's a lot easier to have a finger cleanly fret strings 3-4, kinda sorta touch 2, and not touch 1, then to have it either cleanly fret 2 without touching 1, or have it cleanly miss 2 altogether. The biggest problem is that switching from major to minor requires both adding another finger to string 3 and lifting the squooshing finger so that it completely misses string 2 (it may, but doesn't have to, continue touching string 3).
    – supercat
    Jan 29, 2015 at 20:06
  • I often use this form, and even if I touch the high E, it just mutes, it doesn't touch the fret and play a wrong note. On electric guitar with a little distortion, it's basically unnoticeable. Feb 9, 2015 at 6:00

If I want the high E string, if I need the high note, I play it with the middle finger on the G string, the ring finger on the D string and the pinky on the B.

If I play the two-finger chord, I don't even want the high E. I know you can, but it isn't what I'm doing.


Another option is to use the 4th finger to barr the 3 notes at the 3rd fret - my 4th finger will bend further and be able to leave the top string untouched. (Took a few weeks of practice though!)

  • Just mute the E string you don't need it. All you need is the Bb F Bb and D. The thin E string is just another F anyways. To make a Bb chord triad you only need Bb D F Jan 28, 2015 at 12:27

I have seen people who can get that F on the first (highest) string, but it is almost freakish.

Usually that highest string is muted for me. Also, I would never fail to barre the sixth (lowest) string. Just remember in this voicing, your root note is on the fifth string. If you are "boom chucking" (playing root/chord/fifth/chord' etc.) it puts that lower fifth tone right where you need it.

This chord is excellent for adding sevenths, both flat and major, as well as the sixth, up on top where they can be featured. If you need a six string Bb, go on up to the sixth fret and barre E-style.

I remember not liking this chord, and the F on the first fret, but time and practice will make it all second nature. Work away. You will get there.


A friend o' mine did the double barre in a song many years ago and I was like, "Whoa, what's that?" He showed me and I went home and practiced it until my fingers ached, then practiced more.
It's great to have that major chord at such a quick flick from the majors above it G to C, A to D, etc.. Nice for speed songs like punk rock too. Attack it and make it yours.

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