I am struggling to play some barre chords, especially this B major one:

E --2--
B --4--
G --4--
D --4--
A --2--
E --x--

I try placing my barring finger (1) on the second fret, and then adding the other fingers on fourth fret (as I think I should do). However, I can only do that with great time and difficulty: fingers 2 and 3 don't "want" to go that far, and get stuck at fret 3.

The same happens when I try putting all fingers on the frets simultaneously (the way that may ultimately be more efficient/faster). I cannot make the proper "configuration" of fingers in the air and when I put it down, fingers 2 and 3 are at fret 3 or halfway to where they should be (fret 4).

So, when I need to play B major, I first put the fingers 2, 3 and 4 down, and then add finger 1 (bar). This works, because when fingers 2, 3 and 4 are set at fret 4, friction stops them from sliding closer to finger 1 (and I feel that they "want" to). However, this is unacceptably slow.

So, what is the proper order of placing the fingers to play the B major chord? How to practice it?

Please note that I don't want to play a different variant of B major. Also (I don't know whether it's relevant) this arose from the chord-changing exercises I was trying to play:

Am-Dm-E-Am (easy)
C-F-G-C    (OK if not too fast)
E-A-B7-E   (not hard)
E-A-B-E    (impossible)

10 Answers 10


A couple of points. You don't have to leave out the bottom string. It can still be barred and played on the 2nd fret. You don't have to use three fingers for the strings 2,3 and 4. Obviously, 3 can be used, but you could make do with 2 or even 1, sort of 'barred' across the 3 strings, bent up so that the 1st string still sounds. B7 would work, although you don't want this option - barre across the lot at fret 2, and use fret 4 on 2nd and 4th strings. Works well in key of E.

For a practice regime, you could try the hammer-on technique, which helps put all fingers down simultaneously.

  • I disagree about playing the bottom string. That is an awkward voicing at that low of a pitch, with the 5th in the bass. Also, that is NOT the chord he is trying to play! He specifically spelled out the fingering he is attempting, so telling him "just do a different fingering" is not a legit answer to his question "help me do this fingering". Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 21:57
  • @WilburWhateley - read the question carefully, then my answer. The individual strings on each fret are not working for the OP, so there's an alternative. There are many different ways to fret specific strings on chords. Options are good things to have.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 22:10
  • Duuuude, careful. You are really assuming a lot by telling ME to read it carefully. Here is a quote from his question: Please note that I don't want to play a different variant of B major. He wants help putting his fingers in THAT position. Options are good to have, he specifically said he doesn't want options. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 0:51
  • @WilburWhateley I interpret "different variant" as a a different variation of a B chord (say an E shaped barre chord on 7th fret vs A shaped barre chord on 2nd fret). What Tim is suggesting is a different fingering of the variant of B chord that the OP wishes to play. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 12:15

Like with anything else, barre chords take time to play properly. I bet that your 1st finger isn't strong enough to correctly bar the 2nd fret all the way. I suggest figuring out where your limit is (where you can actually play an A shaped barre chord) and try switching to and from it to get use to it.

A viable option if you need to play this progression asap is to not bar the chord, but instead finger it the following way:


It's an acceptable way to play a B chord if you need to, but you should eventually be able to play the full chord.

Another possible way you could play a B chord is:


If your fingers lining up are the issue this should be a way to figure it out and play the B chord while practicing forming the other shape.


Slide it, Man!

In your "impossible" transition, I'm assuming you are already fingering an open A chord. The 2,3 and 4 fingers are in the same position as the B chord, right? Just two frets down (toward the nut). So, just leave them in position and "slide" them up to fret 4, then as they come into position plop your index finger for the barre.

This will be a faster version of:

So, when I need to play B major, I first put the fingers 2, 3 and 4 down, and then add finger 1 (bar).

You said this is slow, but maybe it will be faster if you don't even lift up 2,3 and 4, just slide them. As you slide, start to move the barre finger into position as well.

To Practice:

Finger the Bmaj barre chord on every fret, going up and down, but don't lift up your fingers, just release pressure and slide them around the fret board: B, C, C#, D, E (you are barring the 7th fret on E)...as high as you want to go. Also slide "down" the fret board until you are on Bb (barre on fret 1), then lift the barre and slide 2,3 and 4 into position, and you have an open A chord! Practice the transition between open Amaj and Bbmaj (1st fret) barre over and over.

Basically you slide the fingers, which are firmly in position (because you practice and get muscles!) along the top of the strings and just squeeze when you reach the target fret.

EDIT: Advanced Note

As an advanced point, take note that the open A chord and this B chord are the same "form". That's right, except the nut is functioning as your barre. As you slide the form up and down the neck, you change key but keep the voicing, or form. The form is "A" in the C-A-G-E-D school of thinking, named after the open chord. So what I am really asking you to do is to practice your open "A" form all over the fret board.

  • This idea can work, although as a teacher, I find a lot of students can sustain the fingering up to about fret 5/6. After that, fat fingers dictate using just two across strings 2,3,4. Round about fret 8/9 I start to use only my ring finger across 2,3 and 4, as even two don't fit well. So - same strings fretted for the 'A' shape, but not necessarily same fingers everywhere!
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 16:50

The root of the problem is probably your overall left hand position. The A-shape barre chords need quite a lot of pronation to get the fingers all “in line”. By far the easiest setting to achieve this is a proper classical guitar position, i.e. with the arm reaching towards the guitar neck in almost a right angle from below. Buy a footrest and try it the classical way, you may be surprised how much easier it gets.

Of course it's also possible to play such chords in less upright position, but the more you approach a “broomstick grip” on the neck, the harder it gets. Make sure your hand is always nice and loose, never cramped, and that it's flexible enough to rotate so those three fingers can reach their positions.


Learning to quickly form certain chords often takes an abundant amount of repetitive practice. There is not really a magic order of finger placement to make the chord in question easier to form quickly.

The chord you describe is commonly referred to as an "A shaped barre chord". That chord shape is form of "movable" barre chord that can be used to play 12 or more chords (more if you have a cutaway on your guitar body). It is a good chord to have in your arsenal.

I think the order you are placing your fingers is the most practical way to quickly form the "A shaped" B chord the way you are trying to play it. If you place your barring finger first, then you must stretch to reach the rest of the chord and to me that makes it harder to maintain the alignment of the other three fingers (which ideally should hit the fourth fret simultaneously).

You might try practicing just placing the three fingers on the 4th fret until you can quickly form that shape. Adding the barre finger once you master the hard part should not be difficult at all. Start by just forming and releasing the chord over and over until you can do it quickly. Then practice the chord change between A and B until you can do it quickly.

This may not be something that you master in a short period of time. Just make practicing forming the A shaped barre chord part of your regular practice routine and spend a certain amount of time on it during every guitar practice session. Eventually you will develop the speed and it will become natural.

Having said that, I personally found it much easier to learn to quickly form the A shaped barre chord by playing it with two fingers instead of four. I barre with my first finger and use my ring finger to form a mini barre to fret the three middle strings. You just curve your finger up at the last knuckle to avoid contacting the high e string.

This answer Playing B chord with mini barre shows a picture and offers more detail on how to play the A shaped barre chord "the easy way" (using only two fingers) . You too may find this easier and faster - but it will still take practice to master this technique.

In my case it took less time to learn this form of playing the A shaped barre chord than trying to play it with four fingers. At first it might not be easy to get your finger to bend that way - but keep practicing. Perhaps you could keep practicing both ways and see which one you master first. Either way, you will eventually master the A shaped barre chord (using either the four finger fingering or the two finger fingering) with practice practice practice!

Mastering this versatile chord (regardless of your preferred fingering) is worth the time. Good luck!


With time and practice, everything gets easier. Consider just playing the best you can for now, so that you don't stunt creativity by slowing progress while trying to be perfect. As you get more comfortable with playing in general, you'll find it easy some day to add it in the extra notes.


The way I do 5th string barre major chords, I barre with the side of the index finger (instead of the flat part like normal barre chords) so I can reach the other notes. Your index finger cannot stretch while being straight - It has to be angled.

You should also always check to see if your normal barre (Just index finger) doesn't mute any strings. If it does, just play with it a bit until you manage it!


Go from barring the 1st fret of the F ('lead' with your lower fingers -- make getting them to their target your main goal and landing the barring finger a secondary goal) to barring the 2nd fret for the B.

In addition to the barring finger, use your ring finger -- let it bend back at the first knuckle so that it flattens across for the 3 notes on the 4th fret.

If your fingers aren't too strong or your guitar is hard to fret in this way (some of mine have been), try to practice a strong grip. If you're gripping hard to make the F sound, you may need to practice releasing and quickly gripping again in the B position.

Some of this seems more difficult at first but gets easier as you practice it. With time your hand muscles strengthen and your neurons make new connections which facilitate finding positions comfortably.


I have the same problem. In Fernando Sor's study in Em (Op. 35, No. 24), the tempo is quarter note=88, and the passage is as follows (the b-chord is in the second measure):

enter image description here

If I place the d#, b, and f# fingers first, I can add the b note. But since the b note is played first, and the tempo is 88, I place the b no problem, but I can never nail the other 3 fingers correctly in time to play the passage. It sounds like: b buzz buzz buzz!


You can also try half positions. Instead of using your I-M-A fingers for the left hand use the M-I and pinky. This will allow you to lock your hands and just slide the wholly affair down as you like.

The economy of movement is much better like this and you get the added benefit of training your less intelligent left hand fingers (Looking at you pinky)

Hope that helps.

  • This answer is very difficult to understand. Is it different from the answer by Wilbur Whateley? If yes, please explain what you mean by "half positions", "using I-M-A fingers for the left hand" (how?), "use the M-I and pinky" (how?), "lock your hands", "slide ... down".
    – anatolyg
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 15:51
  • To add to what @anatolyg was saying, I, M and A are traditionally used to refer to right-hand fingers in classical playing (PIMA), so that's confusing here. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 0:55
  • Instead of using you index, middle and Annular fingers to strum the A chord you use your Middle, Annular and pinky. for the left hand. This leaves your index open to bar up and down the neck as you wish. And yes the proper term for this is HALF POSITIONS!
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 7:08

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