I play my A shape major barre chords with a double barre where the first and the sixth string is muted. My problem is that up-strums sound quite nasty when I hit the muted first string. Sometimes when trying to avoid the first string I strum over the sixth string which also sounds bad.

I find it way harder to only hit the four strings in the middle during an upstroke than to miss the sixth or fifth during a down-strum.

So is there a trick to it or is it just about practising to hit only those four strings all the time?

  • 1
    I just practiced until I could do it. Also work on using the least amount of pick possible - if you're accidentally missing the strings entirely sometimes then you're on the right track. Using less pick helps make muted strings sound less bad. Aug 4, 2015 at 19:37
  • How about getting used to the, ahem, correct way to play A-shape chords – with one barre plus three fingers? (Regardless, it would still be a good idea to practise missing the top string on purpose, but you shouldn't really need it.) Aug 4, 2015 at 20:02
  • @leftaroundabout - glad you wrote 'correct' in italics...
    – Tim
    Aug 5, 2015 at 10:16
  • I think having "correct" in quotes would make more sense. There's no one right way to play a chord. Aug 5, 2015 at 12:07
  • @ToddWilcox: I wasn't being entirely serious about the “correct”, but I do think that the four-finger version is superiour in most situations (and if you have difficulties with it, it's probably an indicator that something isn't quite right with you left hand position). Aug 5, 2015 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


If you insist on skipping the first and sixth string, you will find it easier to do if you strum by anchoring the heel of your strumming hand right behind the bridge and strumming with a short sweep of the wrist as opposed to moving your entire arm. Or anchor your forearm on the top edge of the guitar and keeping the heel of your hand on an imaginary fulcrum point, strum using an up and down sweep of the wrist - keeping the size of the sweep just wide enough to cover the 4 strings.

BUT - I am not sure why you feel the need to mute the first (thinnest) string when playing an A shaped barre chord. It is common to fret the high e (first) string with the first barring finger and play the corresponding note which will give you a repeat of the 3rd note of the major triad an octave higher. But it will still always be a note in the chord the same way the note played on the 5th string is a repeat of one of the 3 notes in any major chord played using an A shaped barre chord. I always extend the first finger barre all the way to the high e string and play that note as part of the chord.

Also, it's less common to do so, but still acceptable to also fret the first (fattest/low E) string in an A shaped barre chord as this will give you a repeat of the 3rd note of the triad an octave lower instead of an octave higher.

This is not much different that playing a 6 string E shaped barre chord where common practice calls for barring across all six strings with the first finger thus catching both the low and high E string on whatever fret you are barring. The note on any given fret of both the high and low e-string will be the same note - only separated by two octaves. Said note will be one of the three notes contained in either an E shaped barre chord or an A shaped barre chord.

So to make things easier, I always fret all six strings when playing an A shaped barre chord. Then if I accidentally hit the low E string, it sounds okay because it's a note in the chord.

There are only three separate notes in an A major chord or any A shaped major barre chord. Thus an A shaped barre chord can be played with 3, 4, 5 or 6 strings and it will still be the same chord. Any more than 3 strings and you are repeating at least one of the 3 notes in a different octave. In most cases I find that 5 or six strings included in a chord sounds fuller than 3 or 4 - not to mention being easier to play when you eliminate the need to "miss" certain strings.

Good luck with whatever method you choose to incorporate into your individual playing style.

  • It's not that I don't want to play the first string, but it requires quite a stretch in my third finger to go over the string, which I am not able to do.
    – aLu
    Aug 5, 2015 at 9:04
  • @aLu Oh I see what you are saying. The mini barre with 3rd finger does present problems for some people. You might find it easier if you shift your thumb on your fretting hand on the back of the neck closer to the high e string portion of the neck (towards the floor). The closer your thumb is to the high e string the easier it is to lift part of your 3rd finger to avoid contacting the high e string with it. Aug 6, 2015 at 12:47

Play with two barres, but lift the 2/3/4 string barre finger a little so the top string can sound. It's a very common way to play it. This usually works better further towards the dusty end of the fingerboard, so lower I encourage students to use the pinky as well. This leaves the top string to sound more easily. As Rockin' says, there's nothing wrong with playing the bottom string as well, it's the 5th of the chord, so gives a sort of second inversion. However, upstrums are usually played using the top 4/5 strings anyway, to make the sound less heavy than the downstrums, which usually start with the 5th or 6th string.

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