I generally play barre chords by using all my 4 fingers. For example I play B-major chord in this fashion:

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So as you can see, I use all my 4 fingers. But recently while I was learning to play a song from a YouTube tutorial, I saw the tutor playing the same chord using only 2 fingers in this manner:

enter image description here

As you can see... Here ring finger or the 3rd finger is used to barre once again on 4th fret. So I want to know which one is the best way to play the major chords, I think a possible answer might be

learn to play in the way you feel comfortable.

But I want to know which will benefit me the most in the future.

  • How did he manage to make 1st string play? Doesn't 3rd finger mute it?
    – enkryptor
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 14:54
  • Nope that's that's the hard part @enkryptor see this link to understand more: music.stackexchange.com/q/29197/16897
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 16:33

5 Answers 5


The chord we are discussing is often referred to as an "A shaped barre chord" and there as many ways to play it as there are to play the open A chord it is named after.

In your question, you expressed a desire and willingness to step out of your comfort zone and learn a new way to play this type chord if it will benefit you in the future! There is some value in playing a chord the way you feel most comfortable. But often it is also valuable to eventually learn alternate methods of fingering chords that might provide more flexibility in your playing. So just because a particular way to play a chord may not be the easiest and most comfortable way to play it today - does not mean that with practice, it can't become just as comfortable to play as the other.

As an example, when I first began to learn to play guitar, it was more "comfortable" for me to play a B flat chord using XX0331 playing only the four highest strings. But eventually I learned to play the full A shaped barre chord version of the B flat chord and it sounds much fuller. So my point is (one you alluded to) - don't let what is most comfortable today, halt your progress as a guitarist - IF you are capable of learning a new way to play a certain chord - one that opens new possibilities!

Having said that, I should point out that everyone's anatomy is different in terms of hand and finger size and shape. Certainly what is comfortable for one guitarist, may require too much of a stretch or a bend or contortion for another. Some folks play the A shaped barre chord the second way using only two fingers with the mini barre with the ring finger - because their fingers are too fat to squinch 3 together on one fret to use the first method, particularly as they move up the neck and the frets get closer together. Other folks may have such large finger tips that they find it impossible to bend the ring finger up to avoid fretting the high e string, so they don't use their ring finger for a mini barre. Perhaps they use their pinkie finger instead.

So the way you choose to play this barre chord may be limited by your unique finger and hand anatomy. However, if you are capable of learning to play the second version using your first and ring finger, I would encourage you to start practicing playing the chord that way until it becomes comfortable (may take some practice). I believe it gives you much more flexibility (no pun intended) in your playing overall.

Here's why.

First, the two finger version gives you the freedom to add more notes to the chord while you are playing it. For example, one thing I often do in a blues type progression is start with the A shaped barre chord as pictured in your second diagram using the ring finger as a mini barre to fret the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. Then alternately flatten my ring finger to add the first string to the strings barred with my ring finger. Then I can use my pinkie to play the first string one fret higher than where the ring finger is. If my fingers were long enough, I could play that same pattern using my pinkie finger to play the 4th string two and three frets higher.

From the two finger mini barre formation it is easier to add some fills and lead runs while playing the chord - or as you transition to the next chord. You are basically holding your fingers in a position to play most scales using two fingers. It's more common to play scales using your index, ring and pinkie fingers than it is to add your middle finger into the mix. It's easier to get in to the groove of just lifting your ring finger up and down than to try to figure out which of your other three fingers comes off to play which note. Plus, from the A shaped Barre position, you can use your pinkie in the fills as well.

One other compelling reason to learn the mini barre two finger version is that when you start playing this shape at around the 10th to 12th fret, it becomes very difficult for almost all males and most females to get three fingers on one fret (try it and you will see what I mean). So if you pass on learning to play it the two finger way, you may not be able to play the A shaped barre chord past the 7th, or 8th fret.

One thing I like to do as part of ending a high energy song with a bang, is to play the final ending chord as an A shaped barre - high on the fretboard and then slide the ring finger up for a nice descending fading crescendo effect. For example, if I am in the key of G, I may end the song by playing a G barre chord on the 10th fret where I am barring the B G and D strings with my ring finger on the 12th fret. I hit the chord with a hard strum - then slide my ring finger towards the headstock while still holding down those three strings. Yes that could be done with 3 fingers, but it is far more difficult.

Bottom line - if your hand and finger shape make it extremely uncomfortable for you to even attempt to learn to play the A shaped barre chord using the two fingered version, then find an alternate way to play the A shaped barre chord and forget about playing it past the point where your method will preclude enough fingers fitting in the smaller and smaller fret spacing. But if you feel like you could train your fingers to play this chord using the two finger method, it will offer far more versatility in the future and allow you to play this barre chord shape as high up the neck as you want to.

Good luck to you as you continue to improve your skills. It's a life long journey filled with great reward and satisfaction.

  • That's an awesome answer sir! I'd like to thank you for taking time and providing me with such valuable answer sir.... One last help request sir, are there any specific techniques for learning the 2nd barre chord formation... Or should I post it as a new question?
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 15:26
  • Actually there is a great answer to that question here on Stack Exchange Music. Click this link and you will have all the information you need. (music.stackexchange.com/q/29197/16897) This question uses the B flat chord as the example, but the solutions provided will apply to any A shaped barre chord. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 15:44
  • Oh my! Seems like my question is a duplicate but anyway it definitely helped... Thank you!
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 16:12
  • No - your question was which method should I learn? - the other question was - how do I play this chord? The answers to the prior question do also provide more information that answers your question. But your question was different. Which way is best to learn? vs. How to? Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 16:21
  • Oh I see the difference between them now..
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 17:08

Of course the best answer is the one you provided

learn to play in the way you feel comfortable.

There isn't much difference between those two ways of playing a barre chord.

The only thing I would say in favor of the second is that you have two fingers free to add more notes. Especially when you play jazz, you'll see that you'll need as many fingers as possible, so using the second way to play a barre chord will help in that field.

  • Hmm.. Turns out the 2nd one beats the 1st... Have to give it a go :)... Thanks for the answer Shevliaskovic.. That's really helpful
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 17:13

Either way works, and there is an in-between, where you can use two fingers for the three strings. It depends mainly on your fingers, as they need to fit into the fret, and the actual fret you're on. the higher frets give less room for all fingers, so one barred across is often easier. Lower frets give more room, so more fingers can fit, if that's preferred. Not convinced that extra fingers are readily available for extra notes too much, as the attitude of the used fingers restricts use of the spare ones to some degree, although it can free up the little finger to play a 'root', maj.or min. 7th on the top string.

You can also consider playing the bottom string on that same barre fret,too. It gives a second inversion voicing, and if you're changing that to and from the 'E' shaped chord on the same fret, which is commonplace, there is no need to keep moving the barre. Doing that also obviates the need to strum carefully to miss the bottom string, or muting it.


I don't think much of these two-barre A-shape chords.

  • Many guitarists don't actually manage to correctly bend their ring finger so that both the d♯ on the b-string and the f♯ on the e-string can properly ring. But in a band setting (with a bass offering the low B) these are pretty much the most important notes of the chord!
    If you do manage to do it properly, fair enough. However,
  • The ring finger barre forces the hand into a pretty unnatural and unflexible flat position. For maximum force efficiency and finger independence, it's always good to aim for an “open” hand (with the fingers coming down more or less perpendicular to the fretboard).
  • Finally, in the four-finger version of the A-shape chord, the pinky automatically presses the string in such a way that the pitch is bent downwards, which is the correct thing for a major third in just intonation. In classical guitar, this is definitely important. The two-barre has the opposite tendency: the high pressure on the bent ring finger joint bends up the b-string, resulting in poor intonation.
    Whether this effect is really significant in steelstring guitar is arguable. But especially when playing with distortion, it would make sense to take care for it: lack of proper just intonation is the main reason why full chords sound so muddy through distortion.

Of course, that doesn't mean the two-barre version doesn't have its valid applications. It's certainly always good to know it as an alternative technique. But IMO, this way of playing A-shape chords is not a good default.

  • Agree with 1st point: the 2nd string is the only major 3rd.Top string isn't needed anyway - there's another 5th, not necessary anyway. Most of the (good) guitarists I play with do it well, as a 5/6 string chord. Perpendicular is theoretically good, but can never work for any barre chord! If the action is that bad, intonation is out of the window anyway. With distortion, it's best to omit the 3rd of the chord, as the highlighted harmonics clash with those of the root and 5th. As in other answers, on the dusty part of the fingerboard, often three fingers won't fit, leaving this a perfect option.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 13:16
  • @Tim: it depends on the context which of the two 5ths is more important. But if you don't need the high one, you'd better not bother with that awkward A-shape in the first place, but use e.g. a normal index-finger barre over those three strings. An index-barre does fortunately not prevent a proper open hand, because you can roll around the finger (pronation). — The 3rd only clashes with the root and 5th if you render it in 12-edo. In just intonation, everything is a powerchord. Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 13:38

From my experience, if you can get comfortable using the one using fewer fingers, you'll benefit.

One reason is that the fewer-fingered version is quick, provided that you develop your ability to make it quickly (which is doable). It's also better when you go higher up the neck (more fingers can get bunched up).

Also, when you use fewer fingers you can add an extra note onto your original chord, and your unused fingers are more available to quickly place onto the next chord you play, which may require several fingers.

  • Thank you for your response.. I'd love to know how it's doable.. Can you provide me links.. It'd be much appreciated :)
    – Cherubim
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 15:17

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