I have been playing the following bar chord quite a bit and I am noticing that my ring finger is losing stability and getting weaker and might be damaging to my ring finger in the long run.

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I know that I can play the chord in the following way. And it has the added benefit that I can play the 6th string can be included when strumming. But I find this way is difficult to play and is not typically how most guitarist play this bar chord.

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Does anyone have any advice on which way would be better? If I stick with the first option I'm afraid that this will damage my finger in the long run. Am I being too worried? Is there a device or a band I can wrap around my finger to give it stability? Has anyone heard of anything like this?

  • 1
    At the moment, I'm finding it difficult to envisage exactly what you mean. A barred 'A' shape? A picture would be great! – Tim Apr 20 '16 at 6:38
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I use and teach both ways. Tend to use the three fingers on the wider frets, and change to the one finger + barre version when the frets are too narrow - around 5/6. The ring finger HAS to bend backwards, so as to allow the top string to sound. There are a couple of other ways, though, using two fingers to cover the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings.

Looking at your middle finger in the top pic., you could try straightening it out, in a rude gesture, which is going to change the attitude of the other fingers (let alone the attitude of your viewers...)

It's always a good idea to have the bottom string available, to play or dampen. It makes sense to me that the barre finger stays across all 6 strings, as the next chord will most likely be an 'E' shape barre. I don't recommend putting anything over that ring finger, it's not needed. Maybe you're just gripping far too tightly for barre chords anyway. If so, the action may need tweaking on the guitar, or you are not aware that the neck doesn't need strangling!

  • Regarding barre chords, I've got another tip, which helped me a bit. Someone told me, when playing barre chords, to push the body of the guitar a bit backwards with your right arm (or left arm for lefties) so that you generate a bit more pressure on the neck of the guitar, that way don't only push with your fingers only and have something to work against and not only the strings itself. Can anyone confirm this? It doesn't change it completely, but I find it useful. – Matthias Nicklisch Apr 20 '16 at 8:26
  • @MatthiasNicklisch - I often show students that there is no need to even have the thumb on the neck at all for playing barre chords, doing as you suggest, bracing the body at the right against the barring fingers on the left (for a rt-handed guitarist, of course). Obviously, it's an extreme case, but there's really no need for much thumb pressure - on a well set up guitar. – Tim Apr 20 '16 at 10:27
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    Good catch on middle finger. Tucking it under the fretboard as shown is not the way to do it. One other option not mentioned is if finger anatomy makes it painful to bend the ring finger back to avoid touching first string, then you could straighten it just enough so first string is muted and play the chord without playing the high e string. – Rockin Cowboy Apr 20 '16 at 14:43
  • @RockinCowboy - yes, that works fine, as there are another couple of 5s available anyway. And you don't always need to play the 5 of a chord... – Tim Apr 20 '16 at 14:51

The second way is the only way I can play that shape, as my ring-finger does not bend backwards, and I'd have claimed that it's the way most guitarists play it. Plus, the second method allows you to move your ring-finger to the next fret to get a sus4 voicing, which adds color. When using the CAGED system, I like to keep all my fingers in play.

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