I have been having trouble with the F barre chord and have a question about mechanics. As an experiment I've tried moving the body very far to the right so that my eyes are somewhere over the seventh fret. Completely impractical for playing but I wanted to see what would happen if I could get my forearm almost exactly perpendicular to the neck. In this position it is relatively easy to play the chord.

Now when I move the guitar back to a normal playing position (casual for me), my left forearm instead of being square is now at an angle to the neck (because my left hand has to now reach left to access the first fret). So I find to get proper mechanics i.e. Fingers fairly square to the fretoard, I have to either stick my left elbow out to square my forearm or else twist my wrist at a weird angle so that at least I can square my palm. If I don't square something I can press the strings with some difficulty but my fingers end up side on rather than front on.

What are the proper mechanics for playing this chord?


3 Answers 3


This comes down to mechanics - what physical positions can you change?

  • position of the guitar: you can angle the neck up more, or raise the entire guitar
  • position of your elbow: you can move it forwards or sideways away from your body
  • position of your wrist: pushing it forwards brings the hand over the fretboard more

The F barre chord at the first fret is one of the more annoying ones, though. It is a strange position that is hard work until your muscles have developed to support it, so don't be disheartened. Sticking your elbow out is what some folks do, and others twist their wrists, and yet others cheat and don't use the barre properly at all :-)

I would suggest that in addition to @Another's answer, you try angling the neck up so you play the guitar similarly to how you would hold a flamenco guitar when seated. As you practice, you can start to lower the neck.


It sounds as though you have the fundementals correct. Bar chords become harder the closer you get to the machine heads due to the change in angles you mention.

The easiest way to attain proficiency is to practice the chord fingering at the most comfortable position on the fingerboard for you. Once you master the chord at this position move the whole hand down 2 frets towards the machine heads, and so on. Remember only move to a harder location when all of the notes of the chord ring like 'bells'.

Practice this in 10 mins blocks, to avoid injury, 10 times a day for a week and you will master it.


There are three tips on barre mechanics that are really helpful:

  • Maintaining your forearm and lefthand in-lined in the same plane as much as possible so that the biggest ammount of strenght that you use to grip the F chord doesn't come from your poor tiny hand muscles, but from your whole shoulder and back. Having a sharp angle at your left wrist makes you loose all that valuable force.

  • Using gravity's force to help you grip the chord. If you imagine your arm like hanging from the fretboard as if you were hanging from a branch there's a way to relax your arm to the limit where it doesn't drop and also you can feel it's own weight pushing down for the chord grip.

  • Imagining that your left hand index finger it's somehow like six fingers, since it's possible to figure out ways to discriminate how much strenght you apply to individual strings. In most chords you need to press just two or three strings with the barre, either by curving a little your index finger so that it only presses individual strings (only the 6th, 2nd and 1st, in the case of the F major chord, being sure that you are not wasting force on the other strings, which in F major should sound muted if fingers 2, 3 and 4 aren't on the fretboard) or by not covering all six strings with your index finger in the case you don't need to.

I learned this some time after I actually could play barre chords, but it made me look over my technique again and now barre chords feel lighter to play. The exact position of every part of your body is up to every individual player, so if you think these tips might be useful, you'll have to figure out by your own the specific application of them to your playing.

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