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How can I best learn to play barre chords?

I recently just got back into trying to learn to play guitar. I'm going through and learning all of the major chords in the book I'm reading. I've now come to the dreaded F chord. I've tried playing it, but I'm having a lot of difficulty. I've finally managed to get it to where I can stretch my hand out enough to fret all of the notes... mostly. I still have an issue with getting enough pressure to properly fret the barré.

My question is, are there practices/warm ups/etc. that one can do to help with being able to play an F chord, besides the obvious of just trying to play it?


6 Answers 6


I you're learning on a steel-strung acoustic guitar, consider practising barres on a nylon-strung instrument, or on an electric with narrow gauge strings. These require less pressure so you can get used to the shapes and build up your strength.

Whatever instrument you are practising on, start high up the neck. Near the nut is the hardest place to play a barre. So play a C at the 8th fret, get comfortable with that, then work your way down the neck until you can play the F comfortably.

I would recommend practising moving between the "E shape barre" and the "A shape barre":


... and the corresponding minor shapes:


... because it's actually easier on the hand to practice a variety of shapes; you will encounter these together a lot, and having both available to you is very useful. Indeed with these four shapes you can play pretty much any progression of major/minor chords, entirely with movable barre chords.


There are lots of exercises you can do. Remember this ability won't come overnight! It took me a while to play that dreaded F chord too. Most of my students have the same problem. Try practicing Fmaj7 for a while and get used to it. Gradually tip your first finger down to bar the two strings together.


I am trying to remember what I started with and I'm pretty certain I first learnt the following sequence using only the basic E and A shapes:

E A F# B G# C# A B E

This means that from the 3rd chord onwards they are all barre chords, you just keep moving up the neck from the nut to 2nd fret, 4th, 5th and 7th frets.

Playing this faster and faster helped me not only get the barre nice and strong, but helped the speed on my 2nd, 3rd and 4th finger changes.


What I did, was to simple use my picking hand to literally "place" my fingers of the other hand on the right frets and when they were positioned right and the chord sounded reasonable, I did it again.

Practice and patience is key in learning to play an instrument, better do it slow with a good sound, than rushed with a buzzing sound.


The other answers are good on how to exercise your barre.

Before you have built up enough strength for the barre, you can alternatively use a simpler version of the F where you skip the two lowest strings:


and it's still a valid F chord.


I agree with the above answers - it's probably the biggest mountain you'll climb whilst learning guitar chords - but bear in mind that eventually players hardly need to pull the fretting hand in to the fingerboard with the thumb, and will use the whole arm to pull in the fingers.In other words don't try to push your fingers onto the board, try pulling them in using arm strength. This will also avoid RSI when laying lots of barre chords, as you will when you crack the trick

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