I have occasionally played guitar and the first bar chord I came across was Bb major. If I remember right, it is a bar chord across the first fret. I tried and I got like a muted staccato sound even though I was pressing as hard as I would for an individual string to ring out. But I figured out a way to do it with all 6 strings that wasn't a bar chord and boom, Bb major was in my chord inventory. Non-standard way but it works for me because I have flexible pianist hands.

But why is it that if I try to play a bar chord, any bar chord, I get a muted staccato instead of a full ringing out? Because while I might be able to play Bb major as a non bar chord, that doesn't guarantee that I will be able to do it for every common bar chord(some of which I bet are 7th chords that would be awkward or impossible to play otherwise).

And I have seen bar chords where you have a string that is not fingered and you might have like 3 strings on 1 side of it and 2 strings on the other side. I assume that means that you use that string at tuned pitch instead of as a fingered note.

But yeah, why do I get a muted staccato instead of a ringing tone when I try to play a bar chord?

3 Answers 3


As far as I know, there are 2 possible reasons you get a muted staccato.

  1. One or more fingers (red mark) just touch the 5th or 1st string, and making the muted sound. enter image description here

  2. Your guitar action is too low. It reduces your strings' vibration.


Several potential reasons. But let's make life a little easier. That shape (an A shape) barre is transferrable all over the fingerboard, to produce any of the 12 major chords. Where you are trying it is in a difficult place. Try it on 5th fret - which will be a D major. Here, the frets are closer together.

Now, the barre goes across the strings at fret 5. It can go across all 6, or just 5. personal choice, although a lot of folk on the net seem to think it must only cover the top 5. This gives a root version. But it then means you either miss the fat bottom string when you strum, or mute it - usually with the tip of the index finger, some players use their thumb wrapped round.

Bear in mind that the barre finger only needs to press on the (6th) 5th and top strings. Use the side not the fleshy pad part of that finger. The 3 that are pressed on fret 7 (still on D!) need to be curled. You may be collapsing them and muting other strings in the process.

Other options are available with strings 2, 3 and 4. Use all 3 fingertips. Use two fingers to cover all 3 strings. Or - make a 'mini barre' with just one finger. I tend to use ring.

To pressurise the fingers, it's not so much clamping in a vice-like manner with your thumb. Instead, use the thumb as a fulcrum point, and move your elbow in and out to allow the fingers to press.

One common reason it's unsuccessful is the set up of the guitar. If the action is too high, you're going to struggle to press them down properly. Tight strings that are too heavy gauge won't help either. If it's those, then for a time, tune the guitar a tone lower to help. It's not usually because the strings are too low to the fingerboard. If it was, every chord would sound choked.

That's starters. When it sounds better on D, move down a fret at a time until that dreaded Bb is reached, by when it should be lovely and clear. Try them and respond !

By the way, those 7th chords (based on this shape) are easier, as you only need to press strings 2 and 4; the barre does the others.


Apart from your fingers muting the adjacent strings unintentionally there are a few things which are needed for barre.

  • Strength applied (does not mean strong hands from experience)
  • You gotto play around with the neck position ie holding it like classical ie increasing the angle between floor and guitar
  • Push with your chest (ya believe me it works) esp for the first few times until you figure out the strength aspect
  • Finally using fleshy part of your fingers to press the strings required usually the e, A and E and sometimes B. Remember you dont need your barring finger to press all strings all the time evenly.

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