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I'm having some trouble with the second string when playing sus2 chords on the fifth string, e.g. Bbsus2: x13311. Most of the time, I don't manage to push the 2 on the second/B string down properly and mute it. I've got similar trouble with the third string on sixth-string bar chords, but it's even worse for these.

What's could I try to relieve this issue? My best attempts so far have been to bar all the strings, but I'm a bit worried that this is just a shortcut to avoid working on my technique.

Any other ideas what I could work with?

  • Not an answer, but: do you struggle with these in all positions, or only in the low ones? A 5- or 6-string bar at the first fret, like the one in your example, is probably the hardest bar possible, especially if there's less than three fingers behind it. In my opinion, any trick to work around these is OK (even pressing with two fingers at once if need be). – Ramillies May 31 at 1:05
  • @Ramillies It seems I'm only having trouble on the first and second frets – Anna May 31 at 10:40
  • Slightly rolling the index finger on its side can also help. The underside of the finger is thinner where the joints are, but the side is usually straighter. – Your Uncle Bob May 31 at 14:22
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Barre all the strings for now, using middle and index on top of it for the barre. That moves the barre finger upwards so the joint isn't actually over a string. Namely the 2nd string - you need some flesh there to press down with.

This (and most barres) is easier further up the neck, so practise on 5th to 7th frets initially. The fact that the bottom string sounds isn't a big deal - it's part of the chord tones anyway- but eventually, if you must, you can relieve some pressure off it by only touching that 6th string rather than pressing it all the way down.

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In addition to Tim's answer, you might want to check with a knowledgeable collegue or luthier if the action is too high at the nut. This will make all barres more difficult, but especially the first fret. Probably not the problem, but can't be ruled out.

  • Thanks for the advice. I had a luthier check the guitar (electric, thin strings) and adjust everything some months ago. After this, barres were a ton easier all over, and I've had to be careful to avoid buzzing from the thick strings touching the frets. So I guess the action is ok. – Anna Jun 2 at 11:24
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If you are a beginner it takes time and practice to get the right position of the finger across all strings. Your finger does have grooves in it, as well as protruding bone. It's not a flat surface. Tim's advise is a good start but you could just as easily find you have the same problem. A couple things to try are (1) play the chord and if there is muting on the B string just shift the finger slightly (a few millimeters) either way and see if that fixes it (in time your body will memorize the proper placement), (2) try rolling the finger out so that the outer edge is pressing down to make the bar, (3) make sure you are flattening the index finger as much as possible (on the classical they sometimes suggest a slight hyper-extension of the finger, this prevents the strings from getting stuck in the grooves of your finger).

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In playing barre chords, you have to decide what are the critical notes that need to be heard. My hand isn't strong enough to make all 6 strings sound good, nor (for my style) do I want all 6 notes to be played. When barring, I will usually sacrifice the high E and B strings. sidebar, as a physical therapist using great force on the neck regularly may also lead to hand issues down the road. I hope that helps.

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