Barre Chord Theory
Barre chords are an integral part of guitar. They are somewhat difficult to execute,
but the theory behind them is very simple. In this lesson I will attempt to explain
the theory behind barre chords so you will be able to create any barre chord you want to (even
Eb7sus4). You should be able to at least play barre chords before reading this page.
If you want to learn how to play barre chords, or are having trouble playing them,
try my page on playing barre chords.
Once you know how to play them, this page will be a gold mine.
Barre chords are basically E and A chords moved up the fretboard by using your barred finger
as the nut. For example, and F# chord is the same as an E chord moved up 2 frets:
Therefore, if you want to make an F# barre chord minor, you do the
same thing you would do to an E to make it minor. Since an Em chord is played 022000, the F#m
is the same thing moved up 2 frets: 244222. The same thing will happen once we start talking
about the A-chord-derived barre chords. For this page you will need to know
the notes on the 5th and 6th strings up to the 12th fret. The diagram below
outlines the position of these notes on the fretboard. Keep referring to it
throughout this page.
Now that you have a background of what we are talking about, I will go into
more detail on barre chords. There are two main types of barre
chords: E-derived and A-derived. I will discuss E-derived barre chords first.
E-derived barre chords are produced by moving an E-type chord
up the fretboard using your barred finger. For each E-derived barre chord I will use F#
as the example but the ideas used in each example will apply to all E-derived barre chords.
As is apparent in the F# chord shown below, the bass F# appears on
the sixth string.
Let's say you moved the F# barred shape up 2 frets. The note
played on the sixth string would then be G#, and therefore the chord you play is G# (466544).
If you want to make an A# chord, you simply make
the same chord shape at the fret where there is an A# on the sixth string, which is 6th fret.
So an A# chord is played like this: 688766. This applies to any chord; if you want a C#, then
play at the 9th fret. This is the basis of barre chords: if you know where your bass note is
then you can play any chord you want.
Now I will discuss the changes in barre chords to
make them minor, sevenths, etc. I will simply list the different changes that can be made and
the appropriate fingering of the corresponding F# chord. To see why these fingerings make
chords minor, seventh, etc., read the other pages that I have provided on those topics.
All these changes can be applied to
any barre chord as mentioned above; simply play them at a different fret. This table is
arranged so that the more important chords appear at the top and obscure chords appear at the
F#7 F#m7 F#sus4 F#7sus4
244322 244222 242322 242222
Now I will discuss A-derived barre chords. These chords
are formed by taking the A shape and moving it up the fretboard by barring. I will use a
B chord to illustrate these chords. As you can see below, the B bass appears on the fifth
Therefore, to move A-derived barre chords, you must look for the bass
note on the fifth string. If you want to play an Eb chord, for example,
play at the sixth fret, x68886. Here is a list of the same changes shown above, plus two
more which are easy on A-derived chords but difficult on E-derived chords.