One of the biggest challenges a beginner guitarist will face is learning how to play barre chords (bar chords). In all honesty, being able to play and use barre chords is guitar songs is not the easiest thing in the world. It takes practice and patience, but the good news is that it can be learned perfectly.

Barre chords

The secret ingredient to being able to play bar chords is practice and using the correct technique. If you haven't done so yet, have a look at our video guitar lesson on bar chords, than come back and read the rest of this article.

And now that you are back and have practiced bar chords a bit, let me give you some useful tips on how to hold down bar chords. You'll need to make sure you start learning them after you know the correct technique, otherwise you may need to relearn them altogether.

  • Mind your thumb: Your thumb needs to be right in the middle of the back of the guitar neck, so you'll be able to pinch the guitar inbetween your thumb and index finger, and exhert enough pressure to hold down the required strings.
  • Mind your index finger: You'll need to place special attention on your index finger when fretting bar chords. It needs to be close to and parallel with the fret wires, and not laying face down flat, but rolled onto its side.
  • Mind your wrist: Experiment with different wrist positions when practicing barre chords. Generally, moving your wrist forward will improve your bar chords by 100% already. Try it!
  • Mind your elbow: Place your elbow closer to your body, than you would otherwise. This will enable your index finger to roll onto its side more, which makes it easier to hold down the strings.
  • Don't hold too hard. Your hand shouldn't get numbingly tired, you are probably holding down way too hard if it does. Concentrate more on the techniqual aspects of fretting bar chords, rather than the muscular ones.
  • Practice a couple minutes every day: Believe me when I say that just a few minutes of practicing and concentrating on bar chords will develop your ability to play them by 400% in just a week or 2.
  • Watch other guitar player: Head on over to YouTube and search for videos where people are using bar chords in songs. Watch their hand movement, you'll learn a lot.
  • Play songs with barre chords: Learn by doing, as my grandpa always said. Once you can somewhat play bar chords, learn easy guitar songs which use them.

Remember that the key to playing bar chords is practice. Just keep at it, and you'll see that with time, playing bar chords will get easier and easier, until it will become natural. Thats the way learning the guitar works, all it takes is patience and practice.

Learn more about barre chords >>

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  1. Tips for tendonosis (chronic bilateral). I so want to play again. Thinking of a parlor size. Playing my tenor ukulele now. Guitar- have not played for 2years! Thank you for the reply.

    1. Sorry, I don’t have any experience with students who have tendinitis. Hope you find an answer!

    2. This thread has been dead for a bit and I’m not sure whether you found relief for your tendinitis or not. But a few things that have helped me are:

      * physical therapy – really it works. My physical therapist gave me great exercises and therapeutic massages.
      * feldenkrais – this paid massive dividends. its a bit expensive. and its seems counter intuitive when you’re doing it, but very good results from just one visit.
      * soaking hand and forearm in a bucket of hot water with epsom salt for 5 mins before i played. that saved me for years. it was my go to. ive been playing for years and that has always helped.

      also topical ointments etc to try – arnica, magnesium spray (very good), CBD cream.

      ive been playing for 20+ years. i thought i’d have to stop many times. but i did one or more of these things and i’ve been ok. still playing, teaching, gigging etc. (i came here for tips on how to teach my students barre chords a little easier).

  2. Thank you!!

    This tip for moving wrist forward has already helped me a lot. Everyone should know about this advice. Really helpful.


  3. Thank you for these tips. Now I know why my hand gets tired most of the time. Didn’t realise I was holding the guitar that hard. Will work on this issue then. 🙂

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