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Barre Chord Basics: Part II

by John Coco

Now that you have mastered the technique of playing a barre chord, you are ready for some more challenging chord forms. This lesson will focus on the six most commonly played barre chords in contemporary music. Although all of these chords are illustrated at the first fret, you can move them up to the third fret or higher to relieve some of the tension from the nut which will make them easier to play.

Major Chord Forms
Figure 1 shows the two most commonly used major chord forms. As you can see, one of the forms has the root note on the sixth string, while the other has the root note on the fifth string. A root note is the note that a chord is built upon, and will always be the lowest note for the barre chords in this lesson. You are already familiar with the F major chord from last month's lesson, so it should not pose a problem. The Bb barre chord is perhaps the most difficult of the six we will cover. Make sure that you follow all of the guidelines in last month's article to help you produce a clear chord.

Try both chord shapes and make sure you can switch from one to the other easily. Since there are often many ways to finger a chord, I have included an alternate fingering for the Bb chord.

Minor Chord Forms
The only difference between a major chord and a minor chord is that the 3rd, the middle note in a triad or three-note chord, is lowered by a half step (1 fret) as reflected in the fingerings. Notice the similarities and differences between the minor chords in Figure 2 and the major chords in Figure 1. The F minor chord needs a firm index finger to get the first four strings to ring clearly. The Bb minor chord should be a little easier to play than the other chord shapes shown so far.

Notice that the Bbm chord contains the same shape as the F chord, except fingers 2, 3, and 4 are moved over one set of strings towards the treble side.

Dominant 7th Chord Forms
The last two chord shapes we will cover are known as "seventh" or "dominant 7th" chords. No longer strictly a triad, (three note chord) the dominant 7th chord consists of four different notes. Notice that the barre chord fingering for the F7 chord is the same as the F major chord but without the fourth finger (See figure 3). It is important that you hear the Eb on the fourth string of this chord. Without the Eb this will sound like an F major chord not an F7 chord.

At this point, these barre chord shapes should begin to feel a little more natural to your left hand.

These are the most common barre chord fingerings for the major, minor, and dominant seventh chords. Memorize the fingerings for these chords as well as their root note locations. "Barre Chord Basics, Part III" will show you how to use these chords in a practical setting.

© John Coco 2004

About the Author:

John Coco actively performs in a variety of ensembles in the New York area. In addition to private instruction, John teaches several guitar and improvisation classes, devoting the balance of his time to composing and arranging for guitar. He is currently working on a jazz etude book, which will feature intermediate level solos written over standard chord progressions. John is a published author who has written extensively about the guitar and music education. In addition to writing for Guitar Sessions, he has been published in the New York State School Music Association magazine The School Music News, and is currently writing for Just Jazz Guitar magazine. He is frequent guest on "The Great American Guitar Show" which features many of New York's finest jazz guitarists.

John received a B.S. in Music Education from Hofstra University.
John Coco plays a 1946 D'Angelico Excel. John is a GHS and Intellitouch Tuner endorsee.

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