Barre Chords Made Easy – Two Simple Methods

Barre chords are frustrating. They take a long time to master, and even when you’re fully capable of playing them, they still can be really impractical.

There are ways to get around barre chords. I’m not telling you this because I want you to stop learning them. It’s really important that you continue practicing barre chords. But there are moments where it’s a lot more efficient to take an alternate shape.

Just like capos, these alternate chords can be used as a tool. As an efficient method to make your life a little easier. In some cases, these alternate chords sound even better than the original barre chord in the context of the song you’re playing.

So please, don’t use this lesson to cheat your way out of learning barre chords. But if you can use these chords instead of barre chords and they sound good in the context of your song… by all means, use them!

Chords Made Easy – Method 1: Skipping strings

There are four popular barre chord shapes. The E-shape, the Em-shape the A-shape and the Am-shape. In all these chords 5 or 6 strings are being barred by the index finger. If this sounds unfamiliar to you, I recommend you read my blog about barre chords first.

One way to make barre chords easier is to skip some strings, to make the bar smaller. Or even better, to get rid of the bar.

F Major Alternate Chords

Let’s take F as our first example.

If we take away the bottom string (the lowest string), we only need to bar upper two strings, because our middle finger, ring finger and little finger block are on the other strings. We mute the bottom string and we now have a simplified version of the F chord:

We can go one step further and also skip the upper string. We now have two muted strings and no bar at all!

B Major Alternate Chords

This is our regular B major chord:

The B major can be made easier by not playing the upper string:

Another way to play the same chord is by doing this:

In this case, we’re using our ring finger (not our index finger) to bar the three notes we’re otherwise playing with our middle finger, ring finger and little finger. It might seem a bit backward to play a barre chord to avoid playing a barre chord, so if you feel more comfortable using the first option, that’s absolutely fine. The second option is very efficient and quick though.

F Minor Alternate Chords

The F minor is probably the hardest barre shape, and the alternate versions are still pretty hard. In the regular F minor chord you’re barring four strings:

You can make this easier by barring three strings instead:

You can skip even more notes, but I don’t think that’s very useful in this case. If you were to skip the high E string (like we did with the second alternate version of the F major), you’d still need to bar two notes, and the difference between barring two or three notes, in this case, isn’t that big.

B Minor Alternate Chords

The B minor always came the easiest to me.

But we can make it a little more comfortable by skipping the upper string.

We now have a chord without a barre. Skipping more strings would make the chord less musical.

Chords Made Easy – Method 2: Playing Richer Chords

Don’t confuse “richer” with “harder”. I’m going to teach you a few seventh chords. These chords may have a fancier name, but in fact, they’re a lot easier to play. This may seem strange, but in some cases, you will only need to lift a finger to “add” that seventh.

If you’re confused by the term “seventh”, don’t worry. I will post a blog about seventh chords really soon. All you need to know right now is that these chords can be wonderful substitutes for annoying barre chords. At the same time, they can add a little extra flavor to a pretty basic chord progression.

So how do we play these chords?

B Minor Seventh

Let’s go back to our B minor:

A cool way to play a B minor with a seventh is like this:

This is a Bm7. I think it’s a wonderful little chord, with some beautiful open strings ringing out, but also that seventh doing its magic.

B Major Seventh

You what they say. When you play a minor, that major is never far away. I’m not sure if anybody’s ever said that, but in this case, it’s true.

Going from the Bm7 to the Bmaj7 is just an added index finger.

F Major Seventh

This one sounds great if you’re coming from an A minor or a Cmaj, and you already have that high E ringing out.

Instead of barring that high E string or skipping it, as we did earlier, you can now just let it ring.

You can make it a little lighter by skipping the A string as well:

Outro

So next time you come across a barre chord, and it just doesn’t feel natural. Try giving these alternative chords a try. Like I said earlier, don’t forget to learn barre chords as well. They are fundamental. But every new chord shape you learn on guitar is a new connection made in your brain. The more chords shapes you learn, the easier it will get to learn another one.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Happy strumming,

Timo

6 thoughts on “Barre Chords Made Easy – Two Simple Methods

  1. This is especially useful to me when I am playing a metal song, like something by Megadeth on an Acoustic guitar.  When I am playing my Dean electric guitar I don’t mind the bar chords as much because I’m using 9 gauge strings and the action is much better on an electric most of the time. I use this cheat a lot when I’m playing out solo with my Acoustic guitar.

  2. Another beautifully written and full of knowledge article. I gave to my son your previous post and since he is studying guitar he was really happy about it. Now I am gonna show him this one and I am sure he is going to be even more grateful. Thank you for writing these posts an please keep writing some more. They are really good and hopefully will save me private tutoring at home if my son just sticks with you!

    1. Hello Barbara!

      Thank you for your comment! I’m so happy to hear my lesson was of use to your son! That’s very encouraging for me to continue posting these lessons 🙂

      Timo

  3. This was a super useful post and I learned some neat tricks that I am going to try this evening. I am re-learning how ti play the guitar after decades of not playing (marriage, job, life got in the way for too many years). I have been looking for such a site as what you have here.

    No doubt I need to get the basic chords down again, and I am industriously doing that, but it is also nice to be able to add in some chords that are not quite so hard to play and still provide the sound I am looking for. These make so much sense and are easier.

    Thanks for putting this page and website together, no doubt I will be a regular stopping through to see what is new and to pick up on what you have already posted. Good stuff and I am excited to grab my acoustic guitar and get busy!   

    1. Hi Dave,

      Awesome that you’re picking up the guitar again. Good luck to you!

      Thanks for the kind words! If you have any questions in the future, feel free to ask. I’d love to help.

      Timo

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