In order to become the best entry level acoustic guitar player you can be, it is important to learn all of the fundamental open chords, such as C, G, E, A and D, and then begin to build bar chords upon your foundation. Bar chords are unique in that they help you learn to play in different keys, play in alternative “voices” and move your songs and accompaniments all around the fretboard.
Use this simple exercise to see what barring does:
A bar chord uses four index finger, or another finger, to bar or chord more than 1 string at a time. A full bar chord will use the index finger across all 6 strings, while the other 3 fingers will chord the rest of the chord. Using this technique, you can play chords that resemble A, Am, E, Em, D, Dm, and many other open forms to use on other places of the neck or fretboard. Start experiencing the bar chord by strumming all 6 strings open. Then place your index finger across all 6 strings and press them firmly into the fretboard on different frets while strumming. You are essentially shortening all of the strings and making a temporary “nut” with your index finger or 1st finger. Strum with your temporary “nut” or bar at different places to hear how the pitches increase as you move the form up the neck (toward the acoustic body).
Now, play the G chord you learned on an earlier lesson by placing the 3rd finger on the 6th string 3rd fret, the second finger on the 5th string 2nd fret, and the 4th finger on the 3rd string 3rd fret. Strum all strings to hear the G chord in open form.
Now well learn to play a barred G chord. Since the root of the G is “G” formed by chording the 6th string on the 3rd fret, we will use this as the root. Take your index finger or 1st finger and place it across all 6 strings on the 3rd fret. Next, on the 5th fret, place the 3rd finger on the 5th string and the 4th finger on the 4th string. Finally, place the 2nd finger on the 4th fret 3rd string. If you look at your fingers, 2, 3 and 4, you will notice that they look like the E chord that we played in open form in an earlier lesson, and they are forming that same open chord form for E. Strum all 6 strings and you should hear the G chord, with a little different “voicing” or variety, yet it is still G Major.
Practice using both the G open chord and the G bar chord often and in a balanced practice. Also, take this G barred chord all over the fret board and try to figure out which chord you are making. Every time you move this bar chord closer to the body of the acoustic guitar by 1 fret, you are increasing the chord by ½ chromatic step. So, if you move this form to the 4th fret, you will be playing a G# major or G sharp major. When you move it to the 5th fret, you are playing A Major.
Next, play this same bar chord but lift your second finger, using only fingers 1 for the bar, and 3 and 4 for the rest of the chord. If you play this on the 5th fret, it will form Am or A minor. If you move this back to the 3rd fret where we started, you will now have G minor.
One more note for fun: Next, instead of strumming all 6 strings, only chop at strings 5 and 6 while moving up and down the fretboard. This is sometimes referred to in electric guitar playing as a form of a “power chord”. Since you are only playing strings 5 and 6, you can also elect to not bar the ret of the strings, but simply use fingertips 1 and 3 as long as your pick control is good enough to not strike any other strings except 5 and 6.
This completes the introduction to bar chords. Continue practicing while adding balance to all of the chords and techniques you have learned so far, and your playing abilities will be more diverse than if you simply focus on what is fun and easy for you to accomplish. It is sometimes good to start out practicing with warm up exercises, moving into something familiar, easy and fun, then spending the middle part of your practice time working on things that are challenging, difficult, or even frustrating, then ending your practice session once again with things that are fun and familiar so that your practice time is balanced with fun and challenge, without burning yourself out or plateauing.
(See part two of this article.)
This lesson was provided by Aaron Schulman from StrumViews.com. He has been in formal music training, performance, and composition since 1986 and has been an avid guitar player since 1990. You can learn more about buying an acoustic guitar and understanding their sizes, tonewoods, as well as learning how to evaluate them for quality at any price bracket here: http://www.strumviews.com/How-to-buy-acoustic-guitar-based-on-price.