Struggling With Barre Chords? Here’s How to Fix Them

There comes a time when every guitarist must venture beyond open chords and begin to play across the fretboard with barre chords. 

But, that’s much easier said than done. 

Barre chords are essential shapes that every guitarist has to master, but they’re also tough to play in the beginning and can cause fretboard frustration. 

Because you play more than one string with one finger, barre chords tire out your hands, create loud buzzes in your chords, and are just a pain to learn. 

But this doesn’t have to be your barre chord experience. 

Instead of struggling with barre chords, use the exercises in this lesson to build hand strength and endurance, making barre chords easy and fun to play. 

Each workout in this lesson is designed to teach you how to confidently and accurately play major barre chords in any key. 

Start by reviewing the notes on the lower two strings of the guitar and the 6th and 5th string major barre chord shapes. 

From there, dive into the three exercises and creative challenge below.

To begin, here’s a quick review of the notes on the lower two strings. 

Have fun with this major barre chord workout!

C Shape

Major Barre Chord Shapes

Here are the major barre chord shapes from the 6th and 5th strings as a refresher for this workout. 

Remember, the red circles are the root notes, they tell you the name of the barre chord when you transpose it to other root notes. 

For example, if you play the 6th string shape on the 8th fret it’s a C chord. 

As well, the numbers inside the circles are the fingers you use to play those notes. 

Have fun reviewing these shapes and taking them to the exercises below in this workout. 

C Shape

Major Chords Exercise 1

To begin your exploration of major barre chords you play two measures per chord as you ease into these shapes.

Because these chord changes are longer, they last two full measures, put on the backing track and dive in, see how you do on the spot. 

If you can do that no problem, great, move on to the next exercise. 

If the backing track gives you trouble, all good.

Grab your metronome and work at slower tempos until you’re ready to try the backing track again.

Have fun with this exercise as you get this major barre chord workout started off on the right foot. 

Backing Track 1

Major Chords Exercise 2

With this second exercise you play one barre chord per measure in a few places during this progression. 

Start on your own and focus on switching smoothly between each chord. 

Then, bring in a metronome as you build up to playing over the backing track. 

If you find this exercise tough today, not a problem. 

Just play one strum per chord to start, then add in other rhythms when ready. 

If you dive into complicated strumming patterns too soon it can cause the exercise to stall. 

Pulling back and removing strumming pattern allows you to focus on the chord shapes and changes, building a stronger foundation in the process. 

From there, you can add strumming back into the exercise with more confidence. 

Have fun with this exercise as you build your major barre chord skill set!

Backing Track 2

Major Chords Exercise 3

In this final exercise, you play one chord per measure as you test your barre chord skill set. 

Start playing each chord with just one strum per bar on your own, then add in a metronome when ready. 

From there, mix in new rhythms and picking patterns before taking these chords to the backing track. 

Once you get this progression over the backing track, use your ears to react to the band with your strumming patterns, picking patterns, and dynamics. 

Have fun digging into these major barre chords in your workout today.

Backing Track 3

Major Barre Chords Creative Challenge

You’re now ready to test your barre chord skills with a creative challenge, where you play a 16-bar progression using the two major barre chord shapes. 

You can work this challenge in a number of different ways and here are some of my favorites to get you started. 

- Play every chord from the 6th string root

- Play every chord from the 5th string root

- Play the first chord on the 6th string, alternate from there. 

- Play the first chord on the 5th string, alternate from there. 

- Use different rhythms and picking patterns. 

- Focus on dynamics, playing with louds and softs with each chord. 

- Leave space and let the song breathe here and there. 

After you work these variations, come up with your own combination of chord shapes, rhythm, picking patterns, etc. in your workout. 

Have fun as you dig into this creative challenge to finish this intro to barre chords workout. 

Backing Track 4