How to Make Bar Chords Easier on Guitar

You have probably encountered bar chords at some point in your guitar-playing journey.

They are found all over in music. From rock, to pop, jazz, or a classical guitar piece.

The tricky thing about bar chords is that they can tire out our hand, cause pain, and take away some of the joy of playing guitar.

In this article, we are going to break down some strategies to make bar chords easier as well as the technique that goes into playing them.

Let’s get started.

Correct Fretting Hand Technique

guitar practice routine beginner music

We can make bar chords easier by starting at the source – The fretting hand.

The correct fretting hand technique for playing guitar is as follows:

  • Your hand should make a “C” shape around the guitar neck. With your thumb behind the neck, roughly around fingers 1 and 2.
  • The fretting hand fingers should be curved when fretting notes with a bit of space between each finger.
  • Your wrist should be in a “relaxed straight” position. It should not be further outward than the fretboard. Neither should it be bent inward.
  • As your hand moves up and down the neck, the arm should follow the wrist/hand. Make sure your elbow also follows the movement of your arm. I often see elbows that stick out too much or are kept too close to the body. This will restrict movement and make things more difficult for our hands.

    * Make sure your elbow also follows the movement of your arm. I often see elbows that stick out too much or are kept too close to the body. This will restrict movement and make things more difficult for our hands.

Because we all have hands (and guitars) that are different sizes, we need to experiment with what works best for each of us.

Practice the Bar Alone

guitar bar chords lesson tutorial

Once your left-hand technique is looking good, you can start breaking bar chords down into simpler building blocks.

Let’s focus on the first finger. The first finger gives us the bar in the bar chord.

Place your first finger on fret 7 (because it is easier to fret there) and make sure to be as precise as possible when placing the fingers on the strings.

Do your best to get a clean sound on a simple 3-string bar. That means you will bar the top 3 strings of the guitar (The E, B, and G strings) and no other strings.

After you can get a clean sound with the bar on the top three strings, you can move on to get a clear sound on 4 strings, 5 strings, and then 6 strings.

Only move on after you can get a clean sound on each bar.

Only Bar What is Necessary 

When using bar chords to play music, we are not always using every single string in the chord we are playing.

Often, you’ll see guitarists using a full bar when only playing the top 3 strings of the guitar. This makes our hands work harder than they need to.

If the chord you are playing only uses 4 or 5 strings, save yourself the extra work and use the bar only on the strings that are necessary.

Use the Weight of Your Arm

As a classical guitarist, one of the most useful tips that I got from my teachers was to use the weight of the arm to bar.

If we use all the strength from the fingers or wrist, we are asking for trouble. It might take some time, but you will likely develop an injury.

Many guitarists have.Using the weight of your arm will help avoid injury and make bar chords easier.

guitar bar chords lesson tutorial

Here are the steps:

  • Make sure you are holding the guitar so that it does not move. (Secure it with the right arm at the elbow. Like a counterweight)
  • Put your first finger on the 7th fret of the guitar.
  • Using the strength in your arm, bring in the arm towards you. (Imagine the opposite of pushing a door open. You don’t need to use much strength in either situation)
  • Keep the bar down and strum the guitar strings.
  • If done correctly, you should have gotten a nice and clear sound on the guitar.

This tip is tricky, so you might not get it right away. After some practice, it will make your life much easier regarding bar chords.

Optional – Take Your Guitar to the Shop

guitar bar chords lesson tutorial

Sometimes, the guitar itself is just a little funky. It might just need a tune-up.

External factors such as weather, humidity, and time might mess with your guitar. The fretboard might get a little whacky and difficult to play.

If you have never taken your guitar to get set up by a guitar technician (or luthier), think about taking it to a professional to get looked at.

A qualified guitar expert works on guitars and can adjust your guitar so that it is easier to play and can make sure that everything is well.

Think of it as taking your guitar to the doctor.