Breaking Down Bar Chords - 317

 Ah, the dreaded bar chords. They're like the vegetables of the guitar world - nobody really wants to deal with them, but they're good for you! In this episode, we'll be diving into some tips and tricks to help you say goodbye to bar chord struggles and hello to a new level of musical confidence!"







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Oh, the dreaded bar chords. They're like the vegetables of the guitar world. Nobody really wants to deal with them, but they're good for you. In this episode, we'll be diving into some tips and tricks to help you say goodbye to your bar chord struggles. So stay tuned. Hello and welcome friends. Today's episode of the Play Guitar Podcast is here. I'm Lee, and this is the podcast that's determined to make you a better guitar player. No matter if you're just starting out or you've been playing for years, this is the show that will help you become the guitar player that you always wanted to be. If you are new here, make sure you subscribe to the podcast and check out the description for all of the links from the show. Okay.


This has been a cool couple of weeks here. We've been doing the private podcast as an extension of this main podcast here. Before we dive into today's episode, I wanna give a quick shout out to the dedicated listeners, the super fans who have come in and joined the private podcast are hanging out with me all week. I wanna thank you for being there. Thank you for your support of this show too. It's a great way to support the show and we need it. (laughs) But for those who are new to the show, what this is is the private podcast. It's an exclusive membership that it provides even more in-depth insights, some practical tips to help you grow as a guitar player.


You get extra episodes, you get tutorials, resources. We have membership Mondays, off topic Tuesdays, and the rest of the week, we have some exciting episodes that deal with this subject that's on the main podcast. Today, Wednesday on the private podcast we'll be unleashing the full potential of bar chords. This is tips and tricks to help you master them like a pro and bar chords unleashed. Thursday, it's all about overcoming the mental blocks that people have with the bar chords. We're gonna break them down. We're gonna troubleshoot them and we're gonna stay motivated as we play them.


Then on Friday, we're gonna be adding some stuff, adding some flavor, adding some creativity to your playing with something called bar chords on fire. So Friday's gonna be fun. If you're ready to take, and no, it's not Buffalo sauce. That's not what's, but if you're ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, head on over there. It's, become a member, and then you automatically have the private podcast, and you can listen to it on the go. You can put it into Apple Podcasts. The only one that doesn't do it is Spotify. I'm trying to figure out a workaround for that, but all the other podcast players, you can put this, you just take a link, put it into the player as a manual subscription, and then you can listen to that along with all the other podcasts there too. If you struggled with getting clear and crisp sound from your bar chords, or if you're just finding it tough to get the hang of them, this episode's gonna help you out. We're gonna start by looking at some common issues, how to troubleshoot them.


Then we're gonna move on to tips for using the right finger pressure, and for staying motivated, which has been a big theme for the past two weeks, staying motivated as you tackle these things. And as always, I encourage you to leave a comment, let me know what you think, and realize that this is off of an outline, and I reserve the right to deviate from that out at any moment. We've done it for the past three weeks. Probably gonna do it again today too, but it's more fun that way. So let's see, what we're gonna do, we're gonna break down the world of bar chords. I guess I'll put it this way. A lot of people when they start playing, and I'm doing it right. I've got the bar chords down here. This is where Lee told me to put my hand, and then I'm strumming it, and then I listen to these other people, and they sound better than me.


Have you felt like that before? I have. I keep practicing them, and there's something wrong, but I don't know what it is. So you need a starting point, a reference point. If I need to troubleshoot something that's going wrong with chords, where do I start? Well, we'll start with the common issues. Buzzing, and muted strings. (guitar strumming) That, not a clear sound, right? And then let's see here, muted strings. So if you're trying to play an A chord, and that's all you get. A couple of the strings ring out, but you got a lot of strings, probably in the middle, that aren't coming through. Those are the first two places to start. Buzzing or muted strings. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna start with your finger position. We need proper finger placement. What is that? So proper finger placement is as far to the fret as you can get without going over. (guitar strumming)

Sounds like a game show. (laughs) As close as you can get to the final prize without going over, right? So we wanna get our first finger (guitar strumming) right up behind the fret on the string. (guitar strumming) No one go too far. Don't wanna go too far back. Too far ahead, you get muting. Too far back, you get buzzing. Right below the string. Can you do that for every chord that you play? No, you can't. Sometimes you have to use a little extra pressure to make that note ring clear. (guitar strumming) Instead of. (guitar strumming)


Or. (guitar strumming) Now also, touching strings you're not supposed to be touching. Why are you doing that? Why are you touching those strings? (laughs) We all deal with that in the beginning. And everyone, the thing I find interesting, but here goes the outline out the window. (laughs) The thing I find interesting about that is it's such a big issue. Oh, I've gotta put my fingers down straight. I have to put my fingers down straight so that all the notes will come out clear. Okay, and I've gotta do that. I've gotta do that, I've gotta do that. And we spend so much time on that. And you don't, and later on you realize that,

well, it's actually not that bad a thing. I actually use muting of the strings, touching strings that are not the string that my finger is pressing down. I use that all the time on purpose. So the thing that you do in the beginning where you accidentally touch those strings, and bad, bad, don't do that, bad, bad, bad. Well, you know what? I use it all the time. But you have to do it intentionally. Sometimes on the chord, there are some strings that you don't want to hear. And you may not have the time to be very intentional with your picking. You might only have time to strum all the way across the strings. But you don't want that low string. So what do you do? You accidentally, on purpose, touch it with another finger that's on an adjacent string. Hear that? So here's my C chord. (guitar strumming) And here's my low chord, my low string.


I'm touching it with my third finger. My third finger's pressing down the root of the C chord on the A string, but I move it over slightly, just like I accidentally probably did when I was starting, and all I get is the click from the string. That way I can strum all the strings. (guitar strumming) And I don't get that low E. That, you know, and the E is in the chord of a C major scale, a C major chord.

(guitar strumming) But having that E, having the third in the bass may not be the sound that you're looking for. The angle of your fingers, how your fingers are coming into the note. Do you have your guitar strapped really low, where your hand is having to reach around the fretboard just to get the string, and then your fingers are coming in diagonally, not straight on? Are your fingers able to, do you have your thumb on the back of the neck that allows your fingers to come straight down on the notes? Do you even want that? Is there a reason for that? Do you need to have every single note ring? Or if you added a little angle to your hand, maybe put your thumb wrapped it around the fretboard instead of directly on the back, is are you getting an angle that it might allow you to mute some of these notes that you may not want to hear?


I was doing a C back there, let's do the C bar chord up on the eighth fret, right? For bar chords, we have the added problem of the first finger taking a big roll here, getting a lot of responsibility for this bar chord. It's becoming like the nut of the guitar, but it's moved up. So even if we're at an angle, and even if we're muting some strings that maybe we want to or maybe accidentally muting some strings, what we need to do now is we need to make sure that the chords are clear and the back notes, the notes where your first finger is playing is clear as well. And that's a new skill. So what most do is they put their finger down straight, flat, the pads of your first finger across all the digits, straight on the eighth fret. And then they try to assemble the rest of the fingers to make the chord. And what you start to feel is on the back of your hand, that your wrist all the way up through, all the way up to the fingers, all the way to the back of your hand, it starts to feel tight, starts to feel strange because you're having to adjust, you have to put your thumb way back to get that first finger down flat.


Now what we've found and what a lot of people have found is that if you roll your first finger on its side a little bit, it makes it easier, gives a better angle for your hand to put in the rest of the notes of the chord. And you don't get that terrible feeling in the back of your hand that you're just trying to force your finger to go down flat. Your finger doesn't have to go down flat. What will happen is you will have to build some calluses a little bit more on the side of your first finger for barring that down. Let's talk about the setup of the guitar. So your guitar can be set up in a way that makes bar chords very, very difficult. What's the number one thing? I know you're all thinking of it. Action, how high the strings are above the fretboard of the guitar. If you're trying to play a bar chord and you're having to press down like there's no tomorrow and it hurts and it's out of tune because you have to press down so far and the strings are very out of tune, then you're not gonna wanna play bar chords. You're gonna say, this is terrible. And you see all these famous people playing bar chords and there's nothing for them.


Why? 'Cause they got somebody who knows how to set their guitar up well. And so what do you got? You got one of two things that you can do. And we talked about this a few weeks ago. One of my students didn't realize that his guitar was holding him back. So what did he do? He took the guitar to someone who knew how to set the guitar up properly and now he's not fighting his guitar. His guitar is supporting everything that he wants to do. So getting that action down. And remember, it's both sides of the strings. Like we said, was it last week? I think it may have been a few weeks ago. Not only the bridge has to come down, but the nut has to come down. The bridge is easy. We've got little Allen wrench things where we can lower the strings down, but the nut will have to be physically altered to be able to do that. But once you have your nut height right, man, things get easy, especially for bar chords. Putting that first finger and barring all the way across the strings, if you've got, let's see, these strings are 9.5s.


They're pretty light strings. Not the lightest, but they're pretty light strings. With a low action and it's in the nut height, the slot height is set and the bridge, the saddle height is set, is nothing to press down these bar chords. It is just as easy as playing open position chords. Checking for fret wear as well. Sometimes we talked last week about, hey, oh, you find a guitar, oh, maybe it was two weeks ago. You find a guitar at a pawn shop and it's worn down in just one place of the guitar. Well, if you've got a guitar that's like that, the rest of the guitar is fine, but whenever you go to the fifth fret and you try to do a bar chord there, the notes won't come out. It works everywhere else, but not there. Hmm, think about it. If what you're doing works everywhere else on the guitar, but not at the fifth fret, is it your fault? Are you doing something wrong? I don't think so. I think that the guitar, the frets are lower there.


Maybe they're unevenly worn, so they're fretting out, giving you that buzz. Really, really difficult thing to do on your own to level frets. Maybe your frets, maybe those need to be replaced or you need to level the whole guitar, bring all the other frets down to those too. That takes a little bit of time, a little bit of patience if you do it on your own. A lot actually, but you can find somebody pretty easy to take care of that for you. Okay, so how many of you, you can raise your hand while you're driving, just make sure there's one hand on the wheel. (laughs) How many of you are afraid to adjust the bow of your neck, to make the trust rod adjustment? You get your guitar and what's in there? You get a cloth for cleaning, right? You get some sort of an Allen wrench, which is what I'm talking about. It's a little Allen wrench that fits on the neck of your guitar that you can adjust something and then you get the little promotional packet that tells you absolutely nothing, right? That has the name of the company on it.


So what do we normally do with those? We chuck them off to the side and you never see them again. Well, that little Allen wrench is important. It fits perfectly into the side of the, usually it's the headstock side. On some guitars, it'll be the pick guard side, but it's one side of the neck and you have something inside the neck that's called a trust rod, it's a piece of metal, usually two pieces of metal, a double action truss rod. And then it goes up through the neck and you can adjust how far back the neck goes. It's called back bow, or you can adjust how far forward it curves. So think about it, right? If you have a string that's pulled tight and it's in a flat plane and your neck is curved, it will be harder to play in one area of the guitar. You have farther to press down in the middle than you would up by the nut. And the other way, if you had a back bow, say your neck was too far back, what would happen? Well, the more you kind of puff the center out of the neck, the more it goes forward, the more those strings are gonna lay flat on those frets and you'll get, (tapping) every note will sound like that, right? So getting that angle of the neck, getting it wrong can ruin your barre chord. So it can make it very difficult to play if you have too much forward. And if you have tons of back bow the other direction, all the notes will just sound muted and fretted out. You have to get that correct, the correct angle.


Now, most times the neck is pretty straight. Humidity changes, weather changes, dropping the guitar, changing strings, something different tension on the neck and the bridge, all these things can affect it. And it may not affect it much, but enough to affect your playing. So you need to learn how to change the truss ride adjustment. And most people are afraid they're gonna break it. That's what I hear all the time. I'm afraid I'm gonna break the neck. No, you're not. They wouldn't give you the Allen wrench if it wasn't something that you could do. And what's really neat about it is if you can't mess it up, if you go too far, you just loosen it and then put it back to where it was. Just remember how many turns that you did. So let's talk about these barre chords. And we've talked about finger placement and all those things.


We've also just talked about the actual setup of the guitar. How can we improve accuracy with our barre chords? That is slow, deliberate practice. Just like every single thing in this kind of past four podcast, slow, deliberate practice. This isn't a race. We wanna get it right. Use your metronome. Practice going back and forth between these chords. Strengthen your hand. This is the thing, especially if you're an acoustic player. Barre chords are tough, right? You have acoustic players, your action's a little bit higher. Your strings are usually a lot heavier gauge. There's a lot more tension on the strings. So building your fingers and your hand strength up so that you can use the right finger pressure to avoid buzzing and avoid muted strings. Minimum pressure on your barre chords. What does that mean? Maybe you've built, here's a good example. So you're an acoustic player and you've been playing acoustic for years and you've got some good hand strength. And then all of a sudden you heard an electric guitar player that you thought sounded great. And you wanna do that. Maybe Mark Knopfler. You say, "I wanna play like, I wanna do Sultan's a swing." I wanna play that. Then you take that strong hand that you're used to playing that guitar and you go and you buy a Stratocaster so you can sound like Mark Knopfler.


And all of a sudden it's so easy to play but you're still pressing down just as hard. What happens? Hear that? You press down too hard. Sourness, your notes go out of tune. Why is that? Well, there's a distance between the top of the fret and then the fretboard and you're pushing that string down to the fretboard and sometimes so hard you're even sliding it across the fretboard. Taking the strings out of tune can ruin your barre chords. They'll sound horrible. So you need to learn what is, for each guitar that you play, what's the minimum pressure that you need to use to get the note to sound, right? Too much pressure. If you use the maximum pressure, it's going to be out of tune. Less than the minimum is gonna fret out. Another thing you can do is use partial barre chords. What's a partial barre chord? Well, do you remember when you learned the F chord? Right, and you learned F all the way across the guitar.


And then what happened? One day you came across another song and it showed you something that looked like that F chord but was only on the top four strings. And guess what? It worked just as well. Here's the full F and here's the half F. It cuts through actually sometimes a little bit better if you've got a dense mix that you're trying to cut through with. So using partial barre chords, limiting yourself to maybe the top three strings the top four strings or the bottom three strings too can really open up your barre chord playing too. And might be, if you have a guitar that's tough to play all six strings in the barre chord, it may get you to a place where you're still playing the chords and then you can build hand strength up over time. How many people have used the capo? Raise your hand. Keep the other hand on the wheel, thank you. Capos, I used to think they were cheating.

And then I realized that there are some sounds that you can get with capos that you cannot get any other way. With a barre chord, you need that first finger to act as the new nut. And what the capo does is it gives you that. It's like a movable nut across the guitar but what ends up happening is you free a finger up there. So instead of only being able to use two or three fingers you can use all four of your fingers to create chords that you couldn't do there. Plus it has a little bit stronger sound to me. A capo that's tightened just up just enough has a little bit of a stronger sound than a barre chord does but using your finger there too. So that's an alternative to barre chords. You can use finger strengthening exercises, finger picking patterns as well. So let's talk about the frustration of barre chords. This is big for a lot, some people. Some people don't think it's a big deal. Other people it's huge. It's demore, it makes you feel unmotivated to pick up your guitar when you know I have difficulty with barre chords and the music that I want to play uses barre chords all the time. It's a disconnect. I don't want to do that because they're tough. So how do you stay motivated while you're learning barre chords? Well, as like everything we've said this month,

break it down into smaller steps. Don't try to jump from where you are to playing the song. That's not, that's trying to skip. That's trying to skip ahead in your missing skills that you need that you'll use for the rest of your life. Start with simpler chord shapes and gradually increase the difficulty. You can do half barre chords, right? The top four strings. Take breaks with these things. Don't try and force these difficult barre chords every day and get burned out by doing them. Play them for two days and then take two days off. Play them for another two days and take two days off. Give your building a hand strength and arm strength too. Burnout is a real thing. No one thinks it's gonna happen to them. And it does. And actually if you force yourself to do these things so hard, you can physically injure yourself.


So remember, be smart about this stuff. Find something else to work on. Don't work on barre chords on that third day. Put it down for a little bit. Another thing we can do as far as staying motivated is inspiration from other players. Watching videos of guitar players playing barre chords. See those videos. See how easy it is for them. It's either gonna be the setup of their guitar that makes it easy, the gauge of their strings that makes it easy, or they practiced a lot. So check those things off. Barre chords will start to get a little bit easier. You could also join a community. We have a whole community section. I call it the woodshed for our members. And you can go in there and you could ask, "Hey, can someone show me how to play this barre chord?" I'm struggling with it. Someone within the afternoon, someone will put something up there. Sure, we have very helpful people in our community. We love to bring more and more people in there. Also, you can learn some new songs. Stop trying. If you got a song that's using a barre chord that's tough for you, you might wanna put that down for a while, play some other songs that have barre chords in there more at your level. So you can get a win and feel good about that. And then maybe by then, you'll have added some skills that will make it easier to play that difficult song as well. And make sure that you record yourself, record yourself, record yourself so you know that you're making progress. And then when you finally reach your goal, don't just forget about it.


Just, "Oh, I finally did that song." Now on to the next one. No, no, no, no, no. We're going to celebrate. You're gonna take yourself out to eat. I can play barre chords now. That's a skill that I need to do what I wanna do. We're going to make a big deal about it. So I hope you recognize some of yourself in what I talked about today. I hope you found these tricks that I'm giving you to master your barre chords helpful. Just remember, troubleshooting your common issues, use the right finger pressure, staying motivated. These are all important factors in becoming a proficient guitar player who plays barre chords. I'm gonna call it that's a wrap.


Thanks for tuning in today for the Play Guitar Podcast. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button below to stay updated on the latest episodes. Consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and iTunes. And don't forget, if you're ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, if this is something you're interested in, we're gonna deep dive into this for the next three days on the private podcast, and then we'll have some fun at the beginning of next week. So lock in your membership to the Academy today so you can become a super fan and get exclusive access to my private podcast where you learn directly from me and get a lot more fun and interesting guitar. Infotainment. Right there in your online home base for guitar. I'll see you over there. Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next time. Bye-bye.

(rock music)


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