Few things strike fear into the hearts of aspiring guitarists like the words “barre chords.”
The question I am most often asked is basically something along the lines of….
“I just can’t make a barre chord sound all the way. I have short/fat/stubby fingers and I just can’t get them to play a barre chord. Do I have any chance at all of becoming a decent guitar player if I can’t play a barre?”
First – yes, you will be able to play guitar, regardless of whether or not you can play a barre chord now.
Second – your finger shape/size really has nothing to do with your ability to play a barre chord. I know it probably doesn’t seem that way now, but in reality it’s the truth. I have yet to meet someone who couldn’t do it regardless of age or finger size and shape.
Playing a barre chord accurately is all about precision and placing your fingers in exactly the right place. The problem is, that “exact right place” is going to be a little different for each person because each person’s finger is shaped a little bit differently.
There are 2 common mistakes I see…. 1 is that your first finger must remain absolutely straight. I often put a slide across the index finger of my students and then ask them to play the barre chord. The slide makes it so the finger won’t bend.
What usually ends up happening is because they cannot bend the finger, they do the other things they should do because there is no choice. 1) They lift up the guitar neck to get it closer to their own head and this always makes it easier.. 2) The adjust the position of their wrist and thumb to allow the finger room to lay straight across the strings.
The other thing about barre chords is that they do take some time. Once you learn them, you may not be able to play them right away. But what you may have forgotten is that you couldn’t play any chord right away. When you first learn open ‘C’ you can’t just play it perfectly. It may have taken days or weeks to get it to where you could play it consistently, and your barre chord shapes will be no different.
Finally, remember that in most “band” playing you’ll play a full barre chord maybe 1% of the time. if you’ve heard me talk about “little chords” then you know that I use the barre chord shape as a guide, but I rarely play it entirely.
So relax, be patient, and have some fun with it. If it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere, turn your guitar over and remind yourself what it was like to play as a beginner… always good for a laugh.