Major and Minor Barre Chords

“Except for a few guitar chords, everything I’ve learned in my life that is of any value I’ve learned from women.” – Glenn Frey

Now is when the ball starts rolling.

We've already learned to play our first chords, the Open Chords, but now we'll learn to play chords that can be played all over the fretboard.

Barre Chords are a shape of chords that use the index finger in the form of a bar that will press on all the strings at once.

Let's look at the following chord diagram:

You will notice quickly that the index finger appears all accross the strings. This is what we call the bar. This means we will place our finger accross all the strings literally, pressing down on all of them on the same fret.

Some people use some sort of bar or rectangle over the fret to denote the bar, and I think it's clearer so I included also a translucent rectangle to symbolize the finger.

I do not recommend you press on the fret straight down with the inner part of the finger, rather use more of the side, which is harder with bone and will make it easier to press on the strings effectively. Here's an example:

Let's analyze the notes, shall we? Yes, I know that's boring, but hear me out, you'll only need to do this once.

Of course, let's assume we are using a standard tuning of EADGBE.

  • 6th string, 2nd fret: F#

  • 5th string, 4th fret: C#

  • 4th string, 4th fret: F#

  • 3rd string, 3rd fret: A#

  • 2nd string, 2nd fret: C#

  • 1st string, 2nd fret: F#

Now, let's assume F# is our root note, therefore we get that A# is our 3rd and C# is the 5th. We have the major triad!

This position represents a major chord playing all strings. Because we use the F# note as a root, this position is referred to as a major chord with the root on the 6th string. Yes, not that fancy of a name.

Now that we know how to play a major chord, what do we need to play a minor chord? Well, we just have to modify one note of the major triad to turn it into a minor one: we have to move the 3rd interval back by one semitone.

In the case of the F# example, that means playing an A note instead of the A#, which in turn means the following shape on the fretboard:

These two positions are switchable all over the fretboard. To know which chord it is, just identify the note on the 6th string.

Now, let's look at this position:

First, let's analyze the notes, assuming a standard tuning, of course.

  • 5th string, 5th fret: D

  • 4th string, 7th fret: A

  • 3rd string, 7th fret: D

  • 2nd string, 7th fret: F#

  • 1st string, 5th fret: A

If we take D as a root note, we get that F# is a 3rd, and A is a 5th. We have another major triad!

This position is for a major chord with a root note on the 5th string, so we call it as major chord with root on the 5th string.

With this in mind, it's easy to make up a minor chord derived from this position; we just have to play an F instead of F#, which in turn makes up the following position:

You can see that the difference with the previous diagram is the note on the 2nd string. In this position we play the 6th fret on the 2nd string, which is an F note, and F is the b3rd of D, so we get a minor triad.