How To Get Better At Bar Chords Without Doing Boring Exercises
Simple Way #1: Bar Chord Break (Play 1 - Rest 3)
The first in this series of five simple ways to get better at bar chords without doing boring exercises is a fairly simple approach. Does that mean it doesn't work?
Nope... In fact I think it's the best place to start when trying to improve your bar chords because it really does work.
It also makes the next approaches easier.
Here's how it goes…
You want to start by keeping a pulse. In other words create a beat… Could be tapping your foot, or even nodding your head up and down slightly. I prefer to use a metronome. Start out slow. You can always pick up speed over time.
You’ll also pick a bar chord to use. Just one. If you don't have one in particular you want to work on I suggest the B minor bar chord. If you don't know the fingering you’ll find a diagram on the download sheet below.
I like to use the Bm chord because it’s one of the easier bar chords to make. It's also a very useful bar chord. Not quite as useful as the F bar chord, but a close second… And is definitely easier.
Now for some action: Play bar chord for one beat, rest for three beats, play bar chord for one beat, rest for three beats, and so on.
During the rest you can take your hand off. You’ll want to refinger the bar chord and be ready in time for beat one.
This way your hand won't get tired as easily… But more importantly you're getting more practice putting your fingers in the right place. This is a better practice than just leaving your hand there and getting sore.
Simple Way #2: Single Bar Chord Song
This is my favorite one. You’re going to play a simple four chord song or common chord pattern. Only one of the chords will be a bar chord.
You can use any common chord pattern with four chords, but let's start out with one that uses the B minor chord.
I'll break it down into steps:
- First get comfortable with the fingering of the B minor bar chord. If you're following these techniques in order that's already taken care of.
- Now practice the movement between just two of the chords - D and B minor. Start off by strumming the D four times, then the B minor four times, then the D chord again, and so on.
- Now practice moving between a second set of chords – B minor and A. you can follow the same process that we did previously.
- Next move on to three chords - D - Bm - A. Strum each chord four times. Start slow and try to get the movement without hesitating when you change. Keep repeating in your mind "patience".
- Now put the whole progression together. All four chords. That's D, Bm, A, and G.
- Add a Strum. Once you feel reasonably comfortable with what we’ve done so far and you can change chords without too much hesitation you can add a strum. I've included a suggested strum on the cheatsheet (download below), but you can use your own favorite strum also.
I know… It seems like a slow, tedious process. You might be thinking "why not just play the entire four chord progressions Tomas until I get it right?"
That's a fair question.
And the reason is when you try to play something that's out of your immediate grasp you will compensate with tension and make mistakes. Your mind is recording and creating habits. You don't want it to record too many mistakes or create a habit of tensing your muscles.
The key is to create a challenge that's not too far out your reach so you can get it right in a short period of time without creating too much tension or bad habits.
Okay, enough theory. Let's go on to number three, the…
Simple Way #3: Single Bar Chord Substitute
This one is similar to number two.
We're going to play a song or common chord pattern that generally can be played with open chords. Only now you substitute a bar chord for the open chord (start with one bar chord).
I'm going to recommend you start with a progression that uses the G chord. By developing experience with the G chord you'll be able to play many bar chords.
Start with the progression I show on the video which is simply G - D - C - G. The C and the D will be basic open chords… the G is going to be a bar chord.
Another one I like to use that's a little more difficult is the common chord pattern: G (bar), B minor (bar), F (bar) and A minor (open). You'll probably recognize the sound as it's been used in quite a few pop songs over the years.
(Check out the cheatsheet for fingering diagrams.)
Simple Way #4: Starting High
Start with an E minor bar chord on the seventh fret. Strum it several times and make sure all the notes are sounding.
Now move it down one half step (that's one fret) to Eb minor. Again strum the chord to make sure all the notes are sounding. Don't worry about getting it perfect right now, but do your best within a few seconds to get it right.
Keep repeating this process going down by half steps. When you get to the A minor chord you can switch your fingers around and play it as an open chord.
Now do the same thing starting on the seventh fret, but this time making a B major chord. You'll find the fingerings on the cheatsheet… did I mention there’s a cheatsheet? 🙂
Keep going down by half steps until you get to the open E chord.
If you're not completely exhausted yet let's move on to…
Simple Way #5: Classic Rock Bar Chord Maximizer
This one will give you a chance to really move the chords around.
It's my version of Louie Louie by the Kingsmen.
I say “my version” because the original uses a minor chord. I've been playing it since my teenage years with just three major bar chords. It makes a great exercise for practicing moving the bar chords around in a standard progression (what we call the musical world a 1 - 4 - 5 progression, or I - IV - V).
I've included the original version with the minor chord on the cheatsheet just to be thorough. Have fun with both.
Also try Wild Thing by The Troggs. I'm sure there's others that I just can't think of right now. In fact… let me know in the comments below if you can think of some that have the same progression… Or something close.
It's just for fun, and to get better at bar chords.
Download the Lesson Cheatsheet Here:
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When he's not making guitar instruction videos or creating more music to record (currently 7 CDs including Beauty and Fire) he's riding his bike along the beach with his dog Marco Polo or traveling to interesting places with his lovely wife Pui.