– the 5th String Root ‘A Form’
In this lesson I take a look at the next most common barre chord shape, which is derived from an open A chord. The process is the same as for the E form barre chords except here we take an open position A chord, re-finger it, and use a first finger barre to create a moveable shape. In fact, this chord contains two barres – a first finger barre across five strings, and another, slightly tricky, third finger barre. Try and avoid covering all six strings with your first finger as some people do, as you’re then playing the 5th in the bass rather than the root. (You can always try that later on, but initially it’s a bit confusing.)
There’s no avoiding the fact that this chord is something of a bastard to play! But it’s worth the effort learning it, since it sounds great and is very widely used. Once you’ve got the major shape, the minor shape (derived from our open A minor chord) should seem comparatively easy.
Below are a few neck diagrams showing how we derive our two basic shapes from an open A and A minor chord.
The root notes for these shapes are found on the 5th string, and once again it’s important to get these notes memorised as soon as you can:
- 1st fret A# or Bb
- 2nd fret B
- 3rd fret C
- 4th fret C# or Db
- 5th fret D
- 6th fret D# or Eb
- 7th fret E
- 8th fret F
- 9th fret F# or Gb
- 10th fret G
- 11th fret G# or Ab
- 12th fret A
- 13th fret A# or Bb
Getting barre chords into your playing
The best thing to do to get comfortable using barre chords is to learn a few songs. I’d suggest getting some kind of chord songbook and working your way through as many tunes as you can. Some songs will use only barre chords, others will combine open chords you already know with barre chords. One thing you’ll notice is that you will now have two or three different ways to play the same chord. For example, a D major chord could be played as an open chord, as an A form barre chord at the 5th fret, or as an E form barre chord at the 10th fret. They all have a slightly different character, but any one of these can be used in a song that requires a D chord. Which one you choose depends on what sound you’re after, and which shape works best with the other chords you’re using to play the song. It’s a little confusing at first, but it’s actually a good thing to have a few different options.
A few barre chord song suggestions
There are thousands of good, easy-ish songs that are played entirely, or mostly using E or A form major and minor barre chords. Lessons I’ve filmed for this site that are barre chord intensive include Terrapin, Teenage Kicks and Sound and Vision. Click in the songs section on the left to find them.