Bar chords allow you to play chords in any part of the neck for fast changes and tight voicings. There are 5 basic chord shapes that are movable. They take their names from the open position chords.
By using your first finger across all the strings, takes the place of the nut for open chords, forming sort of a bar. This bar makes the open chords moveable up the neck. Let’s start with the E form.
When playing the E chord open, it looks like this.
If we move it up the neck one fret, it becomes an F chord.
You finger it by using your first finger to cover all the strings in the first fret like this.
You might also see it notated like this which means the same thing.
Similarly, to play Em in the open position looks like this.
To play an Fm chord, simply move the Em “form” up one fret and bar the first fret.
This “moveable” form works all the way up the neck. Simply put your first finger on the bass note you want on the 6th string, and place your other fingers in the form.
G and Gm are played at the 3rd fret, as indicated by the number to the left of the chord diagram.
A and Am are played at the 5th fret, as indicated by the number to the left of the chord diagram.
And so on, up to the 12th fret, were E and Em appear again, an octave higher than in the open position.
The same holds true for the “A” form.
Simply move it up the neck according to the bass note on the 5th string, remembering not to strum the 6th string.
Some people play the A Major Form by barring strings 2, 3 and 4 with their 3rd finger, although it can be difficult to get the 1st string to ring clearly using this fingering. Either fingering is going to take some practice. See which one works for you. You may ultimately need to master both fingerings and use the one that is most convenient for the situation.
Following the 5th string up the neck we have:
Again, it repeats at the 12th fret, an octave higher than the open position.
These two forms, the E form and the A form are enough to play virtually any rock and roll song. However, there are 3 more open chords that can be moved up the neck. The are the G form, the C form and the D form.
The G form follows the 6th string up the neck as we saw with the E form. In the G form, the bass note, and thus the name of the chord, is fretted by your 3rd finger on the 6th string.
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The C form follows the 5th string up the neck as we saw with the A form. In the C form, the bass note, and thus the name of the chord, is fretted by your 3rd finger on the 5th string.
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The D form follows the 4th string up the neck. In the D form, the bass note, and thus the name of the chord, is fretted by your 1st finger on the 4th string.
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Put together, the letters E, A, G, C, and D can be rearranged to spell CAGED as a mnemonic for this topic.
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