If you came here, then I’ll assume you have a problem with barre chords. Then I’ll assume you’re a guitar beginner, because you have a problem with barre chords. Well, this article is here to provide some answers on questions you have about barre chords.
Let’s just briefly answer to the question from the title: Do barre chords ever stop hurting?
Yes, they do. If your fingers hurt while playing barre chords, it means your fingers are still weak. Over time, fingers will adapt to the pressure they have to apply onto guitar frets. After some time, if played properly, barre chords shouldn’t hurt you in any way. But you have to play barre chords properly!
Of course, we’ll elaborate this claim further in the article. Also, other questions and issues related to barre chords will be addressed later on. Let’s start!
Why Do Barre Chords Hurt?
Barre chords are not easy to master if you’re a guitar beginner. On top of that, they hurt. But why? And how to make them easier and more pleasant to play?
Barre chords are chords played by using one finger (index finger, usually) that presses multiple strings across a single fret. But you probably knew that already.
They do hurt at a beginning because of a process of adaptation. Your fingers must adapt to a new situation. Our fingers are not used to do barre chords, naturally. But they CAN adapt to that kind of grip.
During the adaptation process, you’ll experience some pain. That’s mainly because the skin on your fingers is too soft for guitar strings. That’s especially a case for metal strings that are used for electric and acoustic guitars.
In the beginning of adaptation process, your fingers will get sore. It’s possible that you’ll develop calluses on the skin, also. You don’t have to worry about that. When that happens, you only have to do one thing. Rest. Take a day or two of rest and then come back at it.
Soon, your fingers will develop stronger skin and more strength needed for pressuring the strings onto fretboard. Just be patient.
Here’s How To Play Barre Chords Painlessly
In order to master using barre chords on your guitar, read the following tips. Those are valuable tips. If you comply to them, you’ll nail the barre chords and they’ll stop hurting.
Apply Pressure On The Right Place
Every guitar fret has its width. As you go from the first to the last fret on your guitar, frets become narrower. Barre chords are mostly used on a first half of a fretboard. That’s also a half where frets are wider.
Now, it is important to press multiple strings toward the next fret. Here’s the photo below.
OK. So you see those two photos above. One is depicting the wrong way to press across the strings, and the other is showing the right way to do it.
What’s the difference? Let’s analyze the wrong way first. If you look at the photo, you’ll notice that the index finger is pressing towards the beginning of the fret. Why is it wrong to press across the strings that way? It is wrong because you have to apply bigger pressure.
On the other hand, the right way of pressing is when you position your index finger toward the next fret, toward yourself. That way, the lesser amount of pressure is needed.
Big part of the reason you’re hurt is maybe because you’re pressing a fret at wrong position. Make sure you pay attention to that crucial detail.
Apply Pressure At Right Angle
Another important detail is an angle at which you’re pressing your index finger onto fretboard. By ‘right angle’ I don’t mean an angle of 90 degrees. I mean the right, in terms of right and wrong. So, what angle is a right one?
Here’s another pair of photos.
OK, these two photos seem very similar. What’s the difference? The difference is subtle, but it exists. Pay attention to the angle at which the index finger is pressing against the fretboard.
On the first photo the index finger and the fretboard are perfectly confronted to each other. On the second photo the index finger is slightly rolled to its left side. That way is the right way.
Why? It’s because a side of an index finger is naturally stronger. It’s ‘bonier’. That means it hurts less when it’s pressured against a fretboard that way.
Back side of an index finger (the side where your finger tip is), is meaty and soft. If you press your index finger on that side, strings will leave a bigger impact, or imprint, on your skin. It hurts more that way.
Make sure you roll your index finger a little, to one side. You’ll notice a difference right away.
What To Do When Barre Chords Sound Muted?
Another issue happening to guitar beginners is muted sound of barre chords. But don’t worry, everyone’s been there once. Me included.
So, you pick up your guitar and you start to play, let’s say, an F major barre chord. And then you notice that some of the strings are muted. They’re simply not ringing out. Why is that happening?
It’s obvious that something is muting some strings. Here’s the answer: Your fingers are muting other strings. To prevent that, you need to curl your fingers. Here, look at another pair of photos.
On the first photo, you see the wrong way of playing, regarding your fingers. You can clearly see that when fingers are not curled, they block higher strings (high E, B and G) from ringing. In particular, from the first photo you can see that the pinky finger is dangerously close to the third, G string.
Second photo is showing the right way of playing. From this photo, you can see that fingers are curled. That way, a pinky and a ring finger can’t stop higher strings from ringing. It’s because they’re curled, that way they are moved out from higher strings, thus letting them ring.
Not curling your fingers is the most common reason of barre chords sounding muted. Pay attention to that important detail.
What To Do When Barre Chords Sound Out Of Tune?
You may be noticing that your guitar sounds strange when you play barre chords. By strange, I mean strangely out of tune. Like, you know your guitar is perfectly in tune, but when you play a barre chord it sounds out of tune. Why, what’s happening?
It’s because you’re pressing your fingers too much against a fretboard. Too much pressure is slightly bending a string. Keep in mind that a fret (a line of fret) is having its height.
When too much pressure is applied, a string bends a little. That bending is causing a string to increase its tension, which results in higher frequency. So the net result is that some of the strings are sounding higher than they should be.
And then you hear a chord, as a whole, sounding slightly out of tune. Make sure that you don’t press too hard. Especially on an electric guitar. Electric guitar has softer strings, which makes that unwanted effect more pronounced.
OK, now let’s recap some of the most important details on this subject.
- take a rest when you need it
Taking a rest is crucial. Your fingers need to adapt to a new situation. They need a time to rest, so that a skin gets harder, which will make barre chords hurt less.
- applying a pressure on a right position
Apply a pressure from your index finger toward a next fret. That way a lesser amount of pressure is needed
- watch an angle
Roll your index finger slightly to a side. That way a side of your index finger that’s naturally harder is pressed against a fretboard
- curl your fingers
Curl your fingers in order to make them move out from higher strings. That will make a room for higher strings to ring out
- don’t apply too much pressure
Applying too much pressure against a fretboard makes a barre chord sounding out of tune. Make sure you don’t pressure it too much
I hope this article provided you a valuable information about this subject. Barre chords are usually hard to nail, for a guitar beginner. However, with these tips I’m sure you’ll master them quickly. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. If you did, I’m more than happy about it.
Check out other interesting articles about guitar related issues, if you wish.
Cheers, and rock on!