Playing a Full Bar
We’ve seen in our previous study that the first finger of the left hand is sometimes
used to cover more than one string, as in the F chord, where it is used for two
strings. When the finger goes across all the strings this is known as a full bar.
Somewhat illogically, anything less than a full bar is known as a half bar.
Beginners tend to find barring difficult until the left hand has acquired a degree
of strength and control. However, if the bar is done correctly it is not necessary
to use great strength. As with the half bar, it is far more important to find the
right position for the finger so that all the notes can sound clearly with only
The Full Bar
Here is how to find the right position:
- Imagine the fret to be taller than it is, like a wall rising from the fingerboard.
- Imagine that you are going to lay your first finger into the corner formed
by that wall and the fingerboard.
- Place the first finger across the strings at the third fret, just touching
them with no pressure.
- Little by little, ease the finger down until you make contact with the fingerboard.
As you do this, pass your right-hand thumb lightly and repeatedly across the
strings. At first you will hear only the deadened sound of the strings damped
by the left-hand finger. Then, as the barring finger moves into its position
in the “corner,” the sound will become clear. At this point do not apply any
more pressure; this is all you need.
The other secrets to good barring are these:
- Make sure that the crease at the first joint of the finger does not fall
on a string. Adjust the position by moving the finger forward or back until
the crease lies between the third and fourth strings.
- Do not let the finger curve—this will produce deadened or buzzing sounds
on the inside strings.
- Remember to make and keep contact with the fret. Stay in the “corner.”
As a first practical exercise start at the third fret, and try this:
Chord block, first finger across the third fret
After playing this several times, easing into the bar until you hear a clear
sound from all strings, add the notes of a full G chord like this:
This is a particularly useful chord shape, because it can be used to make a full-sounding
major chord at any accessible fret on the guitar. For example:
Here the E chord shape is duplicated with a bar to form other chords. In the
same way, the A-minor shape may be moved to form new minor chords.
Instead of showing all the frets from the beginning, it is customary to show
the position on the guitar with a Roman numeral. Notes barred together are frequently
shown with a slightly curved line.
Chord block. A chord at fifth fret.
Here the A chord is played at the fifth fret with a full bar.
Now here are some more useful movable chords to add to your store.
The chords are shown with their names at the third fret. However, the G minor
could be moved back to the first fret to form an F minor, or forward to the fifth
fret to form an A minor.