Guitar Practice Exercise for Playing Barre Chords Based on E Major

By Mark Phillips, Jon Chappell

When playing a barre chord based on E, you’ll use your barre finger as a sort of movable nut or capo and your remaining fingers as playing certain open-position chord forms directly above it. This position can be awkward at first. A good way to build your comfort and confidence in playing barre chords based on E on the guitar is by practicing chord a progression, which is a series of chords.

As you play a barre, one of your left-hand fingers (usually the index) presses down all or most of the strings at a certain fret, enabling the remaining fingers to play a chord form immediately above (toward the body of the guitar) the barre finger.

The following figure shows a chord progression exercise using E-based major barre chords. Use only barre chords for this exercise, even if you know how to play these chords in open position chords.


Below the staff, you see the correct first-finger fret for each chord. Play the C chord, for example, by barring at the eighth fret. Then play A at the fifth fret, G at the third fret, and F at the first fret.

Trying to make all six strings ring out clearly on each chord can get a little tiring. You can give your left-hand fingers a break by releasing pressure as you slide from one chord to the next. This action of flexing and releasing can help you develop a little finesse and keep you from tiring so easily. You don’t need to keep a Vulcan Death Grip on the neck all the time — only while you’re strumming the chord.

Although you can stop altogether if your hand starts to cramp, try to keep at it; as with any physical endeavor, you eventually build up your strength and stamina. Without question, barre chords are the triathlon of guitar playing, so strap on your best Ironman regalia and feel the burn.

To demonstrate the versatility of barre-chord progressions, here’s another exercise that has a syncopated strum and sounds a little like the music of the Kinks. In syncopation, you either strike a chord (or note) where you don’t expect to hear it or fail to strike a chord (or note) where you do expect to hear it. (The Kinks, in case you don’t recall, were the English proto-punk band of the ’60s, who gave us such classic hits as “You Really Got Me,” “So Tired,” and “Lola.”)

The following figure shows you this progression. You play it with an E-based barre chord at the third (G) and fifth (A) frets. Because the two chords move back and forth so quickly, the release time (the period during which you can relax your fingers) is very short.