25 November 2009

5 Alternatives to Playing Bar Chords

So you're having a hard time learning bar chords? Don't despair, as discussed in Bar Chords: Do You Have to Learn Them? you may not have to play bar chords at all, there are many other ways to create effective music with your guitar. In this post, we'll take a closer look at some of the alternatives you have to playing bar chords.

You can use these alternatives if you don't feel ready to learn bar chords yet, or simply as a temporary fill in so you can play the songs you want to while you take the time you need to perfect your bar chord technique.

1. Maximise your open chord knowledge. There are many possibilities to create interesting open chord fingerings. Explore some chord dictionaries or learn how chords are built and make up your own open fingerings around the neck.

2. Learn to transcribe songs to keys that are open-chord friendly, e.g. E, A, G or D. Then you can play all your favourite songs with open chord positions.

3. Learn to use a capo. A capo transposes for you so you can play almost any key with the basic open chord positions.

4. Learn to play power chords. Power chords use only two or three notes and can be played all over the neck without a bar. They are an easy way to get familiar with chord positions further up the neck that you can use later for your bar chords.

5. Learn small closed chord positions. There are many two, three or four note chord positions that can be used instead of a full bar chord. In a band these are often more effective than the bar chord because you leave more space for other instruments in the harmonic mix.


If the mention of bar chords inspires fear and anxiety in you then relax with some of these alternative playing techniques. You can use them to express yourself musically without the bar chords.

In the final post of this series on Friday you can learn more about the small chords mentioned in item 5 above.

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