23 November 2009

Bar Chords: Do You Have to Learn Them?

Bar chords are a sticking point for a lot of guitar learners. Most of us find them hard to learn and we usually pass a long stage wondering if we will ever master them.

Some of us decide we will never be able to learn them and give up, thinking that we could never play our favourite songs without this skill. But this is unfortunate, because maybe bar chords are not essential to becoming a guitar player...

Do You Have to Learn Bar Chords?

Do you really have to learn bar chords to become a guitar player? The answer is no, you don't really have to.

Of course, not learning bar chords removes some playing options, but many others have built careers as respected musicians without playing bar chords, so why not you?

Bar chords are useful because they allow a guitar to create a rich harmonic background including many of a chord's notes. This rich, thick sound can be useful to fill the space in a small group.

But there are other techniques that allow a player to focus on more subtle aspects of the music. If you develop good skills in this area you could even find yourself ahead of fellow guitarists that play bar chords.

As famous blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Keb Mo put it in an interview with Acoustic Guitar magazine,
"... my problem is that guitar players are notorious for playing too much and too big in band situations. It's so easy with a guitar to play too much or play the wrong things, too thick.

In that mid range, the keyboards, the vocal, all that stuff is in the same range, fighting for a place to exist. Playing subtle rhythm guitar is such an art.
...
So when a guy doesn't have that sensitivity, I start flipping out, when he starts playing big power chords, too much on the bottom strings, compromising the textures that are coming out of the whole band, not finding those little sweet spots that help deliver the message."
So, you know what to do, don't worry about the bar chords and start looking for those "little sweet spots". Later this week Not Playing Guitar will bring you more ideas on playing alternatives to bar chords and little chord positions that could be right in those sweet spots...

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1 comment:

Gtr said...

So far, learning bar chords has been easier than learning all the alternative fingerings along the fret board for different chords. But if you can learn both, that's even better. It's what I'm working on.

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