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View Full Version : Partial barre chords vs. full barre?


SoCalSteve
04-23-2009, 06:02 PM
So after playing mostly power chords for so long, I find migrating to the blues and playing barre chords to be difficult to the point of discouraging. I'm working through the "Blues You Can Use" book and the 7th barre chords are actually physically painful to play (I'm not getting any younger) and my overly curved pinky is an obstacle as well.

It occurred to me today that I remember reading Jimmy Bruno emphasises 3-note voicings in his online lessons. So I'm thinking maybe I should just roll with the fact that full barre chords are going to be a roadblock for me and stick to 3 and 4 note chords.

Is this way of playing more common than I realized?

Luke
04-23-2009, 07:19 PM
You should try to do everything so your opinions are greater. Any limitation you impose on yourself will come back to hurt you eventually IMO.

boogieplaya
04-23-2009, 07:27 PM
Playing triads instead of barre chord forms can sometimes actually help you see the construction of the chord better. It helped me see them as "scale tones" or intervals more than just chord forms. Then when you get comfortable with that, you can invert the triads for a whole new world of tones and colors. Maybe the gnarled pinky will open you up to a whole new musical adventure!

JSeth
04-23-2009, 08:45 PM
If you're going for an "old school" blues/rock sound - I think it's important to remember that those old timers did not, in most cases, play according to "the book"; in fact, I doubt whether they ever read the thing! Lol...

There are a lot of blues chord forms that are not barre chords, but are played with the palm of the left hand against the neck (for instance, the classic open position F chord moved up and down the fretboard, either not sounding the bottom 2 strings or "grabbing" them with the thumb hooked over the neck.) - a really classic and useful chord (thanks Robbie Robertson - he's where I learned this one...) is a "C" form made with the last 3 fingers but with the top 3 strings "barre'd" above the index finger - and doing various hammer-on's and pull-offs from this position is a sweet sweet sound...(think "The Weight" by the band or "Little Wing" by Hendrix, for example.

Point being, I don't believe you have to play barre chords to be a great blues gutarist!!!

Zero G
04-23-2009, 09:55 PM
Point being, I don't believe you have to play barre chords to be a great blues gutarist!!!

Absolutely not! You can imply chords just using diads like 3rds and 7ths. Barre chords...Pfffft!

rob2001
04-23-2009, 10:08 PM
I went through this also. Still am to some degree but for me, just fretting in tune was the issue on why full chords didn't sound right. I found I was applying too much or not enough pressure, resulting in full chords that were out of tune. I spent many years avoiding these chords, and blaming intonation...but it was definitly me! I'll say a well set up guitar helps though, and the amount of gain I used for power chords didn't work too well for full chords. So i'd say try the full chords on the clean to semi-dirt side and concentrate on the tuning of the chords.

ohmslaw
04-24-2009, 11:42 AM
If you're going for an "old school" blues/rock sound - I think it's important to remember that those old timers did not, in most cases, play according to "the book"; in fact, I doubt whether they ever read the thing! Lol...

There are a lot of blues chord forms that are not barre chords, but are played with the palm of the left hand against the neck (for instance, the classic open position F chord moved up and down the fretboard, either not sounding the bottom 2 strings or "grabbing" them with the thumb hooked over the neck.) - a really classic and useful chord (thanks Robbie Robertson - he's where I learned this one...) is a "C" form made with the last 3 fingers but with the top 3 strings "barre'd" above the index finger - and doing various hammer-on's and pull-offs from this position is a sweet sweet sound...(think "The Weight" by the band or "Little Wing" by Hendrix, for example.

Point being, I don't believe you have to play barre chords to be a great blues gutarist!!!

They wrote the book with their playing but never read it!

You don't see full barre chords played often in blues, it's usually a partial chord with 3-4 notes sounding. Use of the thumb over the neck is common but not necessary as you can play them several ways. There is a very common figure using four fingers that works quite well on strings 2-5 and 3-6 that can be used real effectively and gives you a few good variations on the 9th and 10th just by stretching the pinky but I have no graphic of it to post at the moment.

In truth a full barre chord usually sounds very muddy and most guitars cannot be intonated well enough to make them sound very good anyway, especially with distortion. Imply the chord with 2, 3, or 4 tones and let the bass guitar do its job.

derekd
04-24-2009, 11:55 AM
I find very few situations where playing a full 6 strings is useful, and often sounds bad. However, as some mentioned above, having the ability to do so is a good thing, and should be accomplished for your overall technical ability imo. The only time I use all 6 strings these days is playing solo, instrumental stuff.

stevel
04-24-2009, 12:30 PM
So after playing mostly power chords for so long, I find migrating to the blues and playing barre chords to be difficult to the point of discouraging. I'm working through the "Blues You Can Use" book and the 7th barre chords are actually physically painful to play (I'm not getting any younger) and my overly curved pinky is an obstacle as well.

It occurred to me today that I remember reading Jimmy Bruno emphasises 3-note voicings in his online lessons. So I'm thinking maybe I should just roll with the fact that full barre chords are going to be a roadblock for me and stick to 3 and 4 note chords.

Is this way of playing more common than I realized?

I'll echo the sentiments of others, but first:

My guitar instructor was a jazz player (hung with Charlie Byrd) and classical trained as well. He had damaged his ring and pinky (burned?) and had had multiple surgeries. Though he didn't play like Django, Django was an inspiration to him.

Interestingly, his pinky was bent in such a way that - while he couldn't play a lot of "standard" chords well, he could lay the top joint of his pinky over a pair of strings perfectly (a pinky barre) and liked to include 4ths on the upper two strings in his voicings.

So, use what you got.

And to add, I've recently been playing for the first time in band with Keys and rhythm guitar.

Now, I used to play trios so a lot of time, as the only rhythm instrument you "need" to play a lot of "fuller" voicings.

But in this 5 piece, I'm finding if the keyboard player is playing chords, and the rhythm guitar player is playing chords (usually barre chords), then it's WAY too dense already, and I really need to lay out, or play voicings that only use a minimal amount of notes - usually higher voicings than what they're doing to avoid muddying things further.

I think, since we typically learn our instrument alone, we have a tendency to play full barre chords a little too much - it seems (for me anyway) we like to hear the bass notes, and the full chord to be able to hear ourselves "playing the song".

They always say in jazz bands, where you get the fresh guitarist in, they tell them not to play the root, and to stop playing barre chords (of the 5 and 6 string types) because there's bass, piano, and horns and saxes all playing. Less is more in this context.

So I've seen this effect first-hand with the 5 piece I'm in. Plus, playing less (smaller voicings) helps "open up" the texture some more, even in 3 piece settings.

What you'd be best to do is, when you see C, or C7, etc. learn to play as many practical voicings of the chord as possible. For C7 you can play:

8
8
9
8
10
8

or

12
11
12
x
x
x

or even

6
x
x
x
x
x


And just because it says C7, you don't even have to play the 7th if someone else has it. Likewise, in some contexts, you may be able to include the 9th, or other notes as well.

I find myself playing things like:

x
11
9
x
10
8

Weird voicing for guitar, I know, but very comfortable, and works in a lot of contexts. It's "based on" a full barre chord, but not so dense.

So it's important to explore your options.

HTH,
Steve

marcher5877
04-24-2009, 01:04 PM
A great to way to force yourself to play chords differently is just take one string off your guitar.
If you removed the G string, you wouldnt be able to play Fm in 1st position because the Ab wouldnt be available, so you need to find another Ab. You have to find another place to play Fm. Whats Fm? F Ab C. Just those three notes make up Fm so find them somewhere else. There are a lot of different ways and each one has its own use.

SoCalSteve
04-24-2009, 03:12 PM
Thanks for the input everyone.

I can see how one shouldn't take shortcuts, but I also don't think it's good to get stuck and not be able to progress because I have to get all 6 strings to ring out.

The points about muddiness and the sound becoming too dense are well taken.

Thanks guys. I think I just wanted a little confirmation that it's okay and even in some cases preferred to play a 2, 3 or 4 note voicing.

Jim Soloway
04-27-2009, 10:33 AM
I'll be the dissenting voice here. Barres are a very useful hand position. And they're not just about playing six string chords. They can be used as a base for all sorts of things, anchoring the hand in alternate positions and changing the base from which to play all sorts of other things. Yes, you can be a functional guitar player without them, but you would also be eliminating all sorts of options. If you do that with every technique that's difficult to learn, you will eventually find yourself painted into a very small corner.

Bluesbuff
04-27-2009, 12:11 PM
I'll be the dissenting voice here. Barres are a very useful hand position. And they're not just about playing six string chords. They can be used as a base for all sorts of things, anchoring the hand in alternate positions and changing the base from which to play all sorts of other things. Yes, you can be a functional guitar player without them, but you would also be eliminating all sorts of options. If you do that with every technique that's difficult to learn, you will eventually find yourself painted into a very small corner.

I agree with Jim on this.. I find myself fingering the whole chord a lot of times, it gives me a "home base" and keeps me oriented as to where I am in the progression, but only playing parts of it, rarely the full 6 notes more often 3 or 4.

fr8_trane
04-27-2009, 01:01 PM
I find very few situations where playing a full 6 strings is useful, and often sounds bad. However, as some mentioned above, having the ability to do so is a good thing, and should be accomplished for your overall technical ability imo. The only time I use all 6 strings these days is playing solo, instrumental stuff.

+1 to that.

As I have progressed I find I play less and less barre chords unless its a power chord song that requires it and even then I'm always looking for alternatives. If you play with another guitarist or keyboard player it will become very important to learn triads, 7th chord inversions and partial chords so you're not stepping on the other guy.