Full A shape barre chord - Impossible?

I realize this is not a popular topic around here :slight_smile:
Barre chord technique is one of these things that are not discussed much beyond beginner level, but I find them one of the hardest parts of guitar. Hard as they are, they are essential for acoustic rhythm playing, having all the chords covered for any given key, at will.
Even worse, you can’t really practice it much because practicing it is so injury prone.

Anyway, Worst of all is the A shape. I find it impossible to play it reliably.
Basically there are two approaches I know of:

  • Fingers 2/3/4 to make the A shape - I find this impossible to reliably shift to, and forget about executing this higher up the neck. Finger won’t fit
  • Pinky to make the A shape - This works, but the high E is usually muted. With effort I can get manipulate the pinky to skip it, but again, not reliably. Fine for electric guitar rock music. Not as much for acoustic.

So what is the most common approach here ? Can someone actually play that shape reliably ? Happy for any advice. It’s starting to occur to me that maybe acoustic guitar is not meant to be played with barring, and maybe after so many years, I need to admit defeat and use a capo more :grin:

Practise, no point in looking for complicated answers to a simple problem. in addition to that ive never heard of anyone injuring themselves doing barrechords. if you want to do barrechords start doing barrechords, no way around it.

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Maybe your guitar has a high action/could use a professional setup.

Edit: maybe not, I guess other stuff would be just as hard to play.

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Try using the pinky between 2nd and 3rd strings, and ring finger between 3rd and 4th strings while barring the 1st and 5th with the index. I use 2 fingers between the strings in the same way to play a plain open A,


High action can make barre chords more difficult. Also certain neck shapes can make them difficult also.
Do you have an electric or another guitar where they feel easier?


Thanks, but my question was specific to the “A” shape with high E, so while practice makes perfect and all, I wanted to try and understand whether some shape or strategy works well for people, so I can practice towards a realistic goal.
Are you able to do the “A major” shape along with sounding the high E and do quick chord changes ? Are you using one of the approaches I mentioned ? Something else ?
P.S I feel this kind of trivialization of barre chords is exactly why I think a lot of people (including me) are not taking the time to develop proper technique for them to begin with, and as a result tend to avoid them.

Thanks. My electric has super low action, so no problem there. My acoustic has typical action compared to others. But this “A” shape thing is not really related to action I think. It’s more that I feel I have to choose between quick chord changes, and getting the full sound with the high E, no matter which guitar I’m using. As for barre chords in general, yeah, definitely it’s much easier on electric, but I would think this is just the nature of the instrument, isn’t it ?

Interesting! Never thought of this approach. I tried this out just now. It does seem like it can be made quickly, but I’m not sure I can reliably get all 3 strings with the two fingers. Seem like this requires some adjustments. Do you just place the two fingers straight in the middle and get all 3 strings to sound ?

I use index to barre strings 5-1, and ring to barre strings 4-2. My ring finger extends slightly backwards at the outermost joint and flexes at the 2nd joint to allow the highest string to ring. I never struggle to make the top string ring. It rings out just fine without any extra consideration.

For open A, I use the index finger in exactly the same way.

Edit: Also, barre chords sound fine on an acoustic, IMO.

Incredible. My anatomy must be very different since I’m not even close to pulling this off with my ring finger. I am able to with my pinky, and your words encouraged me to try again and see whether I can practice and make this practical. It seems like the margin for error is just too slim for me. Either I raise the pinky and risk blocking the A string, or lower it and risk blocking the high E. I’ll keep on working on this. Maybe it’s possible to perfect. Thanks for inspiring me to try again!

Well, yeah, they do sound fine, but for me, they don’t produce the full sonic beauty of the instrument consistently. Or maybe it’s just in my mind, since they’re not as much fun to play. I’ll give this another chance, as I seem to be in minority thinking this way :laughing:

Maybe you could post some pictures or a video to demonstrate the problem. That might make it easier to diagnose.

If you’re getting dead notes in the barre chord, they do tend to sound crappy on an acoustic. I assumed that goes away with experience for most people. The millionth time you play a given barre chord, your hand has figured out (consciously or unconsciously) how to do what it has to do to avoid dead notes. But I get the impression you’ve been playing a reasonably long time, so maybe in your case explicit changes to your form might be needed. Especially since you mentioned that practicing barre chords is injury prone. (I remember finding barre chords challenging, but I don’t think I ever hurt myself with them.) Again, pictures or video are probably your best bet.

A question: do your barre chords sound ok at first, but get worse after practicing them for a while? (Implying that the muscles in your hand are getting tired or your fingertips are getting sore.) Or do you have the some difficulty at all points in a given practice session?

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Does this help? (I don’t care about any chord that uses more than four strings due to my love of distortion and effects.)

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It’s not that I’m getting dead notes, but I think they’re ringing with less sustain and power than open chords. As a result, they don’t sound as glorious as their open counterparts. (I really like the sound of my acoustic guitar :wink: )
Also, clean and quick switching is harder. I usually can’t do it perfectly.

When I say injury prone, I mean that my stamina for practicing and playing them is much less than pretty much anything else on acoustic guitar. I feel like I need to stop after shorter times to prevent injury.

Sure, I might do that. Just gotta figure out a way to demonstrate it because the whole front and back setup of the hand seems important.

On acoustic, yes. I would say my hand begins to ache much quicker on tunes filled with barre chords.

Huh, great finds thanks! Interesting that both of these videos confirm my impression.

  • The 4 finger approach is impractical.
  • The 2 finger approach is better, but they advise to give up on that high E. It’s funny that in the JustinGuitar video he even says it sounds better this way. That’s a great way to solve the problem - convince oneself it’s better not to solve it :wink: