Barre chords are not only excellent ways to play certain chords, but they are essential for others. For example, the B chord can not be played as an open or “cowboy” chord. In order to make a proper B chord, you must either play it as a based on E barre chord at the 7th fret or as a based on A barre chord.
1. What’s a Based on A Barre Chord?
Barre chords are ones made by holding down all of the strings at a certain fret (or “barring” them) and then using your extra fingers to make the chord. This enables the same basic shape of chord to be made and yet allows you to play different chords as you move up and down the neck of the guitar.
I have already explained “based on E barre chords” in a different article; these barre chords assume the basic shape of an open E chord all the way down the neck with the inclusion of barring. Based on A barre chords, however, are based on the shape of the open A chord.
2. How do I do a Based on A Barre Chord?
-First lay your index finger across all of the string of a fret of your choosing. For this exercise, we’ll start with the most useful chord, the B major, on the 2nd fret. For a based on A barre chord, it is important to barre all of the strings except for the low E string; this one is not played for this type of chord, so either skip it or lay a finger down to dampen it (make it so it don’t ring out when strummed by lightly touching it).
-Try to press down hard enough to get the high E string and A string especially, since these are the most important ones to barre. Practice just playing those two to make sure you have it right.
-Now it’s time to lay the next fingers. Now there are two ways of doing this; the cheating way and the professional way. I think it’s important to know them both so you can choose which you need to use.
-The cheating way misses one of the strings but it is much easier to perform. For this way, simply place your ring finger on the 4th fret of the D string and your little finger on the 4th string of the G string. Then play your chord where you really are only playing the A, D, and G strings with maybe some barred B and high E (the B won’t go, but it won’t be very noticeable. Try dampening it if you want to play the high E). You’ve learned the easy way to play a based on A barre chord! Now let’s try the hard way.
-This way is more difficult because it requires a lot of finger strength out of your littlest finger. But after a while of practice you will start to get it. Barre on the 2nd fret as before. Now, use only your little finger to hold down the D, G, and B strings at the 4th fret. You will have to angle your hand so that it can reach all of them.
Chances are, you will only be holding down the D string and dampening the rest, but this is to be expected for your first try. Practice this way when you can. As you have now probably realized, by holding down those three strings, you are making the shape of the open A chord that is usually played on the 2nd fret. Thus the name.
3. How Are Based on A Barre Chords Useful?
Based on A barre chords allow you to make all of the same chords that based on E ones do, but they sound slightly different because they are at different places on the neck of the guitar. A B chord using based on E barring, for example is much higher up (as in down the guitar neck) than a based on A B chord. As a result, they sound different.
Also, the placement of based on A and based on E barre chords can make them convenient to mix and match together. For example, a based on A E chord is made at the 7th fret. From there, you can easily move to the based on E B chord that is also at the 7th fret. Their difference in tonal qualities will also make them sound good together. Another good thing about having two different kinds of barre chord is some chords are just too high up on the neck for based on E barring.
The D chord, for example is all the way up on the 10th fret; going from an F on the 1st to a D can be so difficult that it’s silly. The based on A D, however, is on the 5th fret, making it much easier to reach.
4. Anything Else?
Well also, based on A barre chords are much easier to be made into minor chords than based on Es because of the way the chord is organized. This is probably the number one reason they are commonly used. To make a B major, for example, into a B minor, simply do the easy version of the B major based on A chord, then add your unused middle finger to the 3rd fret of the B string.
This is now a B minor! Remember that with this new barre chord technique you can make a whole new slew of major and minor and other types of chords: C major/minor/etc. on the 3rd fret, D on the 5th, E on the 7th, F on the 8th, A on the 10th, etc. Practice your new chords and have fun!