Here’s the scene: We’re diligently practicing our barre chords. We focus all our attention on clamping down the first finger across the strings. We then carefully nudge our other fingers into place and hold on for dear life!
While it’s true that we have to develop the finger strength to hold a barre properly, much of our “strength” is really a product of leverage. And of course we have to be in the correct position with our barre finger since it’s the most important element of the chord.
Luckily for us, both barre chord leverage and positioning are the result of the same thing: proper thumb placement.
Your thumb gives you opposing pressure and leverage for everything you do on the fretboard. It also helps your finger positioning. Put your thumb in the right place and things get groovy. Put in the wrong place and things get very, very messy.
In fact, thumb placement is the hidden key to better barre chords. While you might be able to get away with bad thumb placement for other chords, it is über-critical to your success with barres.
By rotating your thumb behind the neck first, you create a nice little chain reaction; it allows your first finger barre to fall into place across the strings, while allowing your remaining fingers to spread laterally and sit up on the tips. And you’re also in perfect position to apply the healthy amount of pressure that your barre chord needs. Score!
I’ve seen many a barre chord go very wrong – or fail to even get started – because the thumb was along the side of the neck instead of rotated behind. Don’t be that guy (or girl). Before you can actually hold down a barre chord, you have to assume the proper position. That position is dictated by thumb placement.
Learn it, live it, love it. Amen.
You’ll note that although barres require a “thumb rotated back” position, other chords and techniques require that the thumb be on the side of the neck or even wrapped over top. So be sure to check out The Definitive Lesson: Thumb Placement for the full scoop on all things thumb-related.
To see proper thumb placement in real time, watch guest instructor Jeremy Gilless’s latest video lesson, “Amber” for Solo Acoustic.
Share This Article, Leave a Comment, Stay Connected
I hope Money Guitar Tip #4: The Hidden Key to Better Barre Chords was indeed money. If so, please take a moment to do some important stuff:
1 – Leave a comment below.
2 – Do the Facebook thing! Like the article, share the article, and like the FB page here!
3 – Subscribe to the mailing list (right sidebar, top) to get all the goodies to your inbox once a month.
4 – Subscribe to the RSS feed (top o’ the page, left) to get the goodies as they are published!