Advanced Topics: Bar Chords

If you’ve been practicing on your own, chances are you’ve looked up some of your favorite songs to play and have seen some pretty rough chords out there. Luckily the internet has hundreds of different ukulele chord charts out there, my personal favorite being Ukutab’s chord poster. While that one may look a little too intimidating, there are also more concise charts such as UkuleleChord’s chart and Ukalady’s chart.

Looking at some of those chords might cause a whole other headache– some of them look like they require 5 or more fingers! Egads! Look a little closer though: many of them need “four fingers” all on one fret. This is actually a bar chord!

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Bar chords are the worst– at first. But you get used to them. All you need to do is take your index finger and lay it flat against the fret, being sure to press down on each string. A great beginning example of a bar chord is the D chord! You may have seen a few examples of a D played with only three fingers, but there’s a different way to play it that gives you a little bit of an extra challenge.

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Take your index finger and lay it flat against the second fret. Now take your pinky finger and reach it all the way across to the fifth fret on the A string. This D can replace the “easy D” in a lot of songs to give it that extra kick. However, some songs sound better with the “easy D” rather than this new D. You will have to listen closely to the song you’re playing in order to make a decision on which chord sounds right.

Bar chords can also be very helpful when playing something that has a lot of chord changes or already has another difficult bar chord in it. For example, there is a regular G chord and there is a bar G chord.

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They sound exactly the same– but what happens when you’re playing a song that requires you to switch between a G and a D7?

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When you play a regular G with three fingers and switch to a D7 which requires a bar, one finger, and a positional hand change things can get difficult quickly. Even if you’ve been playing for years and only need half a second to switch it can get really tiring. And in songs that switch constantly and quickly (Tear in My Heart by Twenty-one Pilots) between things like D, Gb, and G– not only will bar chords prevent you from tiring out too quickly, it will also make that riff in particular sound much better and smoother.

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Plus, if you get really good at bar chords and hand shapes, you won’t even need a capo when we start throwing out songs like Riptide or Mario Kart Love Song. Some really fancy people in the ukulele club don’t have have capos (or straight-up lost them and refuse to buy another) and play these songs regularly!

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