How To Teach Barre Chords To Guitar Students In 5 Steps

by Tom Hess

How To Keep Your Guitar
Students Taking Lessons
With You For Years

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

You know what makes my blood boil?

Seeing guitar students (who pay good money for lessons and practice everything their teacher tells them to) who can’t play barre chords.

And by “play” I mean:

…fretting barre chords cleanly (without any buzzing) and effortlessly (without feeling like your arm is going to fall off from pain).

How To Keep Your Guitar
Students Taking Lessons
With You For Years

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

In my opinion, there is zero excuse for any self-respecting guitar teacher to not know how to get his students to play barre chords. 

Especially, since there is a process that makes learning (and teaching) barre chords virtually foolproof.

A process I refined from teaching thousands of guitar players and coaching hundreds of guitar teachers how to teach guitar.

Here are the steps:

Barre Chord Teaching Step #1: Tell It Like It Is

First things first: Don’t sugarcoat reality.


Tell your guitar students barre chords are harder to play than basic open chords. And barre chords will take longer to learn and master.

Then tell the good news:

You have a process that has never failed to help guitarists (who used it) play barre chords well. And you are there for your students every step of the way to ensure their success.

Next, remind your students that once they learn barre chords, they’ll have the chops to play hundreds of their favorite songs all over the guitar.

So, the rewards will be worth the effort.

If you skip this step (many guitar teachers do), your guitar students will often get frustrated with barre chords, give up too soon and may even stop guitar lessons with you.

That’s especially true if you are teaching a student who doesn't handle adversity well.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

After you set proper expectations, get into the process with step 2:

Trending Articles:
Image Of Guitar PlayingTeach Guitar Students To Practice
Show your guitar students how to
practice to get them better results.

Image Of Guitar PlayingWhy Tons Of Guitar Teachers Fail
Find out why most guitar teachers
are unable to make a good living.

Image Of Guitar PlayingImprove Your Guitar Teaching Fast
Learn how to improve your guitar teaching skills and grow a business.

Barre Chord Teaching Step #2: Buff Up Your Guitar Students’ Index Finger

Remind your guitar students the role of finger calluses.

The stronger their calluses are, the less pressure (force) they need to hold the string down. That’s because the fingertip becomes more dense and can hold notes down with less effort.

But when you (and your guitar students) start playing barre chords, the part of the finger doing the most work (the index finger barre) doesn't have any calluses yet.

The solution?

Tell your guitar students to grind their index finger up and down the strings (with the part they’ll use for the barre) for a few minutes per day.

“Grinding” (moving the finger up and down) builds calluses much faster than simple pressure does.

They can do this at home, while watching TV or while warming up. The more often they do it, the faster they’ll build the callus.

Barre Chord Teaching Step #3: Add A Twist To Familiar Open Chords

Tell your guitar students to play open chords (and change between open chords) without the index finger.

Remind them of all the same tips you already (should have) taught them about changing open chords:

How To Teach Guitar Chords

Tip: Also remind your guitar students to relax their index finger as the other fingers do all the work.

Don’t let the index finger curl up like a coat hanger or fly away from the strings.

This step prepares your students for…

Barre Chord Teaching Step #4: Play Barre Chords With Top 2 Strings Open

This step teaches your students to form the barre chord shape with their hand…

…without the challenge of putting the barre down to play a full barre chord.

Here is a simple chord shape your students can play:

How To Teach Barre Guitar Chords


Barre Chord Teaching Step #5: Help Your Guitar Students Use Less Tension

Now your guitar students are ready to play full barre chords.

Remind them to:

  1. Put the barre (index finger) down last (not first) in the chord.
  2. Use the weight of their arm to push the chord down instead of finger pressure.

This reduces the stress on your thumb and helps your students still hear every note of the barre chord.

When your students do it right, their shoulder, biceps and triceps feel very relaxed and the chord sounds very clear.

Watch one of my top guitar students - Guitar Practice Expert Mike Philippov demonstrate this in detail:

There you have it. 5 simple steps for getting your guitar students to play barre chords.

For some of your students, you may focus on one or two steps per lesson. For others – you may go through all 5 steps in the same lesson.

Either way: the sooner you take your students through this process, the easier playing barre chords become for them, the better you look in their eyes and the more likely your guitar students will be to take lessons from you for a long time.

Want to know what else you can do to keep your guitar students studying with you longer? Download this free eGuide: How To Keep Your Guitar Students From Quitting and I’ll show you 5 ways to inspire your students to take lessons with your for years.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains guitar teachers from all over the world how to earn 6-figures per year teaching guitar, while working less than 40 hours per week. 

Forward this article to your friends

© 2002-2021 Tom Hess Music Corporation