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Online Guitar Lesson: Easier Barre Chord Changes by Learning The Box by John Mackinnon

Have you ever tried to learn a song that uses a progression of barre chords that are spread out all over the neck of your guitar? The faster the tempo the more likely it is that you will over or under shoot the correct frets. While conquering this problem is often a matter of diligent slow-speed practice sessions, there is a fantastic alternative trick that consolidates all of these chords into one small section of the neck called the box.

What Skills Do You Need?

You need to be able to move smoothly between the common barre chord shapes.

Companion Barre Chord Shapes

The first step in playing the box involves learning companion pairs of barre chord shapes. These pairs come in all of the common chord families; major, minor, 7th, diminished, suspended, etc. Going from one shape to the other is a matter that requires repositioning just a few fingers while keeping your barre finger at relatively the same place on the guitar neck.

In many cases these transitions require only a simple flick of the wrist. This results in a more accurate and reliable way to produce certain rapid chord progressions. This compares to the more difficult task of constantly lurching up and down the neck of the guitar using only one chord shape.

Try This:

An example of this in the Major chord family would be the 6th string root barre chord shape and its companion the 5th string root note shape. Both of these popular shapes will play all of the major chords.

If you use the 6th string root major chord shape to barred at the 5th fret it produces an A major chord. If you use the 5th string root major chord shape barred at the 5th fret you will hear a D major.

Using only one of these shapes to play The A and D major chords would require the more difficult task of rapidly moving 5 frets up or down the neck of the guitar. Try it both ways using the fingerings as shown below.

A major fingering using the 6th string root barre chord pattern:

Barre your index finger across the entire 5th fret, 3rd finger at 7th fret of 5th string, pinky finger at 7th fret of the 4th string, 2nd finger at the 6th fret of the 3rd string.

D major fingering using the 6th string root barre chord pattern:

Move the above barre chord shape 5 frets down and back rapidly. Now instead of this version of D major try the one below.

Alternate D major fingering using the 5th string root barre chord pattern:

Barre your index finger across the entire 5th fret, 4th finger forms a partial barre at the 7th fret covering the 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings while deadening the first string. Rapidly alternate between this version of the D major and the A major chords.

Did you notice that (with a little practice), using the alternate chord shape for the D major was an easier transition. Did you notice that both versions of the D major chord sound very similar?

When Not To Use The Box:

Different versions of the same chord sometimes will sound just enough dissimilar that they cannot be interchanged with out negatively effecting the music. This is primarily a problem between chord shapes that use different octaves of the same notes to form the chord. The rule of thumb is that you should try to use the version of the chord that sounds the best even if it is the more difficult one to reach.

Strive to learn as many of these guitar tricks as you can. They can often turn the impossible into the possible and the difficult into something much easier. So, why not start filling your bag of tricks today by learning to play the box using convenient companion barre chord shapes?

About the Author:

For a visual image of how to finger the D and A major chords mentioned in this article please go to: Other guitar lessons, articles, a newsletter and detailed reviews of complete guitar instruction programs can be found here:

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