Small Bar Chord Variations

In this video lesson you'll learn how you can cut your bar chords down to size, and still get a great result.

The cool thing about this is these bar chord variations take a lot less finger strength to make the chord (you're not actually barring it), and in addition, you're getting a totally different and unique sound now from the something you already knew!

The basic idea here is that you take the exact same notes you were playing in whatever bar chords you're using, but now you just hack the chord in half and only play the top 3 or 4 strings on your guitar.

This really gives the chord a higher sound, which can really help cut through the rest of the band, and it can stand out very nicely from another guitar player who is using the same chords, but perhaps is playing them as open chords instead.

Practice these two patterns - the major pattern and the minor pattern, and get used to thinking about the root note being on the first string instead of on the 6th string.

The other pattern in there that I realized I didn't show too clearly is just an open D form, but moved up. The root note for that one comes off the second string.

If you enjoyed this lesson, checkout my Bar Chords Made Simple course to get a more complete approach to all kinds of bar chords.

Mini Bar Chord Variations

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30 Responses to “Small Bar Chord Variations”

  1. Jack June 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Hey John, I did not know that. Very helpful stuff bro! Thank's.

  2. tom July 24, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Hi, I'm finding it hard to hear you speak. When i turn my sound up to hear you then the guitar is too loud. Maybe you should mic your voice. That said, great information otherwise!

  3. peter September 17, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Hey Jonathan, love to watch your videos 🙂
    Since you are not perfect yourself but authentic, encourages me much much more on my own guitar journey, rather than following some guitar-guru-god......
    Respect, and greetings from Austria

    • Jonathan September 17, 2010 at 8:47 am #

      Ah! You noticed my secret! Haha... yes, I'm FAR from perfect, and I don't mind people knowing I make a LOT of mistakes on the guitar.

      In fact, I believe if you're not making mistakes, then you're probably sitting squarely in your comfort zone and aren't progressing at that point as a player...

      Greetings to you from Canada 🙂

      • ozzy November 18, 2011 at 2:15 am #

        Its all good John. Greetings to you all from Mississippi,United States ( home of the delta blues--dontcha just love Robert Johnson--)

  4. colin steele October 14, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Great little videos you have here, very helpful dude!

  5. blueser December 26, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Many thanks,Gr8 lesson!(i have so much 2 learn...;)
    Bless you,good sir!

  6. Ian January 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Hi, Thanks for the lessons. God Bless, I think it;s Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Maybe Peace and happy new year. thanks again Ian

  7. Ken Plessner January 9, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    Liked the lesson on the small chords and theory behind it. Should prove to be very useful and improve my play (been at it for 5 or so years )

    Can the same idea be used for A string major and minor bar chords?

    • Jonathan January 10, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Hi Ken, you can definitely use the same idea on the other strings; however the pattern used changes a bit.

  8. Bob Richter April 30, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I just had a moment to watch this particular video. Learn another great simple trick. Thanks.

  9. Pig Iron July 8, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Awesome!! Thank you, my friend. I've been seeking a new way to play. A couple hours of practice and I will won this. You are great.

  10. justin August 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Great video! I liked your shirt too 🙂

  11. Jack October 13, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Exacly what I needed. I gave up on Barre Chords due small hands. This video gives me hope Tks again

  12. James Stollenwerck October 29, 2011 at 10:31 am #


    I KNEW there was an easier way...most good players I watch don't use a full bar. This is a breakthrough lesson for me. Going to settle in with 1-V-IV brainpower and start soloing on top. Can't wait... Thanks!

  13. Justin October 30, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    So I can just take notes from the major scale pattern to create major chords and notes from the minor scale (or pentatonic minor scale) to get minor chords?

    • Jonathan October 31, 2011 at 8:21 am #

      Hi Justin - you can find the minor chords out of the major scale as well.... II, III, and VI are minor, while I, IV and V are major...

  14. PHILIP CORCORAN April 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    good stuf thankx J

  15. Barb Barker June 6, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Unbelievably simple!  Thanks!

  16. Woodsmoke42 July 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I liked this lesson and have one small question regarding the minor chord fingering.  If I did that fingering on the second fret, I would have a Dmaj7, right?  I knew that was a movable chord but did not realize it is also a minor...or am I just mixed up?

    • Jonathan Boettcher July 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

       Hi Jeff, sounds like you're a little mixed up 🙂

      The Dmaj7 shape becomes a maj7 chord with different letter names as you move up... ie Emaj7 when you move it up 2 frets further, and so on. Let's call that shape XX0121 for the frets. X - don't play, 0 - open string, etc.

      So Dmaj7 is XX0121. Move it up, to XXX343 and you have Emaj7. Gmaj would be XXX334, and Gminor would be XXX333. Those ones can move up or down in the same fashion. The point though, is that maj7, maj, and min, are three different patterns.

      Does that help?

  17. wayne August 6, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Hey Jon. The brick background is much better! 🙂

  18. Ramartinez1 September 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I've watched this fingering a whole lot and have been trying to figure out what it was and why??? I should have guessed Jon would get us dialed in Thanks. (Just not as easy as it looks though . . .)

  19. Kushvocals October 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    what about 5th string bar chords?

    • Jonathan Boettcher July 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Those are very useful of course; however this lesson is geared towards partial bar chords that don't require as much finger strength. I've got a full course on bar chords, which can be found here.

  20. Will Smeaton March 5, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Good lesson. You demonstrated the usefulness of 'little'chords very well. I've never thought ot using this in a solo - but I will now !

  21. Dennis Berry July 21, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Really usefull. Thanks really adds a lot of special classy sound to my playing. I have been playing for 50 years Nate, the biggest trick I ever learned was from Tommy Emannual, this applies to every thing in life...learn from other players! It is the responsibility of all musician to help others by openly give and learn from each other. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I like to think that things like this will help some young person develop a usefull enjoyable skill. A positive use of their time. There are too many negative temptations in this world today. Keep sharing. Oh yea I bought the 1-4-5 lesson. Just letting u know I put my $ where my mouth is. I am learning and relearning, thanks. IT ALWaYS Works To GET BACK TO THE FUNDAMENTALS.

  22. ger mooney guitar man June 1, 2014 at 3:46 am #

    thanks Jon--know what you re at--but was a bit confused

  23. Craig July 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Very helpful, thanks so much. I think I have a good handle on this when the root is on the 6th string. But how do I finger a mini bar chord when the root is on the 5th string? Can you also help with Dom 7 fingerings?

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