Learn 48 Chords in 9 Minutes

Bar chords are probably the most powerful chords you can learn on the guitar, because they are so versatile. With just a single chord pattern memorized, you can play in every key. Learn four patterns, and you’re ready to take on the world.

Bar chords are so important, I’ve created an entire course on them. You’ll learn the highlights in this short video, but if you’d like me to walk you through it much more slowly and in more detail, covering many more chord combinations, then I’d recommend checking out the course. You can find it here.

Alright, let’s dive in.

In this video I show you how to use four chord formations to create 48 different chords. The four basic chord patterns are shown below:

6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 (string number)
0 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 0 – 0    “E” Pattern Bar Chord
0 – 2 – 2 – 0 – 0 – 0    “Em” Pattern Bar Chord
X – 0 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 0    “A” Pattern Bar Chord
X – 0 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 0     “Am” Pattern Bar Chord

When you read the patterns above, if there is an X, don’t play that string. Where there are numbers, make sure you’re pressing the correct string on the given fret number.

Comments or questions? Please leave one below, and subscribe to the comments for this post so you’re able to see the responses.

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    1. Hi Chris,

      I play bass too – I have a 5 string Ibanez. Where did you read that bit about learning to play bass here though? As far as I remember I haven’t made mention of that anywhere, as the focus of this particular site is on the guitar (though some things are still relevant to the bass). So to answer your question, no, I don’t have any bass-only lessons on this site.

    1. Hi Haylie – if you can’t bar yet, that’s ok. Don’t abandon hope though 🙂

      Learn the open chords, and checkout the lesson on power chords as well. In time with practice your fingers will get stronger and you’ll be able to start barring certain chords.

  1. This video would have been well worth the time if Jonathan were to be sitting down and having the camera focus in on the finger positions (being placed on the strings) instead of us watching the back of his hand

  2. I agree with Donna about not being able to see your hand that well. Perhaps you could put the camera at a more elevated position or something? Or maybe you could sit as she suggested. Good chord teaching though.

    By the way Donna, if you are trying to do full bars on a steel string acoustic, that can be much more difficult than playing full bars on an electric. If you get light or “Slinky” strings you can bar really easily. Certain guitars can make it easier too if the strings are closer to the frets. I have noticed that Telecaster’s are really really easy to play in this sense. You should go to guitar center and test playing a Fender Telecaster. See how you like that.

    1. Hi Charles,

      Thanks for your input. Yeah, this was one of the first lessons I put online, and I’ve learned a bit since then. One day I’ll get around to re-doing it I guess with a better camera angle etc. You’ll see as you go through the lessons that I’ve started zooming in more to get right in close on the left hand, and also sitting on a stool. Got one for $5 🙂

      1. Oh, and excellent point about electric guitars being easier to play – although I would add that any properly setup electric will play just as well as a Telecaster – as long as the action and the truss rod are properly adjusted.

  3. Thanks for the video! I’m really digging it. My fingers aren’t quite strong enough yet either to play bar chords, but I imagine they’ll work their way to it.

    1. Yup, your fingers will get much stronger with practice…. you can start with power chords first if you don’t have quite enough strength yet.

  4. hi my name is Alicia and i just got my guitar for Christmas.I’ve watched videos on you-tube about how to play the guitar but all that i have seen is people that play with there right hands, but i am a lefty. what should i do so i wont have to play backwards or upside down?

    1. Hi Alicia – did you get a left-handed guitar? That’s the first step. Other than that, you’ll just have to watch close what people are teaching, and then do the exact same with your opposite hand. It’s a little more work perhaps, but all the fingerings and principles are exactly the same, just played on the other hand.

  5. I got 100 percent satisfaction from this lesson! I have been working on this off and on for a long time. You have made this very clear for me. The toughest part was making sense of the actual chords up and down the neck, I was struggling to figure that out, it just did not click. So, this was real easy, and I am very pleased…Now, if I can make heads or tails of I IV V, I will be playing like a pro, but it is not as straight forward, and I am stuck trying to figure out the EF and BC T and ST part.
    Bue, for now, I love this, well presented!

    1. Thanks Maggie! =)

      Regarding the I IV V bit – that ties together with these power chords quite closely actually. Each fret on your guitar is a semitone (ST). Normally, it takes two semitones to make a tone – the only exceptions are between E and F, and between B and C. Those are naturally occurring semitones. In other words, there is no E#, you go straight to F. Hope that helps.

  6. I am getting a glimmer of hope in one area, but a bit of a block when it comes to ‘building a major scale’.
    When I am trying learn the TTSTTTTST, I cannot get my mind around why the B turns into a C#, and the E turns into an F#. I know this is important to understand, and I am confused, because now I am going to E#…? right?
    Thanks for your help.

  7. Hi Maggie, the example you’re referring to is in the key of A. So if we follow the pattern… T T ST T T T ST then it goes like this

    A – Tone – B – Tone – C# – it goes to C# here, because the distance from B to C is a natural semitone, essentially as far as letter names go, it means there is no semitone between B and C, same as between E and F.

    So because we need to go up a full tone from B, we add 1 semitone, which gets us to C, then another semitone to get us to C#. Two semitones equals a tone.

    From there we carry on…

    C# – Semitone – D – Tone – E – Tone – F# – again, same thing… there is no E#, so we go E, add a ST to get F, add a ST to get F#.

    F# – Tone – G# – Semitone – A

    Does that help?
    (For anyone else reading this – I go into a lot more detail at OneFourFive.com)

  8. I am still struggling with this, I will watch and review ONEFOURFIVE again tomorrow, and see if that clarifies where I am struggling. I am determined to get this, it is only the ST part that is ‘tripping’
    me up. I am thinking that it should only go up a semi-tone, but it goes up a full tone, or two semi-tones. I see that ST, and I figure that B should go to C, a semi tone. ST. Am I mistaking how I am interpreting this?
    Thankyou for your patience.

  9. Yes, the distance between B and C is indeed a semitone. However, in the example in 145, I’m talking about the key of A. If you follow the T-T-ST-T-T-T-ST rule, then when you get to B, it calls for a T, not a ST. A ST would get you to C, however you need to go beyond that one more ST to create a full tone. Therefore, you get to C#.

    Try looking at the worksheet that came along with the lesson showing all the keys, perhaps that will clarify things in a different way.

  10. I think “I have got it”, I have interpreted it incorrectly….I have all my charts lined up on my desk…and I am seeing-the light. I will play with that for awhile until it gets comfortable, I thank you for your help. This is going to be very valuable information and obviously a useful and door opening tool.
    Again, how you presented that bar chord lesson, just perfect for me. I am so happy with that, and if that was all I got from this whole tutorial, then I would still be ecstatic.

  11. Hey !! I am beginner…whenever I try to play the C chord, I find it difficult to place my fingers on the strings, particularly the ring finger and the small finger. I had to really stress my fingers to hold in that position. [:(]
    Any tips of finger placing or any exercise on the same.


    1. Hi Pratikash – it is difficult at first, and really the only tip I have is to keep at it. You’ll find it gets easier pretty quick with a little bit of practice.

    2. You can also do a C chord by placing your index finger on the 2nd string, your 2nd finger on the 4th string, and your 3rd finger on the 5th string. (that’s the way I do it). You don’t even have to use your small finger at all

  12. Hi, Just bought 1 4 5 I knew some of it , but I have a much better understanding now, I will watch the video a few more times. Question… You started talking about the 7th, and then said it wasn’t part of what you were showing on the video. What’s so special about it and where do 7th chords come into the 1 4 5 scheme? Are they just accent chords for the major chords?

    1. Hi Howard, the chords for the 7th note in the scale are typically minor, but they can really be anything. (Not to be confused with 7th chords… you could play all of 145 in 7th notes if you want). I actually follow up after the course a bit on that issue – you should be seeing an email soon talking about it.

  13. As for the beginners on this site, being someone who has been playing for a while and not having a clue what I was doing, the best advise I can give is KEEP AT IT!!! My goal is a better understanding of why I am doing what I am doing on the fretboard. But anything you do is better than not doing anything. Take small bites, and after a few years of study and work, you will get there…

  14. Hi Jonathan and Maggie. Interesting though it is perhaps the simplest way to think of Tone Seperation is too for get t’s and S’s for the moment and think of a specific number as follows :-2212221 the intervals between tones. ie. between C & D there are two(2) frets or tones, and it works oll the way. I guess woever restrung our guitars way back when really did know what he was doing, although I somtimes wonder;).
    all the best Patrick

  15. In regard to the Whole-tone / Semi-tone issue. Suggestion:

    Some people may be confused by using “T” and “ST” as the symbols. (too many “T’s”.) This is especially true on the White Board, where the letters are spaced more irregularly.

    Visually it is easier to use “W” for “Whole” tone and “H ” for “Half” tone.

    Then you see W W H W W H W et cetera.

  16. Do you teach rag time, I’m very interested in learning this style especially for the banjitar I just purchased.
    Yours, Billy G.

  17. I’m really probably to old to start learning something, but after finding you, it looks so easy, thanks a million !!!!!!!! sandra johnson

  18. learned alot of chords in the first lesson, you forgot to mention how ez and fun
    i’m strumin’ and making up songs for my grand kids, stupid lyrics, but they like em’
    thanks wasted

  19. That was kool, I know I’ll need to watch it again to catch some of chords, but this was nice. I have to work on all of my bar chords but it will be fun going through them all.

  20. so why do you use the bar?
    if the 4 chords don’t show the bar, it shows open string so do you need the bar? or can u use these 4 chords down the neck with out the bar?

  21. Hi Joe – the quick answer… =) try the ideas you’ve suggested on your guitar, as your ear will quickly tell you what works and what doesn’t.

    The reason we use the bar is otherwise we’re left with open notes that don’t fit in the chord.

  22. I have started you dvd lessons. I have already been helped. Could answer a question? Where do I place the capo when I want to change
    Eb to C, and Eb to F and F to Eb. I want to be sure that I am placing it in the right place until I can throw the capo away.

    Don Calton

    1. Hi Don – wow you’re using a lot of Eb’s aren’t you? 🙂

      I would recommend tuning your guitar down a half step, so the whole thing is in Eb, then from there you can change to F by capoing on the 2nd fret. There are different ways of using the capo – depending on which open chords you want to use. Have a look at the videos I’ve done on the capo, you’ll probably find them helpful.

  23. Hi Jonathan,

    Honestly I don’t understand the above diagram that I see. What I want to know is, that i can play my guitar without looking at the note all the time even the song that I know. Your I,IV,V. GROUP CHORD was helpful. How can I improve from here. Please help! Thanks.

  24. Hi Ean, the diagram is rows and columns.. the columns show the string number, and the row shows the fret that you need to play on each string to make the chord.

    Playing without looking just takes practice… but you’ll get there!

  25. The stream lining is quite bad in some of these videos and others are really good. This video is really bad. What is causing this? It is irritating.lol

  26. have attempted barring, does not work so good. example A chord, after several attempts, the small e string stays muffled. i think it is the bony finger. i have been playing a while without using barr. is it possible to make much more progress without the bars?

    1. Hi Jane,

      Yes, you can definitely make progress without using bar chords, though I would encourage you to try to start learning them – start with the easiest ones, and gradually add the others as your fingers become stronger.

  27. Umm, Jonathan, I have an electric, and there’s no way I’m gonna barre. It’s just too hard to learn that type of fingering,(especially for beginners). I’m still trying to learn the basics of open chords. I’m also thinking others would have the same problem as well. However, the video was nicely done. A quick way to get all of the chords played on the fretboard. [Only too hard to perform:)]

  28. How come, in the keys of Gb and F#, there are are Cb and E# notes respectively? I was led to understand that there was no Cb or E# notes as the distance from B to C and E to F is a natural semitone.
    I am referring to the major scale worksheet that I have downloaded from your members area on the I-IV-V website.

    1. Hi Michael,

      The trick here is you have to follow the rules for building a scale… and those are a) that you have to use every letter name once, and b) ONLY once.

      In some scales you run into problems, like the ones you’ve mentioned, and we have to modify those notes to line up with the rules. A Cb is the same musical sound as a B, however for the sake of the scale, we have to call it a Cb in the instance you mentioned. Same with the E# / Fb.

  29. I am new and I don’t understand the barre. I have never seen anyone barre like you do and I can’t do it. Why is it necessary (again, please) to barre in the first place? My fingers don’t want to stretch.

    1. Hi Marsha – barring is very helpful, but when you’re starting it is probably best to focus on the open chords while your fingers get stronger and more flexible. Bar chords give you access to more chords that you can’t do easily in open forms…

  30. Dear Jonathan, I understand the tones and semitones so that is under my belt. I listened to your I IV V DVD and realized that I need to learn how to barre chord so I went back and listened to that video. I am somewhat lost in your explanation of major chord patterns from the DVD. I am hoping that once I learn the barre chords and listen to the DVD again several times that I will pick up information on what you are talking about. Right now I am overwhelmed I think. Putting the dots on the fretboard has me dazzled as well and finding the same notes on different strings blows my mind. I don’t think I know my fretboard like I should so I will work on that, too. It is like a puzzle right now.


    1. Hi Marsha,

      It is a lot to absorb, especially if it is all fresh. I’d recommend going back through the DVD in another week or two, as you’ll likely get more out of it that time around. Bar chords aren’t strictly necessary, though they are indeed very helpful.

  31. Hi Jonathan,
    I’m relatively new to the six string, having played bass in a school band for a couple of years . . . well over 45 years ago! I’ve been doing loads and loads of finger stretching, hand exercises, playing/learning scales, etc. for the past six months of so and have achieved a little more flexibility and dexterity than I had. However, due to the fact that I have very small hands/small, stubby fingers, I find it almost impossible to form chord shapes and when I manage a simple two-string chord then I have difficulty in getting clean and clear notes without muting the other strings. Very, very difficult . . . Usual advice is just to keep on trying. Any other advice you could please give.
    Regards, John.

    1. Hi John,

      Yeah, bass is great if you have stubby fingers! 🙂

      For guitar though, there are different widths of neck available. Some guitars are a lot smaller than others, and this places the strings closer together, making it much more difficult for you to get those clear notes. It might be worth looking around, and if you find something that is a bit wider and works better for you, consider a trade.

      That said, there’s just more of the same old advice: work on each chord slowly, making sure you can get every single note/string in the chord ringing out clearly. It’s difficult to line up your fingers to perfection, but once you find how to get a chord clearly (and regardless of your hand size, everyone CAN get a chord working, somehow… it may take some figuring out though) – once you find the way that chord works for you, it just becomes a matter of repetition. Hope that helps somehow!

  32. Hi Jonathon,
    Great lesson, clear explanation. Haven’t quite got the hang of ‘barring’ yet, but I’m still looking forward to being able to master these chords!

  33. i was originally lead to your site thru something called Learn Rhythm Guitar. i really am only interested in the Strumming portion on your courses. how can we deal with this.

  34. Hi,

    I have learnt more in the past two days,then in the last
    three years.This has been the best and most commonsense
    layout teaching material that I have ever seen.You have helped and made many people happy.People now know they can learn to play the guitar in a short time,thanks to you.

    Thank you very much.

  35. Hi, Jonathan.
    When ever i play guitar its breaking, i mean there is no swift flowing sound, when i change the chords. Can you pls help me out.

  36. I find it is easier to make the barre-chord if you place the bar fingerright up against or slightly on (but not over enough to mute ttone)the metal fret. This works for me if the guitar has heavy guaged strings or strings high above fretboard.

  37. As a saxophonist turned guitarist, this was great enforced training for me in that I had already learned the bar chords; however, the different positions explained in this video was helpful. Thanks


    1. Hi Eddy, sure, in fact it is easier for beginners to play all six strings rather than trying to limit themselves to just a few. HOWEVER – make sure you do this only with chords that actually require all six strings. For instance, G, Em, and E are great examples of six string chords. The others typically require one or two less strings, and for those, try to make an effort to only strum the strings that are part of the chord. For instance, D is only the top 4 strings (1234).

  38. Jonathan, great lesson. And I’d like to add that I’m amazed at the time you not only take in your videos, but the time you give to the members of your site individually. It blows my mind. You are the best. Cheers!

  39. I will admit doing bar chords are tuff.I guess I have very weak fingers.but,I will get it

  40. you showed your strings, 1-6 start on the bottom and work up to the thickest string. why are you starting from the 6th cord and working down or it seems like that to me>>>


    1. Hi Steve, the chords were related to the sixth string, because the lowest note in the chord is the one that we call the root note. For that reason, we care more about the lower (ie in frequency) notes than the higher ones. The chords I taught in that lesson are Root 6 chords, in other words, they find their root note on the sixth string. Does that help?

  41. Jonathan,nice beginner cource but I would prefer that you use an electric guitar hecause with the thickness of the hollowbody,it’s very hard to see where your fingers are.I’m familiar with the basics and for me ,I would prefer to see your finger tips on the neck!Your guitar is turned up and towards you and hard to see! P.S. I’m not a fan of acoustic guitar played too high on the body!

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