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.

Video Problems? Watch it on YouTube

Related Lessons

  • Bar chords – in case you need to brush up on your bar chords.
  • D Form Triads – for more info on those D form chords, like the F# I used in the video
  • Major Diatonic Scale – a refresher in case you’ve forgotten!

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  1. 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!

  2. 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

    1. 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 🙂

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

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

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. Jonathon,

    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!

  7. 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?

  8.  Johnathan,
    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?

    1.  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?

  9. 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 . . .)

  10. 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.

  11. 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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