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Open, Barre and Movable Chords

Monday, 2nd March, 2015

You don't need to know how a chord is classified in order to play it but learning to identify which group a chord fits into will help you better understand how it is formed and how to use it for different purposes.

Open Chords

An open chord is one that includes one or more strings that are not fingered. Most of the chords that you encounter when you first start playing are open chords. Examples are:


As you can see with all of these chords, there is at least one string that is not fingered.

Barre Chords

A barre (or bar) chord is one that uses one or more fingers to press down on multiple strings so that the nut is no longer used for any strings (i.e. there are no open strings). Examples are:


The Fdim doesn't quite fit some people's idea of a barre chord as it doesn't use a bar across the fretboard but it does qualify.

When playing a barre chord, some people find it easier to use their 1st finger as a complete bar even though its not strictly necessary for all chords. For example, the Bb and Fdim chords above could also be played as follows:


Movable Chords

A moveable chord is really any open chord that can be used as a barre chord. Chords such as A, Am, F and C make excellent moveable chords as they can easily be converted into barre chords. Other chords such as G, Fm and Gm aren't as easy to use as barre chords.

You might also hear the term shape used when describing movable chords. For example:

Bb uses the A shape moved to the 1st fret

D7 uses the C7 shape moved to the 2nd fret

The beauty of a moveable chord is that once it has been mastered at the first fret, it can be moved up the neck to produce further chords up the scale.

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