Playing barre chords is a challenge for many guitarists, especially if you have small hands. Barre chords involve holding down multiple strings with one finger which can be tough if your fingers are short. Still, there are ways to make playing barre chords easier for everyone!
Beginning guitarists with small hands have a hard time playing barre chords, which brings the question, can people with small hands play barre chords? The answer is –yes. It has been found that children as low as six years old can play barre chords.
The average width for most guitar necks lies between approximately 1 ½” and under 2″. You can do this as an exercise and measure your guitar, to be specific. You can also find out the size of the index finger by measuring from where the finger meets the large knuckle to the tip.
Then, with the required knowledge, patience, and perseverance, you will play with a lot of practice. It becomes easier to master the art regardless of the size of the hand. Small hands play barre chords well if they learn and practice practical body mechanics such as arm, body positioning, and finger positioning.
What are barre chords?
Barre chords are one of the trickiest techniques and most essential for beginning guitarists to master. Mastering them is crucial as it will make you able to play any minor or major chords, and also it makes it easier for the guitarist to read chord charts.
Barre chords are the opposite of open chords. Most beginner guitar learners are familiar with open chords, they involve the first three frets, and they are played using open, not fret.
A barre chord is a chord where a single finger plays multiple strings. It needs a different set of muscles and a lot of strength. It becomes difficult to transfer more power to one finger while still making it possible for the rest of the fingers to have enough grip playing a given chord.
The barre finger is observed to be lying down and not perched by its tips, and the other fingers are maintained in an upright position. This skill requires a single finger to operate independently from the rest, which is an art that needs dedication and practice.
However, it is a technique that is worth learning since it utilizes the rest of the guitar neck, allowing the player to access more chords and keys.
The index finger is not the only finger that can be used when playing barre chords. For example, the ring finger is also used on certain occasions for barre chords involving the fifth string; the pinky finger may also be used on certain chords involving the sixth string.
Why are barre chords hard for people with small hands?
When people with small hands try to play barre chords, it is difficult for them to make the shapes. This is because it is physically difficult for them to make the shapes required for these chords.
On top of that, they also find them hard to form because there are not enough natural finger-spacing options.
However, some of the best guitarists in the world have small hands. They’ve overcome this problem by playing barre chords differently—they use their fretting hand instead of their strumming hand. This allows their left-hand fingers to be closer together and their right-hand fingers to be farther apart.
Additionally, they use a pick instead of a plectrum so that they can use more pressure when plucking the strings with their index and middle fingers while using less pressure with their ring and pinkie fingers.
How to play barre chords with small hands
Here will find out ways on how people with small hands will be able to play barre chords effectively by reviewing some individual body mechanics to be observed, the best guitar to be used, and going over some helpful tips for mastering the art.
Best body positioning for playing barre chords
Playing barre chord involves the use of arm and hand muscles as compared to playing other notes. When we use more of our body muscle strength for some time, soreness and fatigue are expected. Therefore, it is essential to know better ways of reducing muscle strain, which leads to fatigue, and to be able to play efficiently.
The trick is to avoid using arm and hand muscles unnecessarily, and this will reduce fatigue; hence you will be able to play for a long time without much strain.
Types of guitar better with small hands
Electric guitars have a small body which makes it easier to reach your arms around them. They are also much easier to use since they have a narrow neck, and the tension on their strings is a little bit lighter than a steel-string acoustic whose string tension is high. However, it might be a challenging task to use it. A steel-string acoustic is much harder to use.
On the other hand, sing steel has higher pressure, a nylon string acoustic with a narrower neck may also be easier to use, nylon has a gentle touch on the finger, and the strings also have a lighter tension. You should also be able to choose the right-sized guitar that fits you well.
The following are helpful tips when playing barre chords with small hands:
Guitar neck size
With the size of your hand, you need to choose a guitar with a comfortable neck. Guitars in the market vary in size. You can for example choose a good electric guitar for small hands for the best playing experience!
It will be more pleasant with small hands, accessible, and playing will become less stressful for a guitar with a narrow neck, say, ¾ sized models.
Adjusting for your particular hand
All fingers are different; when you observe the side of the index finger, you will find that it is not all flat. It has some creases and dips. If one of the strings falls on the wrinkles, the resulting sound will not come out as intended.
Hence, you will need to adjust your barre either up or down a little bit to avoid this. It is advised that you always ensure your elbow is closer to the body. It feels good and makes it comfortable while playing.
It is essential to check the proper hand positioning since if your elbow is close to the body while at the same time you are applying pressure to the strings with time, the elbow will start moving away from your body.
These will result in unnecessary neck, shoulder, and back muscles, which are not needed when playing barre chord resulting in fatigue in the said areas. So it is essential that when playing, you find the correct arm positioning that will extend your left arm so that it hangs freely from your shoulders.
Then slowly hold the guitar neck loosely and maintain the position while applying pressure on the guitar strings, and always ensure you check the proper arm positioning from time to time. This positioning will allow your muscles to relax and also avoid soreness and fatigue.
While playing, use a firm chair
Observing the proper chair is necessary as it will offer the best sitting position. Chairs with hardbacks are advised since they will provide your arm a good support base preventing neck, shoulder, and back fatigue. With proper sitting positioning, you will be able to play your barre chords well. Soft chairs like sofa sets and couches are not advised.
Positioning the guitar is essential as better positioning will prevent arm and hand fatigue when you place the guitar neck at an angle of 45 degrees making the guitar head at eye level. It will make it easier to apply pressure to the strings and keep your wrist freely and in line with your arm.
This position can be better achieved when using a footstool, and your left foot is raised a little to offer support when holding your guitar. It’s the classical positioning. If you cannot use the above positioning, you can also increase your right leg.
It will not have a good angle for the guitar as in the classical positioning, but it is much better than having both feet on the floor. Another option is to use a guitar strap while sitting, and you will be using your shoulder and neck muscles hence not effectively for playing barre chords.
I am playing using the sides of a finger.
Playing with the sides of your finger will allow your elbow to move to the body, reducing tension on your neck, shoulder, and back. With this technique, you play with the side of your index finger that lies close to the thumb.
It gives a harder contact surface for applying pressure to the strings onto the guitar fretboard. However, the flat surface of a finger is fleshy, making it challenging to apply the required pressure on the strings to acquire a pleasing sound.
Play higher frets
For beginners with small hands to play on the high-end frets, this is the advantage they have over those with large hands because they sometimes feel cramped when playing higher frets. It is also good to avoid using an F chord at first.
Most people learn barre chords after learning some open chords, and they may run into an F chord and try it. It may seem like a good idea, but the F chord is harder to learn. So then, for a person with small hands, you can start with learning minor barre chords and major barre chords.
Using a capo
A capo is a clamp always put on a guitar that uses different frets on a guitar to change the pitch of the open strings. It allows you to change the key of a song without having to learn new chords.
It also makes it easier to manipulate working with strings. Using a capo can be of great help to people with small hands, but then people hesitate using them because of trashy talks from other guitarists, and they also tend to look down on you.
How to master barre chords
To fully acquire the technique of playing the barre chord, just like another form of art, requires a lot of practice, a ready-to-learn attitude, and more, patience, perseverance, and paying close attention to details.
This activity mainly involves coordinating the mind and muscles, arm and wrist alignment, among many others. We will discuss various details to pay attention to when playing barre chords, especially for people with small hands.
How to use the index finger in barring
When applying pressure to the string by the barring finger, the method is different from playing a single note. When playing a single note, we use the finger’s tip, resulting in most people concentrating on applying more pressure on their fingertips when playing barre chords.
It is advised that instead of using force to the fingertips as we are accustomed to playing, we try to apply pressure on the knuckle close to the tip. It straightens the finger and makes it firm. Also, the pressure is evenly distributed on the finger rather than being concentrated on the information. It reduces unnecessary notes on the higher strings.
Earlier, we noted the part of the finger that we use. When using the underside of a finger, you will sometimes notice that less pressure is applied to the string to make it fretted, and this is due to the creases and folds on a joint of a given finger.
On the other hand, the edge is more challenging and bonier, making it easier to apply pressure. Most guitar manufacturers and players advise us to turn the finger a little bit and use the flatter part so as to fully fret the strings and achieve your chord.
Also, when playing a barre chord that requires the use of the ring finger the same way you apply pressure on the outermost knuckle near the tip, force be distributed equally on the fingerprint part, making it possible to use the required power on the three strings.
Thumb and wrist positioning
The thumb’s position concerning the other fingers is essential since the force on the thumb counters the other fingers, which exerts pressure on them, increasing their grip on the strings. Therefore, the thumb’s position always has the highest grip strength.
Typically, the thumb is always in line with the index finger when barring, and it is essential to make sure which part of the index finger is in line with the thumb.
When the tip of the index finger is at the top of the neck of a guitar, it will exert more pressure at that part of the finger which reduces power to fingers fretting the high strings.
When you drop the wrist a little lower, the thumb position will be in line with the middle finger. It will allow equal force distribution on the strings on barre chords involving the ring finger.
You can lower the wrist elevating the hand between the ring finger and the index finger, allowing more strength to the third finger. Having the wrist in any position allows the high strings to be appropriately fretted.
Hence it is essential to note the orientation of the wrist. Observing the above will enable you to play barre chords regardless of the size of your hand. You should always make sure to place your, either half down or lower. You either want to keep your thumb in line with the index finger or between the index finger and ring finger.
The part close to the fret requires applying the least amount of pressure to get a refined sound.
Barre chord exercises
It takes time and regular practice of hands and fingers to get used to playing barre chords. The best way is to ensure that you play regularly to make it easier. For beginners in learning barre chords, you should start with only two strings.
It is not a must that you start with an F major. If you find playing this hard at first, bring it to a higher set of frets to close together and lower the string tension.
Next, you try playing an R6 or root six barre chord where the sixth string is the base of the root note. Start with a power chord and work up slowly, ensuring that every string is heard before going up to do a full, six-string barre.
If that seems complicated, you can also try the fifth or seventh frets to push the A major or B major instead of G.
Next, you can try a root five or R5 chord, starting with the power chord and moving to the barre. Again, you begin with minor variations. Next, you try the major variation.
Instead of using three fingers, try using the pinky finger or the ring finger for the barre. It is easier and more efficient to play these chords. For people with small hands, it becomes more straightforward using the pinky it reduces the stretch.
How to make your barre chords sound better
Build hand muscles; you do not give up when your barre chords don’t sound clear. It takes time to keep practicing to build your muscle strength. You can at first expect a few muting and buzzing, but you can play various chords when you master it well.
It is always ensuring the proper finger form. The barre finger should always be straight to allow the required force on the strings by the barre finger.
Wrist alignment is essential for barre chords. Your wrist should be below the neck. This helps to keep straight the barre finger and allows for required pressure for fretting between the thumb and barre finger.
Stretching your fingers is an important exercise. It can benefit people with small and large hands too. Stretching out exercises increases one’s span across the fretboard.
Moving your index finger up or down sometimes while playing. You might mute due to creases on the finger, and moving up and down can help with this. You should make sure you can form all the top strings.
How to practice building up the muscle memory for these chords
If you are struggling to practice playing barre chords, here are some suggestions for ways to build up muscle memory for this technique.
One way is to go slow and work on one chord per day. This will allow you to focus on one technique at a time and see real results from practicing. In addition, by going slowly, you’ll be able to establish the necessary muscle memory that is needed to play these chords quickly and easily.
Another option is to practice switching your fingers in different patterns each day. This will help you train your fingers’ dexterity in order to learn new barre chords more easily, as well as improve overall technique.
The final suggestion for how to practice building up the muscle memory for these chords is practicing using a metronome. This can help you develop timing and coordination skills, which are both vital when learning guitar techniques like these.
“What should I practice if I want to build up the muscle memory for these chords?”
This is a common question that many beginners have, so we’ll start there.
The best way to practice these chords is by playing them in the first position and then the 5th position. This will help you build muscle memory for these chords, which will translate into an increased speed of picking.
Barre chords are different from other chord shapes because they require that you use your thumb and forefinger to support the strings. So, it’s important to create a habit of using those fingers when playing these chords!
To ensure that you’re practicing all of these notes correctly, make sure that you are using a metronome while practicing.
So what should you practice if you want to increase your confidence with barre chords? Practice playing each chord on the fretboard without ever moving your hand more than one fret. This will allow you to get familiar with the shape and how it feels when played at different frets.
As your confidence grows with barre chords, make sure not to spend too much time in one spot before moving on to the next technique!
“How do I get my fingers close enough together to play these chords?”
There are two main techniques for getting your fingers close enough together for barre chords. The first technique is to use the “half-step” method, and the other is to use the “full-step” method.
As an example, let’s say you’re playing a C major chord on the first fret of the E string. You would take your index finger, curl it around just below the first fret, and rest it against your ring finger. Your thumb will then be on top of these two fingers, supporting them in their new position. This will allow you to play this chord with a simple half-step motion similar to how you would find in open chords.
For people with small hands, playing the barre chord is not an easy task, and often, many would choose to give up because of the work needed. However, people with small hands can play barre chords. With practice and observing the tips given, it becomes easier for them.
It is also sometimes an advantage to people with large hands in playing some chords. Barre chords enable a person to be able to play the most important chords in any key. There are also times when you will need to change the barre fingers. We have some excellent guitarists with small hands, which shows their dedication and perseverance in learning the art.
Barre chords are the guitar’s equivalent of barbells. They enhance the tone by creating a thick sound, but they also require great dexterity to play. The fingers are spread open in an “X” shape and then straightened out toward the body of the guitar in order to play these chords.
The first difficulty learners run into is getting their fingers close enough together to play these chords. This takes time, but it can be accomplished through practice!
Making the chord change sound better is a common question that I am asked by people with small hands. The answer to this question is simple: practice these chords until they feel natural.
The most important thing for you to do when practicing these chords is to focus on your left hand’s wrist motion. That way, even if your fingers are not touching, you can still make the chord change sound better than it would with large hands.
The strings on the guitar must be stretched and their fingers must be placed far enough apart to reach the notes. This can be quite difficult for those with small hands.
Practice playing a different chord shape every day. Even if you don’t practice it every day, try incorporating it into your regular practice routine so you have a more varied repertoire of shapes.