Moveable Chord Forms

During my 20 years of teaching the guitar professionally, on virtually every level, I have developed a few of my own favorite little clichés or turns of phrase to make my students learning process easier and more interesting. One of those little clichés of mine is this: “For you learning the guitar means learning chords.” That is some really solid advice that guitar students of every level seem to understand and take to heart right away. For a guitarist, chords and a thorough knowledge of them is where it's at. I often think of the guitar as a harmony machine or a chord laboratory. Having such an instrument is a huge advantage to us as musicians so it would not make sense to ignore thhim him him him him him himis advantage in our musical careers.

The benefits of knowing how to play and name chords are beyond the scope of this lesson and would take pages and pages to adequately describe. Let's just say that the true value of a thorough and complete knowledge chords will continue to become apparent to you throughout your entire career. This lesson is all about how to play and name bar chords, or chords who have shapes that are given different names as they change locations on the guitar by move up and down the neck.


To be an accomplished guitarist, learning to play and completely understanding bar chords is an absolute must.There are two things I want to call your attention to here in this lesson:

  • The Physical, Geometric Shape Of The Chord.
  • The Name And Location Of The All Important Root Note.

Study the diagram below paying attention to these two details. Understand the two concepts I am talking about so far in this lesson. (Hopefully, you are able to identify individual notes in the first position by their letter name, but just in case, the name of the note located on fret one of string six is "F").


Playing Bar Chords

Understanding and conceptualizing bar chords is one thing, playing them is another. As you study the two photographs just above it may seem impossible or at least very difficult to play the F bar chord as I have pictured it. There are a few students who can do this immediately, with no trouble whatsoever. This has always amazed me because when I was learning to play bar chords I was convinced it wasn't possible! Just below you will find a video that explains how to develop bar chord technique and includes demonstrations of how the practice bar chords.


After watching the video try to do this exercise on your guitar on as many frets, that is in as many positions as possible. The main points concerning the develoment of a bar are

  • A Straight Flat Finger Parallel With The Fret
  • Perpendicular With The Ground (point at the ceiling)
  • Patience
  • Do the Exercise Regularly

Finally playing bar chords is not a matter of strength, it is more about finesse, proper placement and smooth even pressure. When you have tried the exercise and met with a little success, move on through this lesson.

Moveable Chords

Below you see 3 common chord forms: E - F- & G major. This is an exercise meant for you to study with the goal of learning to visualize root 6 major bar chords and alsoi for you to play these 3 chords on a slow deliberate and rhythmic manner. The following diagram will reinforce the concept of moveable bar chords and will give you practice in naming notes on string six. Study and play the three chords you see in the diagram below.

At this point in the lesson, the name of the game becomes knowing the name of every note on string six, the fattest string. As you see in the illustration just above there are regular letter names but there are also the in between notes called sharps and flats. To understand how to accurately and consistently name the notes on string six you should have a working knowledge of the chromatic scale. Study the illustration below tio review the chromatic scale and how the notes in that scale are named. Sone of the notes have two names but each of those two names brings you to the exact same note. For example, the note in between the C key and The D key is called either C sharp (C#) or D flat (Db).

The diagram above starts on the note C and not A as we would expect, this is because I, and all music teachers that I know, believe that every new theoretical concept should be learmed in relation to C. If one octave of the chromatic scale were written in plain text, beginning and ending on an A note, the 12 notes of the scale would look like like this:

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A

For each string on the guitar, the notes of the chromatic scale are in a one-to-one correspondance with the frets underneath that string. The next thing you have to do is simply to memorize the names of all notes on the sixth string, which essentially amounts to 12 small facts. Although it may seem easy, memorizing the names of the notes on the neck of the guitar is quite difficult. The drill depicted animation below is an excellent way to speed this process up. Work with the exercise until you can instantly name any note on string 6.

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Playing And Moving The Chords

The previous interactive exercise was training you to name each and every note on string six. Since the root 6 major chord form receives a new name on every new fret on which it is played, the importance of memorizing note names should be quite clear. The diagram below puts our concept in clear focus as each and every root 6 major bar chord on the neck of the guitar is diagramed and clearly labeled. Study and play all the chords in this diagram until you are comfortable naming and playing all the chords you see below, Remember learning the guitar, to a large extent, means learning chords.

The first 2 exercises on this page dealt with learning (or reviewing) two bar chords: root 6 F Major and root 6 G Major. These chords when played next to and studied in relation to an open string E Major serve as an excellent introduction and explanation of moveable chord forms. Lets explore this line of thinking a little bit further by playing, naming and visualizing the theree basic chords sounds (major, minor and dominant 7) as root 6 moveable chords. Play the chords in the illustration below so you can see how F Major, F minor and F 7 are based on E Major, E minor and E 7. I sometimes call the open string chords the parent chords of the chords played in different positions, which I call the moveable chords.

At this point, I will begin to wrap this lesson up. If this has been your first encounter with bar chords it would be quite normal to expect that this lesson has been difficult and deep. It would be advisable to review it several times with patience and care, each time you do you will get closer and closer to making this entire lesson seem like child's play. In the following video I will discuss the proper way to practice this material and give you some final thoughts before we progress through the rest of the course.