Standard Applications Of Bar Chords

Standard Practices Regarding Bar Chords

So far in this course we have learned lots and lots of chords and also practical applications, common chord progression and also a fair number of licks and tricks. In this lesason we are going train our ears hands, brains and eyes to gain mastery over the bar chords. We will also delve more deeply into the bar practical applications of the chords we have played thus far. Before you continue, watch the short video below for tips, techniques and strategies.

Naming Notes On Strings Six And Five, Using Position Markings

In this course I am writing about the Root 6 and Root 5 system of organizing the guitar. In the last two lessons we played 12 major, minor and dominant 7th chords bar chords with root notes on strings 4, 5 & 6. because it is important to your to be able to name lots of chords as well as play them. Before we continuem, make sure you know how top name notes on strings 4, 5 & 6. There is a brief video to follow which adresses this topic.

Mastery of this system depends upon you being able to name notes on string 6 and string 5. I have thoroughly diagrammed this information in previous lessons. You can use the illustration below as summary for the preceding video lesson and as a reference and a review.


Automatically Know Two Versions Of Every Chord

IIn order to function in any type of band it’s important that you can instantly grab two versions of any chord, a root 6 one and a root 5 one. This is in addition to knowIng the chord as a first position open string chord of course. There are three good reasons to develop this skill;

  • Texture, sometimes playing the chord on higher or lower strings will make the song sound better and give you the artistic effect you desire.
  • Convenience, in root 6 and root 5 thinking, one version is always closer to your current position and eliminates the need for jumping around.
  • Balance, if you are working with another guitarist playing the exact same chord as they do every time is never a good idea because it can sound muddy and unprofessional. Also, you feel as though you are “lost in the mix” and not able to really hear yourself.
  • The diagram below will help you further you ability to use root 6 and root 5 thinking.


Bar Chord Trainer

Once you understand what we have studied so far in this lesson use the special trainer below to master the concept. In order to be a top tier guitarist you must be able to play a major, minor and dominant 7 chord as a root 6 and a root 5 voicing for any of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale.


Musical Benefits Of Alternate Chord Voicings

Below are real world examples of the value of being able to play alternate voicings of basic chords. The first example is a suggested way to handle a one chord rock vamp in the key of E. If the other guitar is playing the open string version of E major as a nice backdrop, duplicating that open string E major is musically a poor choice. Instead I have opted for the root 5 version of for a subtle yet effective difference.


Selecting Root 6 Or Root 5 Chords

Now that we have established the need to understand root six and root five thinking, the system which enables you to have two versions of any chord, you may need at your fingertips. The obvious question is this: when do I use a root six and when do I use a root five version of a particular chord? The best and most meaningful answer to that question is this: whichever one sounds the best. In guitar playing, and music in general the ear, is the ultimate arbiter, the judge of everything you may or may not do. Sometimes the chord which is not the most obvious choice, may be the one that sounds the best to suit your particular needs, or the demands of your song or arrangement.

That being said, one of the great things about root six and root five thinking is that it prevents you from jumping all over the neck of the guitar. If you have studied these lessons you know that from any particular chord, any other chord is actually quite close. Obviously an A chord is close to a B chord and a C chord, because they are just a few frets higher. Also the G chord is a mere two frets lower. In the case of the D chord and the E chord there are too many frets in between them to make it a normal practice to slide up to these chords, for that reason we would change the string on which the root note of that A chord appears.

The diagram below is meant to make this concept clear. Let’s suppose you are playing a root 6 A chord on fret five as the first chord in a progression. When it is time to change to the next chord you will have to play either a root 6 or a root 5 chord. Below you will see the A starting point as the large diagram and the small diagrams for B, C, D, E, F and G represent the set of possible roots for the next change. Some of the other roots are close and some are farther away. Your decision for the position of the next chord would be based on the location of root note of that next chord and its proximity to the A root note on fret five of string six which is your starting point.


Selecting Root 6 Or Root 5 Chords: Musical Examples

Below are two examples based on rock standards by Jimi Hendrix. The first example is a tribute to the song All Along The Watchtower. The root motion (movement of the root notes) is a simple one, A to G to F. All of these chords are played as root 6 chords because of their close proximity to each other. A good rule of thumb is this: it the letter names of the root notes are in alphabetical, (F G A) or even in semi-alphabetical order (A to C for example) you probably will not change from string 6 to string 5 or vice versa.

The second example is an homage to another song that all guitarists know, play and jam on: Hey Joe. Here, the letter names of rhe root notes in the root motion are not in alphabetical order: C G D A E. The most logical way to play this song using bar chords is illuistrated below. Since jumping from C to G on string 5 is not practical, the more musical and comfortable choice is to change the strings (from 5 to 6 or 6 to 5) on which the root notes appear. A second good rule of thumb is this: it the letter names of the root notes are not in alphabetical order (A to C for example) you probably will change from string 6 to string 5 or vice versa.

Playing Standard Cadences With Root 6 And Root 5 Bar Chords

To a fairly great extent the work of a competent guitarist revolves around mastery and knowledge of basic cadences. To review, a cadence is a feeling of rest or resolution produced by switching chords –essentially cadences are the building blocks of music. Although there are a relatively small number of standard or stock cadences, their variations and alterations are seemingly endless and are only limited by a songwriter’s creativity.

The exercises below use three of the most common and most widely used cadences in the world of music. These cadences are diagrammed out on the guitar in the common guitar keys of C, G and E in two ways:

    • With the I chord (the tonic) as a root six.
    • With the I chord (the tonic)as a root five chord.
        Think of the entire sequence of chords as being related to the one chord, or as I like to call it home base. If you have studied my course on music theory and done the assignments you will be able to recognize stock cadences in any key. Using my system of relating all the chords in the stock cadence to the I chord (the tonic) will make playing chord progressions, writing songs and reading chord charts a breeze.

Key Of C: I – IV – V, I -VI -IV – V and I – VI – II – V

Playing and studying these cadences will give you a good handle on how to play classic rock songs and rock standards. Interestingly, virtually every one of the hundreds and hundreds of hit songs that were recorded in the first days of rock and roll, the early 1950’s to 1964, used a 12 bar blues form or one of these stock cadences as a harmonic setting. This tradition started with what is regarded as the first rock and roll song ever recorded, Ike Turner’s blues based Rocket 88 recorded in 1948, and continued until the British invasion spearheraded by the Beatles in approximately 1964. After the British invasion the tradition of reworking a 12 bar blues and using stock cadences continued but the harmonic complexity of pop music grew exponentially.

Playing and studying these exercises and also learning to recognize these common cadences by their roman numeral analysis names such as the I – IV – V cadence illustrated below, will aid you in the areas of figuring out songs by ear and creating original songs and arrangements from scratch. There are many combinations of the I – IV – V cadence and just about anything and everything can fly in terms of combining these chords. Listen to Wild Thing (The Troggs), The Wind Cries Mary (Jimi Hendrix), Lay Down Sally (Eric Clapton), Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison), Ruby Tuesday (The Rolling Stones), and Blitzkreig Bop by the infamous Ramones. Of course most songs in the blues style are also I – IV – V songs.

The next example is probably the most famous sequence in pop music; the I – VI – IV – V cadence, shown here in the key of C.This chord progression is found in rock and pop songs of all eras. Both of the songs Stand By Me (1950’s) and Every Breath You Take (1980’s) employ the I – VI – IV – V cadence. I – VI – IV – V is often refered to as ‘Ice Cream Changes’, the ’50’s changes’ or the ‘1950’s progression’ because so many songs from this era employ it. If you want to play along with hit songs in the key I would direct you to You Really Got A Hold On Me (Smokey Robinson), Goin’ Down (Bruce Springsteen) Run Around Sue (Dion And The Belmonts) and Crocidile Rock (Elton John)to name but a few.

Below is the I – VI – II – V cadence diagrammed in the key of C and is often mis identified as a jazz cadence. This chord sequence is extremely well loved and used in virtually every style of popular music, all the way from jazz to country. I say this because I caution you against thinking that any cadence or chord pattern is specific to any one style. Earth Angel (The Penguins) Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen) and Return To Sender (Elvis Presley) are a few noteable examples.

Key Of G: I – III – IV – V

In the following exercise we are switching gears to the key of G and practicing nanother of the songwriters’ favorite tool, the I – III – IV – V cadence. Once again there are virtually 100’s of well known songs from every style that employ this progression. Review the chords in the key of G, to acclimate your ears to the new key, play the chords associated with the basic diatonic harmony in the key. Also, to go the extra mail, try to play a I – IV – V, I – VI – IV -V and a I – VI – II – V in the key of G.


Once again, cadences are not specific any one style -here the I – III – IV – V is used in a rock ballad as well as a power pop setting.

Key Of E: I – V – VI – IV

The I – V – VI – IV is another go to progression for professional songwriters and popular bands from practically every genre. Famous songs such as Don’t Stop Believing (Journey), Can You Feel The Love Tonight (Elton John), When I Come Around (Green Day), You Found Me (The Fray), Beast Of Burden (Rolling Stones), No Woman No Cry ( Bob Marley) and even Let It Be by the Beatles all employ this cadence.

Of course, review and play the chords in the key of E to put your ears in the new key. Also, try to transpose the cadences you have learned so far to the key of E.




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