Barre vs Open chords which do you use most often?

I’m in the beginning of my intermediate lessons and am doing well with my barre chord shapes. I’m curious if the more seasoned players just use barres to supplement open chords in songs occasionally; use barres the majority of the time or rarely use them at all.

From my pov its not exclusively either or but I’ll tend to stick with one lot or the other mostly.

The key I think is to avoid major shifts on the fret that are not needed.

So I wouldnt be playing a A barre on the 5th then play an open D then some other barre chord etc.

But then barre chords sound a bit different and you’ve got some extra control over them you dont have with an open chord

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Very much depends on the song, the style or if I am playing with a backing track or on my own. It can get a bit muddy when there’s a bass occupying the same space but you don’t have to play all the strings.

But I’d agree with Rob, economy of movement can also be a factor.


I’m just learning a song now and it is the first time I have consciously decided to mix open and barre chords just because of the Fm in the chorus.

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It’s a good question Fred and something that has been on my mind recently. I feel like the more “seasoned” players have a much wider palette of sounds and they end up using a lot more interesting (and often non-barre) chords. Not only are they easier to play and embellish, but they sound much richer and more complex. This is a good video of some open possibilities.

Context is everything.
Some songs are all barres. Ouch!
Some mix them up involving a bit of jumping around.
Some use open chords in a verse and barre chords in a chorus (or vice versa) - for dynamic and tonal variation.
There is no one guiding principle at all.

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OMG :woman_facepalming: so many options.

Thanks for sharing :+1:

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If I take the question as “how much do you use barre chords?” - all the time, every day. I don’t pick up a guitar without playing barre chords.

One eye-opener for me was a comment @Rossco01 made long ago after learning barre chords, that he just regards them as ‘normal’ chords. If they make the song easier/more natural to play I use them :smiley: (B7 barre is almost always easier than open B7)
Some folk like @CT prefer to avoid them, playing only the notes of the chord you want, which also leaves the other fingers available to embellish etc
Because I’m a visual learner, I find it sometimes find it helpful to play through a song using barre chords, as it becomes clearer to me what the chord progression is and easier to memorise.

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Barre chords or power chords mostly but then again I play electric and mostly rock songs so that makes sense. I struggled for a long time ( like years) and then one day it just clicked and now I find it easier than open chords.

You end up using a mix of both. And also chords like triads, etc., where you’re not really using a “barre” but they’re still movable chords.

As others have said, depends on the feel of the song, your composition, etc or what you’re going after.

Dont forget triads, also. I utilise them as much, if not more, than full barre, or open chords.

Cheers, Shane

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Reading the comments above, I was going to say that in many of the interviews I’ve seen of session players, they mention triads (Shane beat me to it) or fingering “chords” in a non-traditional way to color the sound they’re wanting to hear. Questions from the interviewer like”What chord is that?” Are sometimes answered with “I dunno, is it one?”

The answer to the OP from me is Open chords, I use the occasional barre or power chord but open most.


Just a question, once you start mixing open and Barre, will you know which to play next after? I hope your answer is " the comfortable one, whether open or Barre."

So aside, thanks for your gracious comments on my stuff; you are a player for sure _R

Robert, for the song I have started to learn it’s an easy answer. It’s open chords for the verse and barre for the chorus. The chorus has a F#m and a Bm in it, so it just made sense to me to play it as barres.

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Hi there
I think it depends on what it is you are playing. I tend to use both but like someone else mentioned its whatever is easiest to get to next chord so you are not jumping all over the fret board, well that’s what it is for me. :blush:

Other thoughts - One of the nice things about open chords is that they ring out nicely. One of the bad things about open chords is that they ring out nicely. What you want is dependent on what you need. I personally find it hard to mute open chords right after they’re struck. Barre chords completely mute just by relaxing all your fingers while maintaining contact with the strings.

Another situation - Some strumming patterns, for example, need all the strings muted when strumming on the 2nd and 4th beats. As above, it’s easy to do with barre chords as the hand stays in position for the up-strum. I find it almost impossible to perform this with open chords.

One more personal (probably unpopular) opinion - It seems that the common belief is that barre chords are “advanced” and should be undertaken only after months of learning other skills. I think they should be taught early and at the same time you learn any open chord pattern. It would remove the associated stigma and it helps to ‘unlock’ learning the entire fretboard. Is it challenging? Maybe, but if you learn one shape, you’ve automatically learned more than 12 other chords. Anything worth learning is hard; that’s just not a good reason to avoid it.

I am thinking of taking one of my easy Grade 1 songs which are open chords but play them all as barre chords.

Not my original idea came across it somewhere on the internet might even have been one of Justin’s lessons.


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