C-shaped barre chords - tips and experiences?

A question for the more experienced here. How did you go with learning C shaped barre chords, and are they as fast for you as E shaped ones?

I’ve been working on them on-and-off for a while, and they ring out fine, but changing to a C shaped is a LOT slower than E shaped for me. They’re definitely only usable for me in slower songs, or if I mute while changing.

How long did it take to get your C shaped as fast as your E shaped? Any practice tips? From what I’ve been able to find, Justin only has a very short video on them in the CAGED section of the PMT course.


Hey JK - to be honest, I rarely use the full shape, so for me then aren’t quite as quick as an E shape. I will however use the triad on the first 3 strings a lot


I don’t use the barre either, I hit the 3rd string with finger 1 and mute the thinnest string while I do that.

And I agree, the change is much slower, and I’m also finding the process to get used to the shape much slower than others…

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Does anyone really play the whole barre for C? I know I dont but its not a chord I’ve put a lot of practice into (the whole barre) as yet

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I assume your talking a C chord, up 2 frets, a tone, and it’s a D chord, up another tone, 2 frets and it’s a E chord.

If that’s what your talking about, I just think of it as a D chord.
I barre the top 3 strings, then add in the 4 and 5th stings as a C shape.
I guess it didn’t take me long to learn that. Once I put two and two together. But putting that notion took me years of playing before I discovered that relationship, on my own. That D and C have a relationship, pretty much the same chord (fingering) in my mind now.

Get used to playing your C chord w/o using your index finger. The index finger becomes the barre for the top three strings.

I use kinda the same notion for playing a D7 barred. Up 2 frets, it becomes E7. But the barre is over the 4th and 5th strings. D7 shape on the top three strings. This also works for minor, string 4 and 5 are barred.
On near all these chords, the low E is not played. Once in a while it works, but not often.

Depending on what chord I’m after makes me think of these chords as either D or C. D mostly.

I for sure use these chords when they seem proper.

I’m glad you brought this up.
I was starting to think I was odd when I tell folks I see this relationship here on a forum.

fwiw. This same notion can be used for barred G. Especially if ya can get away with using the top 4 strings only. As, G is a A chord if ya think about it.

imho, That’s the ticket. leave out the strings that don’t have to be played. A chord is 3 tones. And once ya get the shape down, any three strings can be played for the D shape, or G shape, albeit, sometimes it’s only a diatonic (?) chord. Only two tones, generally with a octave of one tone. That comment could be wrong, but the chord shape does work.

Good post JK.
I’ve noted this before in various posts w/o anyone seeming to get what I’m saying.


They work best as triads on the D G B or G B e strings. When using as a Chord the trick to quick changes is start by using it like the Keith Richards trick going from an A chord to a D/F# chord with the F# on the D string leaving the Root on the A string off. Using a mini Barre on the e-G string

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Hi JK, I had a bit of a leg up on this. I learned this shape when I was about 13. My teacher taught it along with E and A shape chords. I found it pretty awkward then, but it apparently stuck in my finger memory. I like having the different chord tones to work from. E.g. A to D to E in the open position sounds different from when I play A (open), D (open), and E (as a C shape on the 4th), etc. It’s also a help when playing along with someone who is using a capo or when transcribing and you haven’t gotten to the point where you decide that a capo is the way to go. So… when I’m playing songs that I know well, I occasionally shift around the neck to play the song using different chord shapes, including the C-shape for practice and speed.

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I just play the triad on G, B & e.

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This has been one of my big revelations since I got back to playing guitar. I used to think “good” players would always play chords with all 6 strings, or maybe 5 if they drop off the bottom E.

Now I realise they very often don’t. In fact, it seems you learn to play bar chords, but then as you advance you realise you don’t need them.

I have just been learning two songs that have the same chord sequence E → F#m → G#m → A
Both of them play “open” versions of bar chords, so only playing the notes on A, D, G strings and letting B and e ring out. Try it - it sounds fantastic. And it is much easier.

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If it sounds good, it is good. I’m sure you know this, but if you are letting the open B and e strings ring out, I don’t think you are actually playing F#m, G#m and A.

Gotta dash, so haven’t got time to do the exercise on paper, but I reckon the E would be the only “correct” chord in that case, since it has E & B in it.

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Yes, the F#m is F#m11. The A is A add 9. The G#m could be a G#mb6.

But it’s interesting that we spend time carefully learning all these chord shapes, but the good players no longer bother with them. I guess you need to learn the rules before you can break them.

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My first reflex was: “hmm I never use that”.

But turns out I do, and quite a lot but just not as a full barre like the E shape.

I only use the full size version in my head; to know what my options are when I’m fingerpicking or how to use only a part of it when looking for a different kind of voicing.


Hi Jk,
I use it the most when playing Faith Faith lesson
And it took a long time before things went well and I just played it very very very slowly very long and for a while (weeks) I did a few minutes every day from E-shape too C-chape… and with that song it also always takes a few minutes for the transition to go smoothly if I haven’t played some weeks,

What’s easier for me is that your index finger has to be over all the strings with this song.

Succes and greetings :sunglasses:


Lots of tips and feedback here, thank you. On mobile so won’t reply individually.

My takeaway is that they can be challenging to learn, and many people use substitutes. Eg triads. TBH I want to master the shape rather than look for substitutes - I could always play an E or A shape but it would be a different voicing.

That Faith video @roger_holland is a perfect example. I just watched the play through at the beginning of the lesson. My E and A shapes are quick enough for that but how quickly Justin moves through that C shape is very quick - and what I want to get to. Are yours that quick now?

I have 3 songs that use C shapes. Plush by STP, a Cmaj7 shaped Ebmaj7, which I can play because the transition is muted. Alison by Elvis Costello, a C shaped E, which I can’t change quite fast enough for, but I can substitute an A shape. And a dreamer I want to learn, Under the Bridge, which I’ve barely scratched the surface of.

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Under the Bridge is on my list for a different reason - those Hendrix-style barre chords with the thumb on the bass note and the pinky doing embellishments. The struggle is real.

Hi Jk,
Yes :sweat_smile: , but how it falls into this rhythm, with this change pfffff … the changeover moment and maintaining the rhythm took the most time,
He really explains it perfectly later :sunglasses:
and the advantage for me is that it won’t be much more difficult :smiley:

Edit: That last sentence doesn’t make sense at all :upside_down_face:… I meant by practicing this song, other songs with this change have probably become much easier

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