Can't keep fingers straight in barre chords - is it a problem?

Hey there,
I am currently in Intermediate Grade 4 trying to really nail barre chords. What I have noticed is that Justin almost always keeps all fingers straight during barre. My 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers all during barre tend to slant towards the index finger (or nut of the guitar). Now I am not sure if that is an issue and I should try to unlearn it or it’s just how my hands are (they are quite big and I struggled a lot with standard neck width).

Otherwise I get major and minor barre chords quite clearly all up to 10th fret with D barre chord when it gets quite difficult (part of the problem is that I don’t have cutaway, but standard acoustic guitar). Whilst practicing songs using only barre chords I get them quite clear, although I need to practice bit more, but my 2, 3 and 4 fingers always slant towards index finger, sometimes even extremely. So once more, should I try to fix it or just leave it that way?

Thanks for any input on this issue!

Can you post a picture? Keep in mind that everyone’s anatomy is different, so don’t expect it to look exactly the same as Justin, particularly if you have large hands.

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Hi @SkyBlue

I’m looking fwd. to what others have to say too.

My take is.

I do this tilting the chord fingers towards the nut too. But for me, the closer I get to the nut the more my chord fingers tilt towards the nut.
To me, the reason I do this is because the closer to the nut I get, the harder I have to press down my index finger to make the bar, to make it a bar. As I press down harder on the bar, the more my fingers tilt. A F7 chord is the epitome for my fingers tilting as I gotta press so hard to make that Eb note ring clear. So as I go up the fretboard, the less my fingers tilt. I also seem to use less pressure to make the bar.
All I can think at this time is. That if this is a problem, I may have the same problem as you do.
As for up high on the fretboard I think the same is true. The strings get further away from the fretboard, so I have to press a shade harder to get the bar to ring clean.

All that said.
I assume your barring a E chord for this example.
My open E chord, played with 1st, 2nd and 3rd finger seem pretty straight up. However if I use fingers 2,3 and 4, playing it that way, just open E, them three fingers seem to tilt towards the nut as compared to how a do a E with 1,2, and 3.

Again, I think it’s back to feeling I have to put extra pressure to use them three weaker fingers.

Now, I hope others chime in on this.
It’s a interesting observation.

There as requested I am sending some photos with major and minor shapes, both higher up the fretboard and lower. As @HappyCat said I can get it more straight higher up the fretboard towards a bridge, but towards nut it gets slanted. Especially when changing chords during playing because here I tried my best to straighten the fingers. I can get my 2, 3 and 4th fingers straight even on first fret, but then I cannot get index finger at all into position. As soon as I start stretching index finger it “pulls” other fingers with it.

It’s worth noting that I do get clean notes despite fingers being slanted (which is even more pronounced with minor shape), but I wonder if it’s wrong habit and I worry if I learn it like this will I have to unlearn it later.

A Major barre

F Major barre

G minor barre

F minor barre

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You look good!
Remember, Justin has not only played several decades longer than you or I, but also several times as many hours per day over that time. He is also younger than I am. My fingers will never look like his in the guitar.


if you are getting a constant clean sound then why worry about technique a lot a good guitarist are not technically perfect I dont think Keith Richards is, some call him sloppy but he is a good guitarist go with whatever is comfortable for you. im no expert as i can`t yet play barre chords properly.

My 2 cents? Looks 100% fine to me. Some may say the index is too high, but not I. Plus if you’re getting them clear, with minimal effort, and quick changes, then you’re on a winner. :+1::nerd_face:

Cheers, Shane


I agree with the above comments - looks fine to me. As you say it looks like you have pretty long fingers (Justin often mentions he’s got a stubby little finger). I think that as long as you’re getting clean chords then you’re good to go.

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I have the same promlem, tough in your picture you wouldn’t notice that. All my notes ring out clearly and I’m also quite fast in the chamges , but my index can’t press enough and I’m unable to play all the variations…can you play the major minor 7th?

You appear to be playing all of those chords with your elbow tucked up against your ribs, so the angle of your forearm to the guitar neck is changing as you move up the neck, resulting in the angle of your fingers.
You’re not going to be able to get the fingers less slanty without moving your elbow.

And where should I move my elbow? Away from body?

@SILVIA Haven’t yet started exploring such shapes. I’m still perfecting major and minor shapes.

Usually the faster the chords change the more slant-y my fingers get whilst trying to catch the chord. It’s really hard to stretch them so both the index finger sits well and other fingers are straight.

But I guess if it sounds good it is good. :smiley:

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The actual guitar teachers will be along in a minute to explain/correct me, but the most comfortable place for your elbow is likely to be wherever it needs to be so that your forearm-hand-wrist meets the guitar neck at something like a right angle (in other words, in different places depending on which chord you’re playing). At the very least I would think that allowing that arm to move around and not be pinned against your side would make chord changes easier.


Ohhh wow, just doing my daily practice and I tried moving my elbow away from my body and my fingers immediately got more straight. As you said, having forearm-hand-wrist at right angle in relation to guitar neck helps a lot, at least to me. I’ll try to practice a bit this way. Thanks for the tip! Would never think of the elbow position!


Wow, another “AHA!” moment from the JG forum. I have the same problem of slanty fingers and what seems like too little flex between my fingers 1 and 2. Pulling my elbow away from the torso relieves the stress between those digits and makes the barre a bit easier to hold. Something more to work on - developing whatever set of muscles pulls my elbow outward.

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