Trouble with the Bb Barre chord

Hi all, I hope this post finds you all well. I am looking for tips, advice on how to play the Bb Barre chord with root on the 5th string fret 1. This is used in the song Nothing compares to you. You play it and then change to the F Barre chord.
I can play both on an electric guitar but really really struggle with Bb on the acoustic.
I have tried playing it with Bb barre chord on the 6th string but it just doesn’t sound right.
It actually hurts my wrist after a few attempts so Im guessing I am doing something fundamentally wrong. It is harder than the dreaded F barre chord for me.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

[ Mod edit - I have renamed the topic title and edited the post to call the chord being discussed Bb rather than A#. In the context of the song it must be called Bb.]

A-shape barre chords are hard on an acoustic, especially on the lower frets.

Why not play a Bb5 power chord? Or a Bbsus2? I don’t want to encourage you to take the easy way out, but maybe it actually sounds good. See if you like it?

Bb5: x133xx
Bbsus2: x13311

(In this song it’s a Bb chord rather than an A#, but that’s not important.)

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Your nut might be too high. They usually are.


Yes, that A shaped Bb (A#) has a particularly cool sound I reckon that’s not easily substituted in many songs.
My tip would be to concentrate on the triad part of the barre chord. ie. the little barre on the 3rd fret.
Then its just index finger on the A string, 1st fret to complete the chord. I reckon that helps put the hand in right position. I think alot of people initially think they have to lay down that index finger, then it becomes a habit; but no, just lightly on one string.
You can even just use the triad on its own, which I’ve found is often ‘meaty’ enough in many situations.
Just some ideas that may help.

Cheers, Shane


All great suggestions, thank you so much

Yeah, sounds like this to me. Maybe take the guitar to a luthier.

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I had a hard time with a-shaped barres. Practicing them up the neck (as an E or D on 7 or 5), and on the electric initially helped me get the shape right - I worked up to being able to play the A# on the acoustic after that.

It should sound right. The 6-string E-shape barre and the 5-string A-shape barre contain the identical notes in the identical order until the 6-string chord reaches its note on the 1st string.
Their sound difference should be subtle (a slight difference in timbre) not drastic, making you think it doesn’t sound ‘right’.

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It’s also possible that there is an intonation issue (particularly if the nut is a bit high). Might be worth checking each of the notes in the E shape barre chord with a tuner.

I’m a slacker.
I play Bb (barred A, 1st fret) as
I play that with index finger on the Bb (A string). Then my 3rd or usually pinky barring across the F,Bb, D. High E string muted. (I do this all the way up the fretboard too for various chords)
I do this as opposed to
x13331 which can be done but I find harder to do (gotta use all 4 fingers to do that). Granted, some songs I think require that high string to be played, but many times that high string being played is irrelevant.
Just my take on Bb (Barred A, 1st fret).

Me three.

A quick test would be to capo at the 1st fret and see if that improves things.

If that’s the case, I know some people have had success tuning all stings down a semitone to get back to standard tuning, and always playing with a capo.

But a luthier would be the long term fix.

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Thank you all for the suggestions, I will be giving them a go this evening during my practice.
I did take the guitar to a luthier just before Christmas and he did lower the action a fair bit. took a lot off the bridge but not sure if he took any off the nut.
Oh, and apologies for calling it an A#, I am far enough down my theory road to know better but as a relative beginner it is sometimes hard when the ultimate guitar tab calls it an A#

i agree with all of the above suggestions but will add one more. Whats your string gauge 13-56 or ? If the nut is ok going down to 11-48 or similar will make everything easier but you migth need to readjust the neck , go to the Luthier and ask for advice.

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