Barre Chord Basics – Part 2

Knowledge of barre chords can be one of your greatest assets as a guitar player

That’s what I said in the last post.

I wanted you to first look at how well you are playing the four basic shapes like this:


From those four shapes you can play virtually any 7 and 9 chord. You can also play chords that also have the ‘2’, ‘sus’, 11, and stuff like ‘add 13’ tagged on to the chord name.

So what is the trick?

It is simply taking a finger away, or moving it to another location.

Here is a video I made for you all to demonstrate how it is done:


See how easy it is?

I mentioned in that video about making a .pdf file to accompany it – that will be coming up! I wanted to at least get this information to you all right now. You will be the first to get that .pdf file. Stay tuned!


Barre Chord Basics – Part 1

Knowledge of barre chords can be one of your greatest assets as a guitar player


Barre chords also strike fear into many beginning and intermediate players


Barre chords can help increase your “knowledge” of countless chords – some with some crazy names


Here is a test: how quickly can you play an Ab13 without looking it up?


How about a Bbmaj9?


Or a Gbm7?


I know some of you can but I bet most can’t do it without having to look it up.


If you play guitar for any length of time, you WILL encounter a time where you have to play “that dreaded chord” on the spot!


I consider myself primarily a rock/pop guitar player (and yes, I include blues and country in that mix)


But I am not a jazz player. I am really a rock player who can play jazz.


That means I can sit in on a jam with jazzers and probably be fine with the “crazy chords” that inevitably come up. I’ve done this many times before.




Well, one of the secrets is knowing my barre chords. 


Yes, those evil, nasty barre chords can be your greatest asset as a player!


So how does it work?


Before I get to that you need to be sure you have your barre chords down and sounding great!


If you already have them down, skip ahead. If not, this week I want you to focus on these FOUR barre chord shapes.



Get these four down – or least have an understanding of the shapes.


In the next post, I am going to show you how, by just a few simple changes to one of the primary four shapes, you can take on many of those “strange” chords you come across!


If you need help on how to play these chords, reply back and let me know.


Talk to you next week!


Struggling to Play Songs on the Guitar? Read this for a solution…

I wanted to share this with all of you from my guitar blog site:

Six String Guitar Corner


When we grab our guitars what is it that most of us want to do? Play songs!


When it comes down to it, that is what all of us guitar players really want to do. Even when we want to just jam or “noodle around”, we are still playing (or attempting to) some kind of constructed form of music.


It seems simple, doesn’t it? Not really, because for many, it isn’t easy.


And here is what the problem usually is: the chords don’t sound right. In fact, they suck.


I see it so often that I decided to make it my mission to help people correct it.


I even have a name for it: The Chronic Chord Condition. It’s a condition of the fingers not doing what you want them to do.


And as with any chronic condition, we need to have a cure.


In this case, there are a number of them. Here are my top 4 cures that have worked best for my guitar students:

Glued Finger Technique


Sometimes the simplest solution is to “do nothing”. In this case, one or two of the fingers on the left hand just stay where they are.


They don’t really move. It’s as if they are “glued” to the fretboard.


This cure is the most common solution to changing those chords around.


I explain it here in this video:

Slide Finger Technique


Sometimes the best method is to simply slide a finger or two along the string to get to the next chord.


You can do it in a way where you hear the slide. But most of the time you don’t.


It becomes a simple matter of releasing pressure on the fretboard, but still staying on the string. Then, you move along to another note that is part of the next chord, but on the same string.


This video clip explains it best:


Common Pattern


This cure is one that is used a lot. And it means just that: many chords have common patterns to each other. Many look identical like the barre chords we play. Some have similarities with just one or two fingers.


In this video I explain the less obvious patterns, where only a couple fingers are the same for each chord:


Pilot Finger


This one is a little different, and maybe more difficult to do. When you go from one chord to the next, a finger on the first chord stays at its place on the fretboard while the rest go to the next chord. However, that finger then leaves the fretboard before that next chord is played.


That particular finger acts as the pilot (or anchor) to help guide the others to the next chord.


This is good for beginners to learn how to transition between certain chords. Eventually, once muscle memory kicks in, you might actually find yourself not doing it any more. Or you might like it and keep it. Here is a demonstration on how it works:



Hopefully this helps with some of the struggles you might have in your playing. Hit me up with any comments about wanting to know more!

Bad Guitar “Body English”


When you are playing songs on guitar (or any instrument), you know you are in the moment when you put your whole self into it. Everything is really clicking.


Moments like that are really awesome.


But, there are also times when putting our whole self into it can be detrimental to our playing.


Let me explain:


Many times we suffer from what I like to call Poor Guitar “Body English”.


And it can really hinder our playing and prevent any reasonable progress in our playing. It can be one of the main reasons our songs don’t always sound good, or a lead line just isn’t right, or that those chords don’t sound clear.


I do see it more with beginner players (which is normal) but I also see it with many who took on bad habits learning on their own or via the internet.


So what is Bad Guitar “Body English”?


While much importance is put on how we place our fingers on the strings to form chords or melody lines, it can often be missed regarding how the rest of our body is positioned while we play. And that matters. Poor posture, moving our arms, shoulders, and elbows in unnecessary ways don’t help those fingers do what they need to do.


Think of it this way: if you ever see a theater production you know that the focus is on the actors. But, without the behind the scenes production crews (lights, sound, makeup, etc.), the show falls flat on it’s face – regardless of how good the actors are.


Playing an instrument is the same way. Think of your fingers as the “actors” and the rest of your body as the supporting cast.


The two main culprits are how we position our left wrist and thumb. However, I am going to save that for a near-future Tuesday Tip. There is a lot to discuss there. For this tip, I want to help you look at how your Guitar Body English is and, to see if it is good or could use some improvement.


Rock Star Drift


This is the one where as you play, your left arm starts drifting, thus pulling the guitar neck further and further from your body. I see this a lot. Now, if you want to do your best hair band rock move, by all means, go ahead and make that move! But that is all for effect. You can’t really play well looking like that. When you drift your arm further and further away, it becomes harder and harder to play that those tough chords or melodies. You don’t give your fingers (or your thumb and wrist for that matter) any chance to play correctly. What you really want to do is make sure you keep that arm back in a relaxed, comfortable position. The key word is to “relax”.


Shoulder Drop


Here is another common problem I see. This oftentimes happens when we are trying real hard to play a song or work on something real difficult. There is this natural tendency to want to “put our shoulder into it”. Thus, the shoulder tends to drop. Relax! Yes, relax your shoulder! You don’t really need it much to play your guitar. It will make your playing life so much better!


Elbow Swing


Sometimes, while trying to get that barre chord to sound right (or any chord, really), the left elbow sometimes wants to compensate and twist and turn. If you catch yourself doing it, stop! Relax your elbow! It shouldn’t swing out or in. In fact, one simple test for not swinging inward is to imagine sticking a pillow between the elbow and torso. It should easily fit there. If not, change it.

Bad Elbow In:


Bad Elbow Out:


Correct Elbow Position:


Sit Up!


Yes, just like your mom might have said: “sit up straight and stop slouching!” While you don’t have to sit up straight like a board, if you end up slouching on the couch too much while playing or practicing, you will either simply play bad, or pick up some really bad habits that will ultimately hinder your progress. So, sit up! Or, simply stand up, that works too. Your fingers (and your mom) will appreciate it!


You Look Marvelous!

No Guitar Body English:

If you aren’t sure, look in a mirror while playing. Sometimes it can be hard to really see how you look with the guitar. Often you will see some of that Poor Guitar Body English show up and you can adjust to correct it.

If this is something that has been a challenge for you, I hope this tip will help you in your playing!

Rock on until the next time!

Put Musical Poetry into Your Soloing

Music is poetry, poetry is music. The two go hand in hand in my view. They really are one in the same. Take limericks for example. How about this one:


Hickory dickory dock,
the mouse ran up the clock;
the clock struck one
and down he run;
hickory dickory dock


Or this one which spawned many dirty versions (lol). However, here is the original that was really quite tame (and clean):


There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket


Say them out loud. It does have that natural, sing-song, feel to it, right? There are a number of poems of various styles that do that very thing. So it should be no surprise that music follows the same type of patterns. And more specifically for the purposes of this discussion, soloing on guitar.

All of you songwriters get this. I’m sure there is much you can educate me on! Tying together the rhythm and meaning of the lyric to song is a work of art. I do wonder, however, how many lead guitar players really get it?


Every Solo Tells a Story Don’t It?


The greatest guitar solos can tell magnificent “stories”. What’s interesting about them is that they most often can be subject to interpretation by the listener. Why? Well, there are literally no words to limit your interpretation of the song. Regarding songs that you sing to, that’s a different story. There are plenty of popular songs from my past that carry specific meaning to me that have nothing to do with the lyrical content. For me, it was the music itself that conveyed a certain meaning. For example, there are some songs that remind me of the time I was dating my wife. They were of a very happy time. Literally, the words to some of the songs have nothing to do with what was going on at the time. But, the music did! Neon Tree’s Sleeping With a Friend is one such song. Now, the lyrical content really didn’t have much to do with the relationship at the time (no, really, it didn’t!) but the mood of the song felt happy and “up” to me. At the time, I was just coming out of dealing with the down times of a separation and divorce. This song was popular when my life was changing for the better. And yeah, part of the song was true: the relationship with a friend was growing into something much bigger. 

For instrumental, and more specifically for this post, guitar solos, the responses and feelings are much the same as I described above. Think of some the great solos, especially pieces that are literally played as an instrumental for entire song. My goodness, there are so many! Some of my favorites are songs like Santana’s Europa, Joe Satriani’s Always With Me, Always With You, The Allman Brothers’ Jessica, and George Benson’s Breezin‘. No words, but can you hear and feel what is being played? I sure do. If you don’t like these, find your own and really listen to those songs. There is a communication that goes beyond words. I also believe, that each person can listen to the same song and each have their own interpretation of what that song means to them – oftentimes different from what the original artist intended!

Then there are the solos that are only part of songs. My goodness, there are also so many! What is interesting about these is how well they work within the song. They feel a part of it and not separate. Some will simply replay the melody that is sung. Most others will feel like they continue what is being sung. There are many, many, many like that. I have no space here to list them all. Go ahead and google greatest guitar solos of all time and you will get lists galore! 

In‘s introduction to their Top 50 list they said this: “What makes for a great guitar solo? Is it mind-melting precision or bone-chilling soul? Is it the way it can leave you slack-jawed, wondering, “How did he do that?” Or is it something that you can sing from memory, a melodic passage that weaves itself into the DNA of the song? Or are the greatest solos ever played the ones that somehow manage to do all of the above?” 

To me, it is “all of the above”.




I often tell my students who are interested in soloing (and are of course familiar with scales!) that when they create their own compositions, they should consider the “story” they want to tell. The results can be endless! The simplest, and most basic, way to talk about this is to go back to the poetry example and break a solo down into phrases, similar to stanzas in a poem. While I could give endless examples from all styles, let me use the beginning of Santana’s Europa to demonstrate what I mean. The opening verse can be broken down into 4, distinct phrases in much the same way that vocalist would sing a popular verse: find a melody and repeat it and try put in variations to it each time you go through a line. In Europa, each of the 4 lines starts with basically the same first 6-8 notes, then follows up with something different. In the next verse, it is done pretty much the same way but embellished even further. And then it goes from there. 

Blues licks are awesome at this kind of thing. It is primarily why I start off my solo players with the blues. The licks can be technically simple, yet allow for so much feeling that is unique to the style of music. It’s a great way to develop into a competent player: especially in the rock world. There are countless examples from some outstanding players. Here is a song from one of my favorite blues players: check out B.B. King’s opening, and subsequent guitar solo, to The Thrill is Gone. Not only does he put his heart and soul into it, but hear how he creates a theme on the guitar throughout the song. So simple, yet so awesome!




One quick word on jamming: DO IT! Jamming is fun. The spontaneity is a blast. There might be no need to find a melody but simply express yourself where you are at in the moment. There is tremendous freedom in all of that. It is poetic art all it’s own. Not to mention, some of the best ideas for songs, melodies, solos, have come from simply jamming. Want some examples? Find live recordings from some of the great jam bands to start. I personally like the Allman Brothers as my favorite jam band but others like the Grateful Dead and Phish were/are known for that at all their live shows, it really was/is their identity. How about the Dead and Allmans in a 26 minute jam at Fillmore East in 1970? lol Or this 15 minute jam of Jessica by the Allman Brothers.

I once recall being at a party years ago that was almost entirely attended by musicians of all abilities and genres. They had a drum kit, bass amp, a couple guitar amps, and a keyboard set up for anyone who wanted to play. At one point I joined in a jam that literally lasted about an hour as I recall – I kid you not! We mostly rambled around G (major, minor, various modes, etc.), and hit all kinds of styles from rock to blues to jazz. During the jam, some would pass the baton to another person as it was going. Some brass guys even joined in then left. We literally never missed a beat! I think it was the bassist and I that sat in the whole time. Seriously, it was so much fun. And yeah, I was wiped out afterwards!


Find Your Voice


This is by no means a complete discussion! Entire books are written about this very thing. And I am by no means an expert. It is simply what I have learned over the years. You might have better insights into this topic. I would love to hear from you! As a musician, I am always learning and wanting to grow. What I simply want to encourage all you artists out there is to continually seek and develop your own voice. Make your mark in the world no matter how big or small it might be.

If you want to learn more or are in my neighborhood, you can book some lessons here or just contact me via email: