14 Ways to Escape the First Four Frets, Part 4

14 Ways to Escape the First Four Frets, Part 4

[Escape #3 continued]...need to read the first half?
We're in the middle of exploring barre chords as a way to escape the first four frets. If all we knew was what we discussed in the first half, our use of the standard barre chords would require some serious jumping around. Take for instance if we decided to play the chorus of "Mighty to Save" with only 6th string root bar chords. The progression is the top line. The fret to play the 6th string barre chord is on the bottom:

A    E     D      A      F#m      E
5    12    10     5         2       12

Lot's of jumping.

To minimize leaps up and down the neck, the 5th string offers us some great moveable chords.

The most common 5th string root barre chord is based on the A shape. 

First, this barre chord can be played with a double barre. Yep: barring with two fingers.

The finger numbers are designated on the bottom of the diagram. The first fingers bars on the fifth and the third finger bars across the 7th. For the double jointed, this finger is cake. For others, the ability to bar those three middle strings while leaving the first string open is downright impossible. My the highest joint on my 3rd finger does not bend backwards well, so this fingering it tough for me. After working at it, I can make all 5 notes of this chord ring [if you put a gun to my head, but otherwise, forget it]. 

Some are able to use this fingering to play this voicing on the left. If you've got Swift Premium Brown and Serve Sausages for fingers like I do, getting 3 thick digits crammed onto one small fret is tough. I like the voicing on the right below. Simply let your 3rd finger come up slightly to mute the 1st string. 

But will we miss that note? Maybe. But probably not. The 1st string is the fifth of the chord. The fifth is the least important tone in a Major and Minor chord. And it's already occurring on the 4th string, so in this voicing, the 1st string fifth interval is generally not necessary. Unless you want that higher fifth to ring out. (Really, it's all about you...)

One more thing about playing this barre chord. Remember how we talked about using the "beefy" part of your finger in the first half of this article? Same thing applies. For most people, it's actually easier to barre all six strings versus just five. So barre all six strings and simply strum from the 5th string down. And if you do hit that 6th string, don't sweat it: it's the fifth of the chord so it won't sound off, just inverted.

Let's start exploring the other chords based on this A shape. First, here's the chord tones in this A shape (left). 
To create the minor we need to simply lower the third one half step (or one fret). Let's do it:

Can you see the "Am" shape on frets 6 and 7.

To create the m7 shape, we lower the root one whole step (or two frets).


Let's go back to our original shape and look at variations of the major chord.

One voicing we didn't look at with the 6th string root barre was the major7 chord (maj7). While it's possible to create the maj7 with a 6th string root barre chord, the voicing is muddy. There are better ways to make a 6th-string root maj7 chord. That's coming later. The fifth string root barre chord offers a great sounding maj7. Simply lower the root 1/2 step (1 fret) to create a maj7 voicing. Try it...quite jazzy, eh? Learn enough of these and you'll be able to swing all your favorite worship songs. Just wait, eventually our Australian friends will do "Hillsong: Moonlight Lounge Worship" and we'll all be rocking the maj6 and maj7 chords.
To change a maj7 to a dominant 7 (dom7), simply lower the 7th down one more 1/2. Now it's a "flat" 7th (one full step/two frets).

Another option for a dom7 chord is on the right. Putting the "flat 7" in the upper voice creates a bright, distinct sound. Sometimes you want this - other times you don't. Trust your ear.

We covered the theory behind sus4 and 7sus4 in the last blog. The fingering for the sus4 can be a little tricky. Your best option is to go with how you prefer to play the major shape above. Either add the 4th finger while you continue to barre with the 3rd finger; or slide the 4th finger up one fret.

The last 5th string barre chord we'll look at is the sus2. I won't go into this chord much. Later in this series we'll be digging deeper into sus2/add2/add9 chords.

There are no "rules" about when and when not to use barre chords. At times, the major chords can sound "square" and the minor chords too dark. You need to trust your ear. 

Sometimes barre chords can be used to play in higher register, cutting through a mid-heavy mix. Other times, barre chords are the only way to play a 'borrowed' chord (like when a Bb gets thrown into a song in the key of C). And yet other times, barre chords create just the right sound for the song. You need to trust your ear. Did I mention that?

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