Are barre chords easier on electric guitar? Barre chords are one of the hardest things you need to face when learning the guitar. Nonetheless, they are significantly easier to play on an electric guitar because of its neck size and low-action strings.
Whatever guitar you’re using, you will face a certain amount of difficulty when playing a barre chord. That’s just the reality of it. However, the level of difficulty may significantly be affected by the type of guitar.
If you have an electric guitar and you’re wondering whether or not it can help you learn how to play a barre chord, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll show you why barre chords are easier on this guitar and how does it compare to all the other types of guitars out there.
What’s a Barre Chord?
A barre chord is basically a guitar chord that requires you to press all the strings to increase their pitch while pressing down a few more on a different fret to play specific notes. This means that your index finger would have to clamp about five or six strings while your other fingers fret additional notes.
To do this, you have to use your thumb and press it against the back of the fretboard to use it as leverage. The index finger should also apply adequate pressure on the strings. Otherwise, they would produce a buzzing sound or be muted.
This is essentially what makes playing the barre chord difficult, especially for beginners.
Classical vs. Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar
In order to understand why barre chords become easier when played on an electric guitar, we need to differentiate the latter from the other instruments under the same category. Here’s what you need to know about playing the barre chord in classical, acoustic, and electric guitars.
The classical guitar is one of the earliest forms of the instrument. It features a traditional hollow body, a neck, and a headstock. Classical guitars often use nylon strings and have wide necks to prevent the player’s fingers from coming into contact with the other strings that aren’t meant to be fretted or played.
Nylon strings are soft, which means they wouldn’t hurt your fingers too much. This should make playing barre chords a bit more comfortable on this type of guitar. However, there is one downside to the classical guitar.
As we’ve mentioned, this type of guitar has a wider neck, which is also thicker. Because of this, it might be difficult to completely clamp all the strings while pressing the back of the neck with the thumb. Additionally, the distance between each string requires the player to be more flexible with his/her fingers.
This makes barre chords rather difficult in classical guitars, especially for beginners.
The name “acoustic” is actually an umbrella term for a wide variety of guitars with a hollow body, including the classical guitar. However, the name is more commonly used to refer to a specific type of guitar that uses steel strings, which is, in fact, called a steel-string guitar. For this article, we’re going to refer to it as an acoustic guitar.
This type of guitar has thinner and narrower necks compared to the classical guitar. However, it is still significantly bulky to play barre chords comfortably. Additionally, the steel strings are firmer and rougher than nylon, which can eventually cause callouses to develop on your fingers. Not to mention the considerable unpleasantness of them when you’re clamping all of the strings with one finger.
On top of this, acoustic guitars, whether they be nylon or steel-stringed, often have higher actions. This refers to the height between the strings and the fretboard. When a guitar has a higher action, you need a considerable amount of tension to properly press down on the strings.
Too much tension can quickly strain your wrist and hurt your fingers. On the other hand, not enough tension will create a buzzing sound or mute the strings altogether.
Instead of a hollow body, an electric guitar is completely solid. It features a number of pickups in the middle that receive vibrations from the strings, turn them into electric signals, and send them to an output device which is often an amplifier. This is what allows the electric guitar to produce sounds.
Because of this, electric guitars are much more compact than acoustic or classical ones. To correspond with its compact body, the electric guitar also has a narrower and thinner neck. Because of this, it’s significantly easier to wrap your hand around the fretboard.
In acoustic guitars, you can often only use the tip of your thumb as leverage to make fretting easier. This often puts too much pressure on the thumb that it begins to hurt after a few minutes. On the other hand, the thin neck of the electric guitar allows you to use the base of your palm as leverage. This makes it easier to play barre chords on the instrument since the strain and pressure aren’t focused on the wrist or thumb.
Additionally, electric guitars have significantly lower string actions than their acoustic counterparts. Because of this, you don’t have to exert substantial pressure with your fingers to clamp or bar the strings. This also wouldn’t hurt your fingers as much as they would when playing barre chords on an acoustic guitar.
However, you must keep in mind that not all electric guitars are created equal. Some will have thicker and wider necks than others.
It’s Not Always About the Guitar
It’s important to note that playing barre chords easily is not entirely about the type of guitar you use. While low the compact neck and low-action strings on an electric guitar certainly help, there are still a number of factors that affect the sound quality and effortlessness of playing barre chords. Proper technique and hand strength are exponentially more important.
Playing barre chords is one of the earliest challenges beginners have to face when learning to play the guitar. As with anything, practice develops the right technique. It also improves the flexibility and strength of the fingers to fret the strings properly.
However, if you’re trying to learn them and don’t want to encounter too many challenges when doing so, electric guitars, in general, make playing barre chords easier.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.