ukulele barre chords

3 Tips to Improve Your Ukulele Barre Chords

Learning how to perform a ukulele barre chord can be one of the most challenging aspects of playing the uke. It requires a lot of finger strength and a ton of practice. In this post, we will discuss three tips that will make the learning process easier for you.

A ukulele barre chord involves using one finger, most often the first, to fret all the strings of the uke. Then, using your other fretting fingers to make a chord shape, you strum them just like a normal chord.

Barre chords allow for more possibilities as you can play chords further up the fretboard. Let’s take a closer look at how to play them and how you can improve on them.

Why Should I Learn How To Barre Chords?

Simply put, it’s going to make you a better ukulele player. If you have made it this far into the post, chances are, you want to improve your playing.

You will gain a lot of strength in your fingers, which will help when playing intricate songs that require fast chord changes. You may find yourself playing a song high up on the fretboard. During a small musical break, it might be appropriate to fill that void with a chord. Instead of going all the way down the neck, wouldn’t it be great if you could play a chord exactly where you are?

Another benefit of barre chords is the change in tone from regular chords. They also allow you to be more experimental with your strumming. Lifting your fretting fingers lightly off the strings while strumming creates a chucking sound, adding more flair to your chords by incorporating this percussive sound.

3 Tips To Improve Barre Chords

Now that we know the basics of what they are and how to play them, let’s crack on and start improving your technique.

Don't Press So Hard!

Something I often see with beginner ukulele players trying to master barre chords is that their knuckles turn white due to the strain they apply to the strings. Doing this gives you less control of your fingers as they become super stiff.

If that sounds like you, take your fingers off the fretboard. Instead of applying all your strength with your first finger, transfer it to your thumb. That might sound counterintuitive, but most of the structure of a barre chord is built around the thumb. Make sure your thumb is placed in the middle of the neck to spread the pressure evenly.

pressing strings hard ukulele barre chords

If you get your thumb in the right position, it will make fretting the chords much easier. That’s half of the battle won.

Start In The Middle Of The Fretboard

So your thumb is on point and doing everything it should. Now it’s time to make a chord.

Chances are, the first barre chord you came across was a B Major. It’s the only basic chord that is a barre chord. To play it, you need to barre all the strings on the 2nd fret. In all honesty, it’s an awful chord to start your barre chord journey on because it’s so close to the nut of the ukulele. The tension in the strings is high, making it much harder to fret the notes.

When practicing, play barre chords around the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th frets. This is where the strings feel the loosest, making it easier to play them and build your strength with the path of least resistance.

barre chords ukulele middle fretboard

It’s a mental win, too. When attempting barre chords lower down the fretboard, you will be much better equipped.

Isolate The Notes

Your thumb is doing a great job, and you’re in the middle of the fretboard, ready to play. You give it a strum, but something doesn’t sound right. You may hear some buzzing or dead notes, which is a sign that you need to adjust your hand position.

These adjustments are very subtle and nuanced. Instead of strumming the whole chord, pluck each string individually. Listen for the strings that are causing an issue and adjust your hand until you get a clean sound.

pluck strings barre chords ukulele

This will feel uncomfortable at first, but you are training your hand to get into the right position. You won’t see an overnight change, but after a week or a month, you will be better at playing barre chords.

Bonus Exercise

This fantastic exercise will not only build the strength needed in your thumb and first finger but also improve the dexterity of your other fingers.

We are going to play some scales. These exercises are common for increasing speed and are great for warming up. We are going to hack them somewhat and combine them with our barre chord training.

You need to barre all the strings on the 4th fret and give that a strum. Then, use the rest of your fingers to fret the notes while still holding that barre chord. Once you have done one scale, move to the 5th fret and repeat the same scale. Then on to the 6th and 7th. Once you have done four rounds of scales, go back down the fretboard. Follow the tab below. Check out my guide to get up to speed on how to read ukulele tabs.

A |-7-6-4-------------|-8-7-5-------------|
E |-4-----7-5-4---4---|-5-----8-6-5---5---|
C |-4-----------6---6-|-5-----------7---7-|
G |-4-----------------|-5-----------------|


A |-9-8-6-------------|-10-9-7--------------|
E |-6-----9-7-6---6---|-7------10-8-7---7---|
C |-6-----------8---8-|-7-------------9---9-|
G |-6-----------------|-7-------------------|

Combining all three tips with the exercise above will have a profound effect on your playing. Your fingers might feel like they are on fire after the scale exercise. That’s a good sign as it means you are working muscles that haven’t been trained yet.

Summary

Barre chords can be daunting and may even discourage some from playing the ukulele or any instrument. Guitarists have an equally difficult, if not harder, time getting to grips with them. I urge you to stick with it; even just a few weeks of practice, and you will be well on your way to success with them.

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