After mastering the open chords, the next logical step is to start adding barre chords to your repertoire. Many people find them challenging because it requires that one finger push down on two or more strings for a sustained amount of time; however, it doesn’t have to be as physically demanding as one might think. Let’s go over 4 tips to improve your ukulele barre chords that will help relieve the strain off of your fingers.
Many people place a finger on the fretboard, squeeze with all of their might, and hope for the best. The following technique focuses on using the larger arm muscles as well as a “push/pull” or “counterweight” motion to help relieve the tension off of your fingers.
1. First of all, make sure that your hands and muscles are relaxed. Believe it or not, it’s easier to form any chord if your fingers, hands, arms, and the entire body is in a relaxed, soft state. Try to keep the wrist straight.
2. Second, make sure that you’re securing your ukulele body properly against your side with your forearm and press the back of the instrument into your rib area. You also might have an easier time forming barre chords if the headstock is up at a 45° angle rather than parallel with the floor.
3. Third, as you press the body of the instrument into your side, you will notice the neck of the ukulele will want to swing forward. As you hold a chord, stabilize your chording hand and slightly pull the neck back as it wants to swing forward. You will notice the strings almost pressing into your fingers rather than using your finger strength alone. As you strum your instrument and focus on the “push/pull” or “counterweight” technique, you should notice that the pressure needed to produce a clear sound is significantly less than just using your finger strength alone.
4. This brings us to the fourth tip which is to roll your finger onto its side. Most barre chords require the use of the index finger pressing down on two or more strings. Instead of using the flat of your finger, tilt your palm slightly away from you to use the side of your finger. The side of the finger has a flatter surface and can more evenly distribute the pressure applied to the string.
If you are still finding that your barre chords are muffled or not clear when you play them, try building the chord one string at a time starting from the 1st string and then moving on to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string. As you apply the “counterweight” technique, notice where you may need to roll your finger onto its side, and/or whether you may need to apply a little more pressure.
3 Common Barre Chords
Looking for some familiar songs where these chords appear? Check out the list below!
“Renegades” – X Ambassadors – Bm
“Hey Jude” – The Beatles – D7
“I Just Can’t Wait to be Kind” – Sir Elton John – Bb
Now that you have taken the time to practice and familiarize yourself with the techniques above and have laid a strong foundation for your barre chords, you’re ready to spice things up by learning the iconic percussive sound of “chucking,” which is synonymous with the ukulele and ukulele music.
To explore more techniques, check out the next post on How To Chuck Strum Your Ukulele.