The Power Line – the secret behind the “Bar Chord”

7 Aug

When I started playing guitar I learned about something called “The Bar Chord”. This Capo like technique of laying your pointer finger on a fret of choice and then forming any of the 6 basic formations anywhere on the fretboard, revolutionized my life. Little did I know that there was more than meets the eye in this simple but essential part of my musical training. It would take me 40 years to discover the secret.

I call this discovery “The Power Line”, and with good reason.

-Fingering chart for the Bar Chord-

Those of you that already know how to play guitar will understand what I’m about to say, those that are beginners, I take great pleasure in being the first one to show you how to play a bar chord…. here we go.

Above you will see the G/E BAR CHORD. The fingering chart allows you to first play the G chord and then by simply releasing that chord and then placing your first finger across the 3rd Fret (the first finger bar) you can now form the E formation. The fingerings for this are illustrated above…good, let’s continue.

With this E formation bar chord you can now play a major chord in any key found on the 6th string. that’s it….but that finger which lays across the fingerboard hides a plethora of information.

This is called the bar or the Capo  (a guitar gadget that lets you place a temporary bar of some kind on the guitar neck to allow you to play on a different part of the neck).

let’s take a look at the power line which is found on that bar or capo.

We’ll start with a simple 1st finger major scale, that’s the do,re,mi,fa,so,la,ti,do scale- notice how you said do twice. The second do is called the octave, it’s the beginning of the scale all over again.

Here we start with the 1st finger on the ROOT(1).  By following the sequenced black numbers(let’s ignore the reds for now) up to 7,we can get to the octave -8(which is the same note as 1 but in the next octave) continue following the same numbers,till you get to the 1 string and land on the Octave(8) root again. This is a major scale that scans two octaves.

Now that we can see all the notes of the scale, let’s see what’s under that bar that is so interesting, that I’d have to name it a “power line”.

This illustration shows that the power line has the Dominant b7  located on the 4th string and on the same fret as the root. Mighty powerful information, why? Because you ‘ve always got to know where the Dominant b7 is, if you want to construct a 9th,11th or 13th chord.
Right next to it you’ll find the Minor b3rd. A chord is either a major or a minor, knowing where this note is located is crucial to facilitating many minor chords. And here’s a big plus for anyone who wants to play complex jazz chords the 5th is located on the 2nd string (remember seeing those #5’s and b5’s). I’ve visually included the 9,11 and 13 (the reds) so that you can see how close to the Power line they are.

Well, we all know that a major chord must have a 1,3 and 5 in it. The fact that we can clearly see where the 1,3 and 5  are,  now gives us an easy method to construct chords. This is the beauty of the power line.

Let’s try playing a simple B7 chord, the formula for this chord is R1(B),3,5,b7 (see the chart below). As you can see from the efficiency of the power line, you get exactly what you need. No Doubles or octaves! This means if you want to make this a Bm7, just substituting the b3 is all you need to do.

Try playing a Gm7b5-The formula for this chord is 1,b3,b5,b7.(don’t forget to mute the 5th string with the meat of your fingers. see how easy it is to alter the 5th.. Try a B6(1,3,5,6….yes, the 6th is under the b7), how about a Bm6. wow…this is so cool and easy.

Well so much for now. Maybe next time I’ll let you in on another secret my students learned. The Power Square.  uuuuweeeee!!!

Excerpts from my guitar instruction book

Conversations on the guitar- “Breaking The Musical Code”


2 Responses to “The Power Line – the secret behind the “Bar Chord””

  1. Steven A March 22, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    Thanks for the information. Very gracious of you to share your knowledge!

    • guitarlos1 April 23, 2014 at 7:54 am #

      Wow… Thanks for the accolades, Russell, your comments really made my day. One day I will be recognized by my people, till then. I continue to remain myself… And I’m ok with that. Thx also for the Wikipedia mention.

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