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Barrees for Classical Guitar

Barrees are used throughout the entire guitar world, rock, acoustic and classical alike and constitute an important part of the classical guitarist’s technical armoury. There are basically 2 fundamental types of barree, half or partial and full (leaving aside more complex areas such as hinge and cross-fret for the time being).

Half Barree
The term half-barree is slightly misleading given that it is used to denote the coverage of 5 or less strings by the left-hand index finger for right-handed players, whilst the term full-barree is reserved for the full coverage of all 6 strings on a standard classical guitar.

Full Barree
The barree is commonly denote by the letter C followed by the position at which it is to be laid (i.e. fret number counting from the head down to the body of the guitar) and the number of strings covered (sometimes). The letter C is short for cejilla, also commonly called a capo in flamenco guitar to change down the tuning of the opening strings without the need to retune all 6 strings of the guitar i.e. at second fret E on the 1st string becomes f-sharp etc.

The secret to obtaining good barrees is slow, methodical and patient practise. Many players play with too much tension in the index finger of the barrees (and similarly in all areas of right-hand technique). The main objective is to apply just sufficient pressure to ensure a clean, buzz-free barree is achieved. To do this gently lay the index finger (say at the 5th or 6th fret-remember just behind the fret not on it or else this will cause a buzz-effect too) and key gently applying pressure over all 6 strings until a clear sound is achieved.

Similarly, the thumb should sit comfortably behind the neck of the guitar, without any pressure being apply in the opposite direction. It will take some practise and experimentation, not least given the differing finger shapes and sizes of guitar-players, but is a technique which must be mastered and one must be comfortable with to play classical guitar effectively.

A means of practising full barrees, for example, is to play one octave scales (apoyando and tirando) up and down the fret board, whilst holding the barree in place. You can do this with half-barrees too.


There are 2 types of basic slur, the ascending slur or hammer-on and the descending slur, or pull-off, often the latter is more troublesome for many guitarists where tonal consistency is concerned.

These can be likened to a quick finger snap, descent onto the string. Initial starting distance from the string should not be excessive, around 1-2cm or 0.5-1 inch max.-tone coming from the speed of the descent and accuracy of the finger on the string (believe me it is possible to skew from this distance in fast slur passages!) You should release some of the string pressure immediately after hitting the string to avoid retaining excess tension in the finger, however some pressure is obviously required to avoid string buzzing.

Descending slurs, the troublesome cousin in many guitarist’s experience, but not insurmountable. Where many guitarists go wrong is to pull the string upwards, no the string should be pulled down in the direction to the next adjacent string on the fretboard (obviously if on the 1st string then not possible but the motion is still basically the same). This takes some practice to achieve evenness and clarity, but practice makes perfect. Find out more about scale playing by visiting the downloads page/click link here)
There are many combinations of slurs available 2-3-4 notes, hammer ons onto non-playing strings, but 2 note slurs should be mastered first as a key basis of your technical armoury.

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Here's a selection of Top Tips from David Russell's website:-
Practice Sheet-always know where you are with your pieces
Play or not to play-ensure you select the music you'll enjoy the most
Damping basses-how to ensure you control that elusive baseline!
Trills-an essential but sometimes tricky part of guitar playing covered
Unusual Barrees-when conventional barrees just won't work

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