The standard 'E' chord and the standard 'A minor' chord have something in common physically. They use the same fingers located in the same frets. The only difference is; each finger is down one string. Figure 7-1 shows a standard E chord and Figure 7-2 shows the standard A minor chord.
So, if you form a standard 'E' chord and move each finger down one string you get an 'A minor' chord. When we converted the standard 'E' chord to an 'E barre' formation, we used our middle finger, ring finger, and pinky to form the chord instead of the standard formation, which uses our index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. We can easily do the same with the standard 'A minor' chord if we place our middle finger on the 5th string in the first fret, our ring finger on the 3rd string in the 2nd fret, and our pinky on the 4th string in the 2nd fret. Figure 7-3 shows the new A Minor chord finger positions.
If we move this formation up the neck and barre all six strings (the bottom 5 at least) with our index finger, we get an 'A minor barre' formation. Like the 'E barre', the 'E minor' barre, and the 'A barre' formations, the 'A minor' barre' formation can be moved up and down the neck to produce other chords. They will all be Minor chords, but, like the 'A barre' formation; you can determine the name of the minor chord by knowing the names of the notes for each fret of your 'A' string and relating them to the position of your index finger. So, if you use an 'A minor barre' formation with your index finger in the 5th fret, you would produce a 'D minor' chord, because your index finger is placed on the 'D' note of your 'A' string. Figure 7-4 shows a D minor chord being played using the A minor barre formation.
Figure 7-5 shows the first twelve chords available with an 'A Minor barre' formation. Note: The top (1st) string is not played but barring it with your index finger is optional.
To practice the 'A minor barre' formation, form the chord with your index finger in the 5th fret and strum the top five strings one at a time. If necessary, reposition your fingers so that the notes ring cleanly. Remove your fingers from the strings, then re-form the chord and repeat the steps above until each note is clean.
You have learned four different barre chord formations. Practice changing from one barre chord to another by using this exercise:
1. Place your index finger in the 5th fret and use an 'E barre' formation to produce an A chord 2. While in the same fret, change to an 'E minor barre' formation (remove your middle finger from the 4th string) to produce an A minor chord 3. Staying in the same fret (5th), change to an 'A barre' formation to play a D chord 4. End with an 'A minor barre' formation in that fret to produce a D minor chord.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 without stopping until you have memorized each of their formations and can change from one to another smoothly.
NOTE: If you are having trouble forming any of the barre chords in the 5th fret (or elsewhere), try starting with the alternate finger positions for the standard formation of each chord and then slide them up and barre the strings with your index finger. In other words, start an 'E barre' formation by placing your middle finger on your 4th string, in the 1st fret, your ring finger on the 2nd string, in your 2nd fret, and your pinky on the 3rd string, in your 2nd fret. Then, slide them all up the fretboard until your index finger is at the fret relevant to the chord you want to play.
I should mention that there are other barre chord formations you could use. For example, if you played a standard G or C chord with your middle, ring, and pinky fingers (instead of your index, middle, and ring fingers) you could move the G and C formations up the neck, then barre all of the strings with your index finger. For the G formation your index finger would have to be 2 frets down from your middle finger, and for the C it would have to be down just one fret from your middle finger to create more chords from those two alternatives to standard C and G finger formations. You could use them just like you did with the E barre, Em barre, A barre, and Am barre formations. Keep in mind that the G and C barre formations don't sound as strong as the E barre, Em barre, A barre, and Am barre formations.
In the next lesson, we will look at using the four barre formations you've learned (E barre, E Minor barre, A barre, and A Minor barre) together, and interchangeably. You will also see that using them together can increase your playing speed.