Evil Barre Chords on Acoustic Guitar: Bm

This blog will describe an alternative way of playing the Bm chord.

Guitar lesson Bbm.jpg

When singing and playing a song on acoustic, I like to think of it as a sum of all parts. There's no point playing a complex guitar part, if you have trouble singing along with it. In that sense, I'll make the work that my fretting hand does as easy as possible.

There is a bit of a stigma surrounding barre chords on acoustic guitar. Frankly, they are easier to play on electric, and you'll hear a lot of complaint from beginner acoustic guitar players. One of the main complaints is that 'it hurts!'. This is because you are exerting more pressure with your index finger with a barre than you would when playing open chords. Combined with higher and thicker strings on an acoustic, it's hard to sell barre chords to a beginner.

I've seen a load of guitarists use barre chords, when there is an alternative open chord. It's crazy for example to play a G major barre instead of an open G major chord. I also far prefer the sound of an open chord on acoustic to a barre chord. This can depend on your style also, but with the way I play, open chords sound better. It's not to say that you should never use barre chords, but I'd rather hear someone play a shortened version of a chord on a few strings, than a clunky version of a barre chord which doesn't ring out properly.

D major and A major are popular keys for songs, and both often contain a Bm.

Note! - There is a difference between the key, and the chord shapes being played. You could be using a capo on the 2nd fret to play the open D chord shapes, but you're actually in the key of E. My advice is always, find the original key of the song, then find the best way to play it using a capo if necessary.

I'll maybe see a song in F#, and I'll use a capo on the 4th fret so I can play with a D shape instead. More about using a capo in future blogs. It's common for songs in the key of D to have a Bm chord, which can cause problems for some players. The traditional Bm chord uses an Am barre shape, which can be a little easier to play than the Em barre shape, as less of the thick strings to hold down. For years though, I have not used a full Bm barre on acoustic.

To learn the variation below

  • Play a Bm barre as normal
  • Keep fingers 3, 4, and 2 in the same place
  • Remove index finger barre
  • Fret the 2nd fret of the A string with index finger

You can then decide if you want to play the top E string. I do, as I find the sound compliments a lot of the songs I play. You'll actually be playing a Bm11 to be precise, which is less intense than a straight Bm, which I find softens the feel a little. You can always avoid playing the top E string, if you don't want that particular chord.


Playing the chord this way, also means that your index finger can do hammer ons and pull offs on the second fret, which can create some interesting effects. I've been playing with this chord shape for years, and will continue to do so! Here's a full example of the John Lennon song 'Happy Xmas (War is Over'), where you can see this version of Bm, along with hammer ons and pull offs with the index finger. This track is in the key of A.