Guitar Technique Tip of the Month

Your Personal Guitar Lesson

Douglas Niedt


Did you ever struggle to master a basic bar chord? Guess what. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars and they go by such names as hinge bars, cross-fret or split bars, and partial bars. What fun you're going to have mastering these!

Actually, many of them are not difficult to execute. They will often lend greater ease to your playing. They will certainly make your playing smoother and more musical. Don't let them intimidate you.

Enjoy Specialty Bars Part 2: Cross-Fret Bars

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SPECIALTY BARS PART 2: CROSS-FRET BARS

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.

The cross-fret bar or split bar is the most rarely used of the specialty bars. The index finger bars across two consecutive frets simultaneously. Most commonly, the rear of the bar finger holds down the first string and the tip of the bar finger holds down the sixth or fifth string a fret higher.

The cross-fret bar doesn’t require a lot of strength or force. You are usually only holding two strings. So it is a matter of focusing pressure on just those two notes.

Watch as I demonstrate in this video:

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The cross-fret bar is by no means a recent innovation. Mauro Giuliani used it in his Rossiniana No. 1, op. 119:






The passage is not playable (with a musical result) with any other fingering or technique.

Watch:

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Usually, the rear of the cross-fret bar holds the first string. Occasionally it may hold the second string. The tip of the bar however, can hold the sixth string, fifth string, fourth string, third string, or even the second string. In this example from Giuliani’s Grand Overture, the rear of the bar holds the first string as usual but the tip holds the third string:






Again, there is no other fingering or technique that produces as musical a result in this passage as the cross-fret bar.

Watch as I demonstrate in this video.

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I even use the cross-fret bar in a measure of the classic Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega. He doesn’t call for it but I think it adds a great musical touch to the measure. Tárrega notates measure #9 as follows:






Note he specifies that the F in the bass is a dotted half note. As notated, that F should ring through the entire measure for three beats. But Tárrega notates that the bar at the eighth fret ends on the third beat. The F is therefore cut off and cannot ring through the measure. Therefore, what comes out of the guitar sounds like this:




Watch as I demonstrate in this video.

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However, if a cross-fret bar is used, the F can be held through the measure and you hear the beautiful passing harmony of the third beat and the measure is filled with the sustain of the low F:






When the cross-fret bar is employed, this is the harmony you hear:






Watch this video:

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The cross-fret bar often can come to the rescue in these types of difficult situations. It’s useful in a few dozen instances in the standard repertoire but even more so in contemporary music and “jazzy” arrangements. It enables one to play chord voicings that are normally not available to us in standard tuning using standard fingering and bar technique.

For example, a G major 7th chord in the following voicing can be played on a steel-steel guitar’s narrow neck by wrapping the left thumb around to hold the low G. On the classical guitar with its wide neck, wrapping the thumb is usually impractical. The best solution is the cross-fret bar:








Notation of the Cross-Fret Bar

There is no standard notation for the cross-fret bar. My preference is to use two Roman numerals with a slash between them. I write “cross-fret bar” above for clarification. If the tip of the bar finger is holding the 6th string, I don’t add additional notation. If the tip of the finger is not holding the 6th string, I indicate which string it holds with a circled Arabic numeral. Others use only the Roman numerals:






More to Come

Next month, the stunning conclusion of this series on specialty bars: Partial Bars!

Download the PDF

The PDF Version

We have a PDF version of this article with the video embedded in the document so you can save the entire article to your computer, video included!

IMPORTANT:

The PDF version of this article contains an embedded video. It will not play well unless you save this PDF to your computer first. Then, open the file you just saved and the video will play smoothly. The PDF is 75.9 MB so it may take a while to download.

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