About dc.oneil

Residing in Denver, Colorado, I have over thirty years experience as a private music instructor specializing in guitar, piano, and college-prep music theory. I began my piano studies at age six, but later changed my focus to guitar upon entering high school. The budding age of rock ‘n’ roll was just beginning to take shape back then, in the ‘60’s – and, it was a lot more fun than classical piano.

After two years of metallurgical engineering school at Ohio State University, I opted to continue my education at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music in the modern guitar program. Perhaps, my decision was prompted by having attended live performances by Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, Mountain, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, and the list goes on and on. And, I can’t forget the Yardbirds – Jeff Beck was ‘in hospital’ that day, so Jimmy Page assumed the lead guitar duties. He brought the cello bow, too. Too bad, huh? I know I made the right career choice – I traded metallurgy for metal, I guess.

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to study with many accomplished musicians including Elliott Randall of Steely Dan fame (Reelin’ in the Years and others). Every rock and jazz instructor played an integral role in my development as a guitar player and teacher, and I still highly value their collective mentorship. I strive to provide my students with the same level of musical knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration that will last a lifetime.

Teaching music is my primary focus, but, since I minored in English in school, I enjoy writing as well – especially music articles and lessons. I tutor math and English once in awhile, too. So, I hope you enjoy my contributions to this fantastic website, and I wish you continued success!

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Barre Chord Hand Position Photo Supplement

I originally intended to include just a few hand position pictures in my latest lesson, ‘How to Play Barre Chords on the Guitar’. After some thought, however, I decided that providing a ‘Hand Position Photo Supplement’ and additional comments would be a better idea. Just like digital recorders, cameras don’t lie!
Think about it for a minute – ‘If I put my thumb here, what happens?’ The accompanying photos clearly answer the questions. To reinforce and add perspective to my first set of pictures, one of my students (excellent player and songwriter, by the way) agreed to duplicate the originals. And, since he accepted a dollar for his effort, he can add ‘professional hand model’ to his resume and portfolio. That could come in handy, maybe!
Each set of G major barre chord pictures contains shots taken from the front and back of the neck. The correct way to play barre chords on the guitar is shown, as are the three most common incorrect thumb placements.

Set 1 – Correct

Notice the wrist angle – it’s almost ninety degrees! Fingers are curved, playing close to the frets, and the third and fourth fingers are locked together. Picture perfect! You won’t see the same in the remaining sets.


Set 2 – Wrong, thumb horizontal

Notice that there’s no bend in the wrist! Fingers separate and fingers collapse. Also notice how the index finger slips into the next fret. Wrong notes and dead strings!



Set 3 – Wrong, thumb over

Again, no bend – again, the same result! Placing your thumb over the neck is desirable for bending strings, but not for playing barre chords on the guitar.


Set 4 – Wrong, thumb under

Still no bend, but my student almost pulls this one off! Honestly, I’m amazed, but the camera doesn’t lie! I sure can’t do it. Placing your thumb under the neck won’t help you learn how to play barre chords.

Hopefully, these photos will assist you in learning how to play barre chords on the guitar. At least, you now know what not to do. Of course, you may have to make slight adjustments to accommodate your hand and finger size and shape. It’s easier than you think, so good luck!

One final tip – at the risk of looking like a weirdo, use a mirror to watch and critique your playing style. Pay attention to hand position, finger placement, fluidity of movement, etc. Highly recommended! Doing so in front of family or friends is not recommended!

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