We Were (Somewhat) Wrong: Cat’s Bar Chords

Figure 1
Figure 2

Another pecularity with Cat’s playing lies in his chord fingering for bar chords. In songs like ‘Hard Headed Woman‘ you often hear only the Bb major chord without the bass root note struck, effectively Bb/F, in the quick F-to-Bb chord shifts. After all, a chord only consists of three notes.

Cat does this by barring the chord with the ring finger, neglecting the root bass note (Figure 1). He also tends to use his middle finger to assist his ringer finger with depressing the D through B strings. This specific chord fingering is used solely for the purpose of retaining the familiar and comfortable thumb-over-neck style of guitar playing Cat favors.

However, at certain other times Cat seems secure the root bass note with the thumb. Take his use of B major in ‘Take the World Apart‘ for instance (Figure 2). The thumb secures the bass A string at the second fret, while the ring finger bars the D through B strings at the fourth.

Unfortunately it is far from an easy thing to do. You are trying to depress the A bass string with the thumb after all. Such an overreach with the thumb requires a slim-taper guitar neck, larger hands and lots of practice. Even so, you will often run into not being able to prevent the treble E string from ringing out unwantedly out at the fret barred with your ring finger.

You also often see Cat using chord inversions especially in the bass. For instance, when a B7 major chord is called for he often replaces the root note with the dominant seventh, effectively playing a B/A major chord (Figure 3).

Regarding E-shaped bar chords Cat usually bars the first three – not two – treble strings with his index finger (Figure 4). This is done as a precaution so as to being able to quickly shift to an Em-shaped bar chord. Cat chooses not do so with F major at the first fret because he likes to tap into Fsus2 with its open G string.

Figure 3
Figure 4

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