the barre chord tutor  


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One night in 1991, I dreamed that a friend of mine, who recently died an untimely death, was speaking with me about new program ideas and suggested that I make a guitar tutor. I had taught guitar lessons and felt that barre chords were overlooked as a means of teaching new players quickly. I wrote guitarbar and sold it to Softdisk which produced a monthly disk of MSDOS software for the masses.

But Guitarbar was never published. My contact had moved to id software. Guitarbar was teaching nobody. So after several years I contacted Softdisk. They graciously gave me the rights to do with the program as I wished. But what exactly do I wish to do? I presented this question to the community at Kuro5hin (see Kuro5hin Story link in menu) and they encouraged me to release guitarbar to the open source community on SourceForge.

The Program

Guitarbar was originally a study in user interface by IBM Extended ASCII graphics. Part of my goal was to allow the program to run on any PC compatible machine. At the time that meant some users may not have graphics cards at all. But by definition they would at least have the MDA adaptor and a compatible BIOS which allowed me to use ASCII characters past 127 which included line and block elements. These characters are burned into the BIOS in Intel x86 boxes. Linux users may want to investigate the linux8x8 font. Windows users can look at OEM/DOS fonts like Terminal and perhaps the MSLineDraw font.

The view of the fretboard is that of watching a teacher play, rather than a chord diagram. In addition to the Play screen, there is a Tune-up screen to help you get your guitar in tune with your computer. Guitarbar uses the PC speaker, not a soundcard. Guitarbar does not have mouse support. Navigation is by arrow keys, Enter and Esc (for returning to a previous page). F1 always calls up a related Help screen.

The Code

The source code (available on the Summary/Download page) is 4 modules of C code written to compile with the 16 bit Mix Power C Compiler. The code will be modified to target open-source compilers.

The Plan

While I set the Trove level to 5-Stable, this only means that the downloadable exe runs without known bugs. The roadmap for future development is in brainstorming. So far it looks like this...

  • target 16-bit open-source compiler (Borland's Turbo C 2.01 ?)
  • mouse support (Turbo Vision, Curses ?)
  • more chord types (like 7, sus4, etc)
  • midi support
  • selectable tunings (options other than EADGBE)
  • target 32-bit open-source compiler (perhaps MinGW & gcc)
  • wxWindows for graphics?


Feel free to download the exe and/or source. Play with it. I am maintaining the copyright on the name and code, but I won't be offended if you borrow some ideas. Try using guitarbar to learn the guitar.

Would you like to contribute to this project? Have some ideas you'd like to share? I welcome anyone who wants to contact me, to email me...

saintport at