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View Full Version : How to strengthen your hand to play Barre chords?


Dietspam
12-15-2007, 03:49 PM
Hey,

I'm looking for any techniques to strengthen my hand to play barre chords better.

I can get my hand into position OK, it's just having enough strength to 'pinch' the strings.

I know practicing helps, and i am. But is there any exercises i can do to help?

Thanks.

TBman
12-15-2007, 03:51 PM
Tune the strings down a half step or a whole step. Also practice them higher on the neck. I should talk, I almost never practice them until I need them.

ljguitar
12-15-2007, 04:27 PM
...I'm looking for any techniques to strengthen my hand to play barre chords better.
Hi DS...
Let's talk technique not just strength.

First of all, you don't need to press the strings with finger/thumb ''pinch'' strength alone. Keep your fretting hand thumb beneath the center of the neck and about a fret behind the barre fretting finger. If you try to wrap it at the edge of the fingerboard you make it harder.

Position the barre fretting finger so it's angled from headstock edge of the fret on the 1st string to the front fret wire on the 6th string (at an angle). Keep your fretting arm elbow out from your body - not tucked in - and the thumb beneath the neck combined with the elbow help apply pressure to the barre fretting finger...they create a fulcrum.

Don't try to make your fretting finger go straight across the fret in a symmetrical fashion. You will also need to adjust the fretting barre finger so no strings are hitting right in a finger crease - thus muting a string. Your 1st finger is probably longer than the fingerboard is wide - which is why you can relax it a bit and run it at an angle.

Hope this helps...

gitfidl_pickr
12-15-2007, 04:51 PM
This is kind of an idea too. When we are strumming 1-4-5 chords we are holding them down for maybe a couple bars. (Some call that "sustain"). But when you are playing chords for melody you are holding it down for just ONE note (maybe two). So you do not want to have a "death grip on it" but just have the chord all down when the pick passes over and release. This is also good for dance rythms (in a band) .. no sustain. So the object of all of this is not "heavy" touch but "light" touch. (I always called them "bar" chords before). Not all of the chords are going to be "bar" chords because 6th, minor 7ths, diminished, Major 7ths will have different fingerings but all 4 fingers are involved. So get in the habit of light-quick-plunk=plunk=plunk changing chords with each beat. Use turn arounds Bb=Bbdim=Fm7=Bb7 ....G=G#dim=Am7=D7 one beat per chord ... do it a lot. Light touch -- just enough to get a clear chord then release. Fast .. faster .. faster .. use this to get your change speed up .. notice the ENDING of Foggy Day ... also shi-ning ev-ry-where .. all chord changes... also Fog-gy Lon-don Town (one beat per chord)

F // Ebm6/ Gm7// C13/
A foggy day in London Town
F / Ab7 / G7/ C13 / Eb+11 /
Had me low and had me down
Dm9 / F9/ Bb6/ F7/
I viewed the morning with alarm
Fma7 Cdim G13 Gm7 C7
British museum had lost its charm
F / Ebm6/ Gm7/ C13/
How long I wondered could this thing last
F / Ab7 / G7/ C13 / C7
But the age of miracles hadn’t past
F/ F13/ Bb6/ Eb9/
and suddenly I saw you there
F / Bb6 Bbm F / Bb6 Bbm Fma7
And in foggy London town
F6 E6 Gbma7 Fma7
The sun was shining everywhere

end: F Fma7 / F7 / Bm6 Dm6 Bbm6 Gbma7 Fma7


This is also nice ... very stuccato .. dit-dit== dit-dit== dit-dit

D D6 D7 D6 D9
Let the rain pit - ter pat - ter,

Em7 D9 Am7 D9 D7/9 GM7 Bm7-5 E7/9
But it real - ly does - n't mat - ter if the skies are grey.


Nice Bar Chords ... not too many chord changes ... nice pattern
Bm7 E7 Bm7 E7
Cigarette holder, which wigs me,

C#m7 F#7 C#m7 F#7
Over her shoulder, she digs me;

Am(V) B7 Fm7 Bb9 A6 Edim Bm7 E7
Out cattin', that satin doll.
---------------------------------------
Bm7 E7 Bm7 E7
Baby shall we go out skippin'?

C#m7 F#7 C#m7 F#7
Careful, amigo -- you're flippin;.

Am(V) B7 Fm7 Bb9 A6
Speaks Latin, that satin doll.

Bridge:
Em7 A7 Em7 A7 DMAJ7 Bm7 Em7 DMAJ7
She's nobody's fool, so I'm playin' it cool as can be;

F#m7 B7 F#m7 B7 E7 Bm7-5
IŽll give it a whirl, but I ainŽt for no girl catchinŽ me --

E7-9
Switcharooni.
----------------
Bm7 E7 Bm7 E7
Telephone number, well a you know,

C#m7 F#7 C#m7 F#7
I'm doin my rumba with uno,

Am(V) B7 Fm7 Bb9 A6 Cdim F#7
And that'n, my satin doll.

Coda:
Am(V) B7 Fm7 Bb9 A6 Bb9 A6
And that'n, my satin doll.

There are a number of "lyrics" sits on the web (Jumbo Jimbo) .. get show tunes, jazz tunes and I. Berlin if you can find them.

Have fun! (Git-er-done)

whamonkey
12-15-2007, 06:53 PM
Try messing around with a bass for a while...it'll get you some digit strength.:)

Jeff M
12-15-2007, 07:08 PM
Just to add to what LJ said,
Barre chords have nothing to do with strength. It really is all about techinque.
Some little kids can do barre chords, while some large, muscled men can not.

Some tips;
Let your fingers, hand, wrist, arm relax rather than tighten. Let the weight of your arm travel down to your elbow and towards the floor, while resting your barre finger against the fretboard to prevent it from falling off. Let your shoulders relax down and back ....this will help pull your hand into the fretboard.

Rotate your hand/barre finger a bit backwards, so you aren't trying to press the strings down with the flat part of the finger. ALong the same lines, see if you contacting some of the problem strings at one of your finger joints, which will hinder fretting that string.

See if you actually need to fret each of the strings to sound the chord or if you can "cheat" and just fret a few solidly with the barre finger while your other fingers fret thier strings.

When moving into a barre chord, place your non-barre fingers down first, then the barre. When you get up to speed, they are basically fretting at the same time..but it will feel much smoother and you will be fretting the strings more solidly.


Bottom line is to concentrate on relaxing your muscles to play the chord, not tightening them into a death grip. This actually can lift your barre finger off the string....and make things worse.
The natural reaction is to tighten your muscles the more frustrated you get. Make it into a gentle game. How lightly can you fret a string and still make it sound cleanly?

rick-slo
12-15-2007, 07:50 PM
Roll your index finger a little counter clockwise. You can also double up (second finger over index) in some cases. Use the amount of pressure to get the job done, no more.
Rick

Brent Nelson
12-15-2007, 08:03 PM
Great thread! I got some good tips here too.
Thanks gang.
Brent

1after909
12-15-2007, 08:19 PM
Ditto, Sweet!!

815C
12-15-2007, 08:56 PM
Capo the 5th fret. Work on barre chords (they should be much easier with the capo at the 5th fret).

After you get to where you can make them OK with a capo at the 5th fret, move the capo to the 4th fret. Once you feel OK making barre chords with the 4th fret capoed, move the capo to the 3rd fret....etc...etc...etc... till you take the capo off.

Also, try using the SIDE of your index finger which is nearest the thumb when making the barre.

Every time you try to make a barre chord and fail, you are actually building strength in your hands. Keep it up - you'll get there.

P.S. try making barre chords on an electric guitar with light gauge strings and low action. Then work your way to an acoustic guitar.

ljguitar
12-15-2007, 09:26 PM
...You can also double up (second finger over index) in some cases.
OK Rick...
Do that during a lesson and I'll scold you!! No doubling up...

rick-slo
12-15-2007, 09:54 PM
OK Rick...
Do that during a lesson and I'll scold you!! No doubling up...
Your kidding Larry or ought to be. Be open minded. Try it. Like I said, in selected places. Little tips and tricks help you to advance.
Rick

TBman
12-15-2007, 09:59 PM
Your kidding Larry or ought to be. Be open minded. Try it. Like I said, in selected places. Little tips and tricks help you to advance.
Rick

I used to use that trick on Fminor (133111) Oh yeah, try putting the guitar on your left knee instead of your right and use a footstool (or 2 really thick phonebooks) under your left foot to pick the neck up.

Ed422
12-15-2007, 10:00 PM
Wow... I can't believe no one has said it this far into the thread.

Try taking your guitar in for a setup. A guitar with a good setup will take minimal effort to play cleanly. And then practice like hell.

Ed

gitfidl_pickr
12-15-2007, 11:48 PM
That is actually the UTMOST advise in all of this stuff. There was a guy on TY making millions playing Gershwin on piano .. had done it all his life .. he still does scales THREE HOURS A DAY. You are never so good you don't have to practice .. work at it. And structure your practice (so much time for scales, so much for new chords fingering, so much for specific tunes ..and results you want to accomplish ... what results ought to come from THIS practice. Do not do the "shotgun" method. Focus on specific threshholds and practice is not over until you are there. I am working in the intro to "Since I Don't Have You" -- 12 notes BEFORE the song.. very pretty notes. Have to be just right .. and there are another 10-12 notes at the end .. THEN I will be working ON the song. (This is for New Years)

Thank you for that .. "Practice Like Hell" advice ... that's some of the best advice on this thread. For anyone.

vti814ce
12-17-2007, 09:48 PM
Wow... I can't believe no one has said it this far into the thread.

Try taking your guitar in for a setup. A guitar with a good setup will take minimal effort to play cleanly. And then practice like hell.

Ed

I agree, a properly set up guitar for me, is much nicer and easier to play, What if they like the action high with heavy strings ? Technique and practice made the most difference for me.

:)

Sammy