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Old 08-25-2023, 03:54 PM
Don W Don W is offline
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Default classical bar chords

I have played fingerstyle steel string acoustic for many years. I am now playing some classical pieces on my classical guitar. I am new to this. The string height is the standard string height for a classical which is a lot higher than I am used to. I understand the need for increased string height but find myself having continued difficulty playing bar chords and partial bar chords from the 6th fret and up. Any tips from you classical players?
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Old 08-25-2023, 04:20 PM
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I'm a steel string player who is learning a bit of classical. The first thing I did when I received both of my Cordobas was to take out the neck relief. For my guitars that did the trick. No nut or saddle adjustments were needed. YMMV. They play much like my steel strings now.
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Old 08-25-2023, 04:32 PM
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When I started my nylon playing with classical music I went back and relearned how to barre.

I had been playing steel for years but classical music and guitars have several more challenging things going on.

1) higher action
2) a much greater diversity in barre chord shapes
3) greater emphasis on individual notes being clean
4) a wider neck with likely a flat or flatter fretboard shape

For number 2 I found that the standard pop / rock E shape A shape chords can make you think you have your barre chords down when you actually don't. What was happening to me was that the barre was in fact not clean but it didn't matter as the other fingers were fretting notes higher up and the key barred notes were fine. I also worked at being very aware of exactly when I place the non barre fingers. Sometimes delaying them and using anchor fingers. I also sometimes cheat for tight fingerings and consciously shift the string slightly to the side to make a little more room.

3 means that you hear misses and they aren't as easily covered up as a strum of a whole barre chord would meaning that even if you aren't perfect it isnt the end of the world.

4 means that you need to be applying even pressure over a longer range and requires a straighter finger with more emphasis on rolling to the side slightly.

All of this lead me to Google barre chord technique and relearn / study it paying attention to right elbow leverage, left elbow position wrist position thumb position on the back of the board index finger position and shape (ie much straighter)

I worked through Spanish Romance as a piece and it really helped me by the end for my barre chording.

I also focused a lot on placing the barre just behind the fret.

Now of course I am relearning how to barre again on my 12 string steel
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Old 08-25-2023, 05:37 PM
btbliatout btbliatout is online now
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@Don W

Coming from the reverse (first learning classical, and dipping into steel string), I observed a thing or two that may help.
  • A flatter fretboard makes a meaningful difference. I had to adjust my left hand to do a proper barre on a steel string. My finger was trained to make a very flat and strait barre, which didn't work very well on a radiused board. I had to intentionally curve my finger around on a steel string. I imagine you may have to do the reverse (intentionally straighten your barre finger).
  • Call it lazy, or call it efficient, as a classical student I learned how to be lazy/energy-efficient with my barres. If strings 3,4,5 are being pressed by finger tips and my barre only needs to handle 1,2,6, I really only focus on getting 1,2,6 clean with my barre. True, if you took a camera and looked at 3,4,5, my barre might be pressing those strings down, but in a very lazy/relaxed way. I highly recommend only focusing on the strings that really need pressing.
  • Using of your pinky for a 2nd barre can be helpful. Think of your 1 finger as a capo, and your 4 finger as a 2nd partial capo. That can make life easier sometimes, albeit it made my life really hard for the first 2 months I tried to practice that. There are limits to how useful this is too, I mean, it really does function as a partial capo for the upper strings, so if you were only playing strings 1,2,3 they'd be making an inverted minor chord by their lonesome.
  • Definitely try out the classical guitar position. Electric and steel string players often have their guitar necks very low, which forces their left wrist to bend awkwardly, which limits left hand strength, range, and dexterity. Going from classical to steel, I found out real quick that a steel string's thinner neck allowed me to ditch the classical position, as even with a bent and cramped up wrist, since the neck was thinner, I could play all sorts of things. With a wide neck, I wasn't allowed that...umm...luxury?
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Old 08-26-2023, 11:16 AM
Fawkes Fawkes is offline
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There's quite a bit of good coaching on You tube for this. Many good points raised in this thread are also covered there, and there are exercises for progressively learning the skills.

One odd thing though. While I would have thought that what the previous poster said about neck height and left hand technique was true, modern flamenco technique, which is no slouch in the technical demands on the left hand, seems to disprove it.
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Old 08-26-2023, 12:34 PM
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Great information and great tips...thanks so much. I particularly like the tip about focusing on the notes that I really need to sound and less on the other notes in a barre chord. I have always played full barre chords trying to sound every note of the chord...I think its pretty common with steel string players and electric players which has been my history. I have my string height at a shade over 1/8 at the 12th fret on the low E string...seems to be a standard for classical players but not Flamenco players. I am playing a Yamaha full size classical and the neck is completely straight. No truss rod. I use normal and sometimes hard tension Savarez strings. I love the tone and the playability is fine until I get into those high barre chords. I am going to try all of your tips...now I am excited...thanks again.
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Old 08-26-2023, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don W View Post
G I am playing a Yamaha full size classical and the neck is completely straight. No truss rod.
Ahh. A little tough to take out the relief with that one

I would get it set up a little better before you beat yourself up on technique.

I'd adjust the nut slots and saddle to be more in line with a steel string. Maybe you might lose a touch of tone, but if you're not going to do concert hall recitals you'll be ok.
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Old 08-26-2023, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don W View Post
Any tips from you classical players?
The best tip I ever got for that is to resist the urge to straighten your index finger, thinking that this would work better on a flat fretboard.
It actually makes it more difficult.
The most efficient way to do a full barre is to give the index a slight arc or radius. That will allow the finger to apply pressure at a few select points and impart a lot more force than a flat finger. It'll make things easier and should become second nature after a while.
I tried to find a pic to show you what I mean. Have a look:

The pic on the right is what you want.
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Old 08-26-2023, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Gitfiddlemann View Post
The best tip I ever got for that is to resist the urge to straighten your index finger, thinking that this would work better on a flat fretboard.
Depends on the chord shape you are barring. The extent of the tip of the index shy of or beyond the edge of the fretboard can be an important factor.
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Old 08-26-2023, 06:37 PM
Gitfiddlemann Gitfiddlemann is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Depends on the chord shape you are barring. The extent of the tip of the index shy of or beyond the edge of the fretboard can be an important factor.
Yeah, the chord shape matters of course. In a 4 or 5 finger barre, my index is a lot flatter for efficiency sake. Not as much pressure is required. In other chords, like a minor, I'll even double up as shown here: (not a classical, but the same applies).

I was addressing the full 6 finger barre, since I felt that's what the OP was more unsure about. I still maintain that curving the finger just right will minimize the amount of pressure required to make a clean sounding barre.
But sure, the hand does adapt depending on the chord shape required.
Also, I try only to barre what's necessary, so, lots of half-barres come in handy as well.
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Old 09-02-2023, 06:39 AM
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The other thing that a classical position allows is arm weight fretting, where you use the weight of your left arm to do most of the work. I find this helpful with barre chords as it allows me to carry less tension.
I found a good discussion about this, I believe on Delcamp.
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Old 09-02-2023, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don W View Post
I have played fingerstyle steel string acoustic for many years. I am now playing some classical pieces on my classical guitar. I am new to this. The string height is the standard string height for a classical which is a lot higher than I am used to. I understand the need for increased string height but find myself having continued difficulty playing bar chords and partial bar chords from the 6th fret and up. Any tips from you classical players?
I hope this video I made will help. Any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Jonny

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