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Old 08-05-2020, 08:57 PM
Lamenramen Lamenramen is offline
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Default Do I need stronger fingers or a new setup?

Hi, 2017 Taylor 314ce here in physically near mint condition to my eye.

I've been playing for about 5 years, but stopped playing for years. Recently resumed playing about 30 minutes per day on average over the last 9 months.

Over the past 4-6 weeks I've been diligently working on hand strengthening exercises (scales, slapping the index finger, pinky stretches, hammer ons, pull-offs) like every single day. I've been playing for 2 hours per day on average this past month to six weeks.

I still find that I can't seem to press hard enough. For regular cowboy chords it seems fine, but barre chords besides your A and E shape usual suspects are harder to nail down. My fingers do seem stronger, but it does not seem like they are strong enough. I recall a year ago (before I started getting back into practicing regularly) I dropped by a store and played a new Eastman AC322 and in my memory it was definitely easier to play, and that was before I even bothered trying to strengthen my fingers.

How long should I wait before I see if I need a new setup vs just practicing even longer in order to get stronger (it doesn't seem like I'm getting any stronger now)? I've done the pressing the E string down at fret 14 and fret 1 and then seeing the height at fret 7. There's not much room, about a dime's width. I should add that the humidity is 75% outside year-round but inside it's around 50% with AC on.

Bonus question: I'm very hesistant to take the Taylor in for a setup because I live overseas in Asia, where I don't trust the techs. Not all, but in general, seem to be less detail-oriented and unable to answer any questions (it's cultural, as in they are supposed to be the experts, to ask questions for some reason seems to be interpreted as high maintenance or questioning their authority or I wouldn't understand it anyway so what's the point). There are a few authorized Taylor dealers, but I don't know what that means. Does it mean their techs can be trusted as well or is a Taylor certified tech a totally separate thing? A setup is only about $25 here (yikes?)

Last edited by Lamenramen; 08-05-2020 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 08-05-2020, 10:04 PM
stanron stanron is offline
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The first setup item to check is nut height. If the strings come off the neck too high everything will be difficult to play.

The simplest way to check this is to put a capo on the first fret and try playing like that. If the guitar is easier to play with the capo on then your strings come off the neck too high. The nut needs adjustment.

This page;

http://frets.com/FretsPages/Musician...nutaction.html

Tells you how to correct this.

If the nut height is OK then either your bridge is too high or your truss rod is too loose and the neck is bowed.

Frets .com will show you how to correct this as well.
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Old 08-06-2020, 01:58 AM
NormanKliman NormanKliman is offline
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There are some unknowns here that make it hard to give useful advice. A video of your playing would be helpful, because I don’t know if you’re using correct technique, as in how you hold your arms and hands and what you do with your fingers. For example, you mentioned barre chords, so I’ll ask if you’re keeping your fretting-hand thumb centered behind the other fingers, on the other side of the neck. Your guitar is another unknown. In your post, you recalled finding it easier to play another guitar, but it sounds like it was a one-time experience and you’re not sure. That would be something to be sure about, so I suggest you play lots of guitars and compare them to yours. You’ll know a good one when it’s in your hands, and it’s not going to be cheap.

I think nine months is about enough time to wonder about progress (maybe stick with it for another six), but, like I’m saying, there are too many unknowns to provide a useful response at this point. Are you playing different kinds of barre chords in different contexts (i.e.: songs, positions along the fretboard, picking-hand techniques) or is it all limited to a chord or two in a song or two?

In my case, with a good guitar and correct technique, it was a few years before barre chords became easier.

(Edited to add that 4-6 weeks is very little time.)
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Old 08-06-2020, 04:53 AM
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I would take the guitar to a tech I trusted for a fresh setup and also consider lighter gage strings. Having said that, effective barre technique does not involve hand strength. It is the result of technique. Let your arm relax so gravity helps put pressure on the strings. Pull from your elbow instead of squeezing with your thumb. Many more pieces of advice out there.

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Old 08-06-2020, 12:21 PM
Morrill Morrill is offline
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Barre chords take time and proper practice. There is no shortcut AFAIK. When you first start playing them your fingers struggle to find the correct position, you cant press down hard enough or properly and it sounds terrible. Over time muscle memory will take care of making the correct shape. Then one day you notice you can play barre chords that sound less terrible. Progress! Eventually you will be able to make each note ring out without difficulty. It's usually about this time you realize that kung fu death grip strength really isn't needed.

Now a good set-up can help and it is a lot easier to play barre chords on a well set-up guitar, once you have them down you can play them on any guitar.

Keep at it. They will come to you.
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Old 08-06-2020, 02:15 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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The easiest test is to capo on the first fret and play through everything you know. If the feel gets easier, then the nut slots need adjustment. If it makes little or no difference, the other aspects of the setup may need to be addressed. As Morrill said, there is no short cut for barre chords. Keep practicing and one day a few months from now, they will just "happen".
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Old 08-06-2020, 02:35 PM
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+1 on the capo test.
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Old 08-08-2020, 01:24 PM
Lamenramen Lamenramen is offline
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The capo test is fine. Songs are a bit easier to play but not by much. I went to a store and tried two other Taylorís a 412 and 414 and their action and playability felt similar. I tried a larivee OM 03 and felt itís action was similar.

I have concluded that the problem is likely me. Weak fingers.
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Old 08-08-2020, 04:54 PM
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Try tuning down a little and see if that helps. 1/2 step or even a quarter step (adjust your tuner to 428 hz and tune to that for 1/4 step).
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Old 08-08-2020, 05:06 PM
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You didn't mention your age, but if you play 2 hours a day, every day, you aren't giving your hands time to recover. Take a day or 2 off and see how it goes.
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Old 08-08-2020, 05:28 PM
Willie_D Willie_D is offline
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I'd try lighter gauge strings. With a 314 you should be able to go down to 11s and get good sound and comfort.

Taylors are well-known for good setups and playability, but yours may need tweaked. Do you know how to check and adjust your truss rod? Too much relief can feel like high action, especially up around the 5th-7th frets; and a well-adjusted neck can feel less tense and smoother.
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Old 08-09-2020, 09:41 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamenramen View Post
The capo test is fine. Songs are a bit easier to play but not by much.
OK, it might still be worth getting a set-up. Strictly speaking there should be no noticeable difference at all, although a lot of people find a tiny (negligible) difference acceptable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamenramen View Post
I went to a store and tried two other Taylor’s a 412 and 414 and their action and playability felt similar. I tried a larivee OM 03 and felt it’s action was similar.

I have concluded that the problem is likely me. Weak fingers.
Yes - they will strengthen with practice!

But I also second the recommendation for 11s. I used the standard 12s on my steel-string acoustics for years - decades! - before finally giving way and putting 11s on. There is a slight loss of tone and volume, but more than made up for by the ease of fretting - and bending (I do a fair amount in blues). I.e., I wanted to do more bending then I was able to with 12s, and got fed up waiting for my hands to strengthen (or - to be honest - never felt like doing any dedicated exercises to strengthen them).
After some years using Martin Custom Lights (11-52) I discovered my all-time hero Bert Jansch used the exact same strings! Naturally that just confirmed my choice for me!
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Old 08-09-2020, 08:33 PM
Pura Vida Pura Vida is offline
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Even if the nut height is ok (via capo test), if the neck angle is bad, it could still be very uncomfortable to play. I'd recommend finding a good local luthier to take a look at your guitar and provide some independent feedback. I bring all of my new (or new-to-me) guitars to my luthier for his assessment. Half of the time, he hands them back to me, but he keeps the other half and makes them much more enjoyable to play.
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Old 08-11-2020, 11:25 AM
EZYPIKINS EZYPIKINS is offline
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Have seen allot of Taylors with terrible set ups. Taylors have a bolt on neck. They make a set of shims to get setup low enough to for a start. Taylor dealer should be able to help you. Don't know why they don't set them up before you take them home. I know lots of people think they are great. I'm not a fan. If you are handy with tools. You can contact Taylor direct and get a set. They will ask for measurements, so be ready.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:14 AM
Lamenramen Lamenramen is offline
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Thanks everyone. Another question: is it common to have trouble playing new barre chord shapes? For example, I've been playing a B minor or A shape or E shape for so long and that's really not a problem.

But say a B minor 7 barre or E7 Barre or putting the pinky 3 frets down from the barre index finger, it's as if my left index finger totally has never seen a barre chord before. Am I using totally different muscles and each of the myriad possible barre chord shapes requires its own strengthening all over again just for each shape? With a barre it does indeed seem this way but with other new cowboy chord shapes it does not seem hard.

Basically fingerstyle songs require lots of barre shapes that aren't standard and it's like every measure there is a slightly new fingering and then it's like starting from scratch all over again. I'm fine with it, I just want to know if this is a totally normal experience. If it is, then I'm even more in awe of good fingerstyle players--the amount of dedication and finger pain is impressive that they went through. I'm quite motivated and throughout my short life one thing I can say is that I usually do not give up easily. But this is the most difficult skill to pick up I have encountered thus far in that I do not honestly see much progress in terms of what I believe to be my primary issue: hand strength. I can play the hammer ons exercise that justinguitar says to train your finger strength without any problems, it's just the barre that doesn't seem to get stronger (2 months solid, 2 hours a day of practice).
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