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  #46  
Old 11-21-2017, 06:09 AM
mattbn73 mattbn73 is offline
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I hate full E-form and A-form barre chords, and don't really play them much anymore, except for effect. I just don't like the way they sound. I'm more likely to play partials -- and partials of G-form and C-forms much of the time, at that.

To my ears, once you're playing ALL barres, it's time to pull out the electric. To be fair, when I say "partials", I'm very often borrowing barre fingering. "Gimme one reason" doesn't require you to actually fret a complete 6-string barre simultaneously for example. There isn't a point at which you really need to strum all six strings simultaneously on that one. It's 2 voices in my opinion: bass and chord, and I'm less and less likely to play 6-string chords all of the time for very musical reasons.

I just don't like the way they sound.
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  #47  
Old 11-21-2017, 07:06 AM
Johnny.guitar Johnny.guitar is offline
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I have been playing a long time & I am reasonably accomplished. However there are songs that make my hand cramp(acoustic version of Message in a Bottle for instance)
It is almost all barre chords. I play standing and the guitar is slung somewhat low. Just where it feels comfortable but I wonder if the angle of my wrist is part of it. I've worked with my hands most of my life as well as some weight lifting so it's possible things are just wearing out too.

So work with your technique now and maybe you won't suffer the same fate lol
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  #48  
Old 11-21-2017, 08:23 AM
beninma beninma is offline
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This always comes up, OP you say your setup is good but how good is it? If it's a stock factory guitar there is likely no way it's actually set up well for barre chords.

A little bit of an adjustment makes a huge difference in barre chords. A couple things:

- Lowering the nut slots as talked about in many threads here and out on frets.com and other luthier websites makes a HUGE difference. Change it from the 0.025-0.020 or 0.020-0.015 clearances that Martin or Taylor would say are great to 0.005 or so all the way across at the first fret. All of a sudden that first position barre for an F chord doesn't take any physical effort at all. I'm not even sure why they want the bass strings higher as everytime you see this discussed people seem to claim higher gauge strings vibrate with a lower amplitude and are less likely to buzz with the same strumming forces.

- Set the relief carefully, this is instantly reversible so there is no harm setting the relief low and seeing if it has an effect. My guitars are perfectly happy all the way down to 0.001-0.002 relief or so. Basically the tiniest visible gap. And that makes the barring around the 5th-7th fret super easy with much better tone.

Tommy Emmanuel was mentioned earlier, it's easy to see him playing lightning fast barre chords (amazingly!) in a lot of his songs, and IIRC he has said in interviews he gets his setup done like I mentioned above and also just sets up super low in general.

For super high barres up the fretboard... not sure. They get way harder to do as the frets are closer. The saddle could come into play but the above two items should really make everything easier. They're not necessarily that common.

If the setup is good it just doesn't take that much effort to do the barre unless your hands are wildly off in position. They probably aren't if you have been playing a few years.

One you've got the physical effort reduced you will quickly relax and start to do some of the other things that have been mentioned in the thread in terms of actually applying the barre pressure just to the necessary strings as opposed to all the way across. But as long as the setup is fighting you it won't get there.

I think the thing here is no matter how strong you are if the setup isn't working you just apply more and more force and it won't work and just exhausts your hand no matter how strong you are.
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  #49  
Old 11-21-2017, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by s0cks View Post
Honestly, it doesn't require strength....
Use gravity and your bicep. Pull back on the neck. I find it useful to think of the actions of the left hand being separated into two actions.

1. The finger muscles that allow you to get your fingers into the correct shape. 2. Gravity, with assistance from the bicep, pull the fingers into the fretboard.

If your applying pressure using thumb and finger muscles then your just locking in excess tension. You want those muscles to be used only for creating he right chord shapes - beyond that you are just creating more tension than you need.
While I appreciate your thoughts and technique I wanted to see how much hand pressure I could relieve using your method. The result was mixed. On my Taylor with the C shaped neck and flat 15" radius your technique was almost of no use. Ergonomically I had to use almost the same about of hand strength/finger pressure as without your technique. However on my Epiphone with a soft V shaped neck it was more useful. The v shaped neck and the shape of the fingerboard and width of the neck allowed the pressure to come from a different place in my hand entirely, more toward the palm rather than exclusively from the fingers. I suspect the reason for the difficulty with the Taylor is that the center strings were relatively unaffected by the bicep puling and still needed to be pushed down solely with finger strength. Not so much with the Epiphone.

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Originally Posted by Johnny.guitar View Post
I have been playing a long time & I am reasonably accomplished. However there are songs that make my hand cramp(acoustic version of Message in a Bottle for instance)
It is almost all barre chords. I play standing and the guitar is slung somewhat low. Just where it feels comfortable but I wonder if the angle of my wrist is part of it. I've worked with my hands most of my life as well as some weight lifting so it's possible things are just wearing out too.
l
I know a few guys that play with a low(er) slung guitar and cannot for the life of me figure out how they can play at all. Wrist position makes a huge difference. More for some folks and less for others. I know that if my guitar is 1/2" too low I'm hampered. 1" too low and I'm crippled. Want to see how it affects you? Try the following:

1) While keeping your wrist straight make a loose fist. Gradually tighten your fist taking note as to how much effort it takes to make that tight fist.

2) Now bend your wrist at an extreme angle then make that loose fist. Again, gradually tighten the fist and see how much effort it takes and see if the tendons in the back of your hand don't come into play.

I know that with my left hand, as soon as my wrist goes into an angle the tendons produce resistance and not only is my hand strength compromised but I'm fighting my own anatomy with the immediate tension of the tendons.

Bottom line: It's about ergonomics as well as technique.
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  #50  
Old 11-21-2017, 10:50 AM
Johnny.guitar Johnny.guitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
While I appreciate your thoughts and technique I wanted to see how much hand pressure I could relieve using your method. The result was mixed. On my Taylor with the C shaped neck and flat 15" radius your technique was almost of no use. Ergonomically I had to use almost the same about of hand strength/finger pressure as without your technique. However on my Epiphone with a soft V shaped neck it was more useful. The v shaped neck and the shape of the fingerboard and width of the neck allowed the pressure to come from a different place in my hand entirely, more toward the palm rather than exclusively from the fingers. I suspect the reason for the difficulty with the Taylor is that the center strings were relatively unaffected by the bicep puling and still needed to be pushed down solely with finger strength. Not so much with the Epiphone.







I know a few guys that play with a low(er) slung guitar and cannot for the life of me figure out how they can play at all. Wrist position makes a huge difference. More for some folks and less for others. I know that if my guitar is 1/2" too low I'm hampered. 1" too low and I'm crippled. Want to see how it affects you? Try the following:



1) While keeping your wrist straight make a loose fist. Gradually tighten your fist taking note as to how much effort it takes to make that tight fist.



2) Now bend your wrist at an extreme angle then make that loose fist. Again, gradually tighten the fist and see how much effort it takes and see if the tendons in the back of your hand don't come into play.



I know that with my left hand, as soon as my wrist goes into an angle the tendons produce resistance and not only is my hand strength compromised but I'm fighting my own anatomy with the immediate tension of the tendons.



Bottom line: It's about ergonomics as well as technique.


I agree. However my strumming hand feels way better with the guitar lower. Move it up too much and it feels choked.
I am playing a little higher than I used to trying to find a balance
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  #51  
Old 11-21-2017, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny.guitar View Post
I agree. However my strumming hand feels way better with the guitar lower. Move it up too much and it feels choked. I am playing a little higher than I used to trying to find a balance
Interesting. I couldn't visualize what you're describing for your right hand so I had to go pick up my guitars and see what I could notice. My acoustic strap is out as far as it can go, but still rides medium high. I tried lowering it with my knee on a stool and it made no difference in my right hand at all, except made finger picking a bit more awkward. Then I pulled out my 335 with adjustable strap and it too rode medium high so I lowered it 1". I liked it better just a tad lower than it was. But again, no difference in right hand performance.

However what I did notice is that for the right hand, the guitar's angle can compensate a bit for height. When I finger pick if I need my fingers to play more perpendicular to the strings I can raise the neck and adjust. I suppose the same is true for strumming, though I've never had an issue with guitar height and strumming. It's more finger picking and flat picking.

So how is your RIGHT hand affected by guitar being higher?
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  #52  
Old 11-21-2017, 12:44 PM
Johnny.guitar Johnny.guitar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
Interesting. I couldn't visualize what you're describing for your right hand so I had to go pick up my guitars and see what I could notice. My acoustic strap is out as far as it can go, but still rides medium high. I tried lowering it with my knee on a stool and it made no difference in my right hand at all, except made finger picking a bit more awkward. Then I pulled out my 335 with adjustable strap and it too rode medium high so I lowered it 1". I liked it better just a tad lower than it was. But again, no difference in right hand performance.



However what I did notice is that for the right hand, the guitar's angle can compensate a bit for height. When I finger pick if I need my fingers to play more perpendicular to the strings I can raise the neck and adjust. I suppose the same is true for strumming, though I've never had an issue with guitar height and strumming. It's more finger picking and flat picking.



So how is your RIGHT hand affected by guitar being higher?


I've never really dissected it, but for me strumming feels more natural with my right arm slightly bent at the elbow. Raising the guitar too high my arm is 90 degrees or more at the elbow and fatigue sets in more quickly. I'm not saying I play my acoustic at my knees or anything but the back of the guitar is mostly on my thigh and not up at my stomach.....if that makes sense.
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  #53  
Old 11-21-2017, 02:10 PM
Guitars+gems Guitars+gems is online now
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I doubt your hand hurts because of the strength required to form barre chords. More likely it's just that the muscles of your hand are aching because they're being used in a way they aren't accustomed to. That's why people here are wisely telling you that practice is the best way to become facile with barre chords, and build up the muscle memory in the process.

My son showed me that you can play a barre with your first finger without even using your thumb on the back of the neck. It's not preferable or even practical in actual use and when you add the other 3 fingers in, not using the thumb becomes pretty impossible. But I worked on laying my 1st finger across the strings, fret by fret (rolling that finger about 20% toward the nut, not on the flat of the finger) and making each string ring. And I was able to do it, which proved to me that barre chords are not about strength. You have to work on technique, as has been said, and for that there is a lot of help available in this forum.
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  #54  
Old 11-21-2017, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny.guitar View Post
I've never really dissected it, but for me strumming feels more natural with my right arm slightly bent at the elbow. Raising the guitar too high my arm is 90 degrees or more at the elbow and fatigue sets in more quickly.
Hmmm.... Perhaps you might look at your mechanics. My mechanics don't change at all regardless of my elbow angle. Perhaps you've got too much elbow involved in the strum? I can play for two hours straight, both strumming and picking and my right hand/arm never gets fatigued in the slightest.

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Originally Posted by Guitars+gems View Post
I doubt your hand hurts because of the strength required to form barre chords. More likely it's just that the muscles of your hand are aching because they're being used in a way they aren't accustomed to.
While it does make sense that basic hand strength development is an essential part of learning to play guitar well, I believe strongly that much of it is ergonomic interface of the guitar and human. I can tell you with certainty that the way my hand/finger muscles are employed with my three soft-v necked guitars is considerably different than my C shaped Taylors.

As a further illustration of how ergonomics can affect playing, I currently own 4 Stratocasters; 2 MIM, a Squier and a MIA Deluxe and have played many other Strats (and have a Tele and several other electrics as well). I have no difficulty going back and forth in terms of endurance. However, upon trying the new Fender PROFESSIONAL Strat, it took all of 30 seconds to fatigue my hand which started cramping inside of 2 minutes. It seems the shape of the shoulder of the Professional Strat's "Deep C" neck displaces my thumb in a manner that causes undeveloped muscles to do the work. Would continued playing improved my hand strength and comfort? Maybe. But why would I continue to work with a guitar that may or may not work for me even after giving my body time to adapt? And, for further comfort and endurance, all but one of my electric guitars has had its fingerboard edges rolled which aided the comfort and efficiency of bar chords.

My point is that how the guitar connects with the human can be critically important with some players and not every guitar takes the same amount of strength, effort or endurance.
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  #55  
Old 11-26-2017, 02:39 PM
s0cks s0cks is offline
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Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
While I appreciate your thoughts and technique I wanted to see how much hand pressure I could relieve using your method. The result was mixed. On my Taylor with the C shaped neck and flat 15" radius your technique was almost of no use. Ergonomically I had to use almost the same about of hand strength/finger pressure as without your technique. However on my Epiphone with a soft V shaped neck it was more useful. The v shaped neck and the shape of the fingerboard and width of the neck allowed the pressure to come from a different place in my hand entirely, more toward the palm rather than exclusively from the fingers. I suspect the reason for the difficulty with the Taylor is that the center strings were relatively unaffected by the bicep puling and still needed to be pushed down solely with finger strength. Not so much with the Epiphone.
I don't understand. Would that not be a finger positioning issue? I can apply much more pressure using my bicep and pulling back than I can by pinching the neck between the thumb and the fingers. So I'm not exactly sure how pinching gives you better contact when you're engaging much weaker muscles?

Quote:
allowed the pressure to come from a different place in my hand entirely, more toward the palm rather than exclusively from the fingers.
The pressure doesn't come from the hand at all, that's the point. The fingers just stay firm enough that they don't collapse, and the arm pulls the fingers onto the fret. This way the hand feels incredibly relaxed. It's awesome.

Obviously people's technique is going to vary. If you've been playing a long time then my guess is that you'll have a certain amount of tension dialled into your playing. You'll be so used to it you won't even notice it. I had to change my technique because I ended up with RSI (not entirely from guitar playing, but it certainly didn't help). That's the only reason I came to notice my tension. I now have no choice, I have to make sure I don't apply pressure with the thumb or the RSI in my wrist will flare up. This forced me to find a different way to play, and quite frankly I'm glad it did, because the difference is night and day. If I had to play barre chords using the thumb I would be in too much pain to finish the song.
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  #56  
Old 11-26-2017, 11:21 PM
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I don't understand. Would that not be a finger positioning issue?
No. Remember your index finger is not straight like capo. So while pressuring the outer strings with bicep pulling, the rest of the fingers are still attached to the hand that the index is attached to. So while the fingerboard is flat, to the fingers it is more like it is concave. The outer edges of the fingerboard will only allow the index to come so close to the finger board, but the other three fingers must press down more... Or alternately you can rotate your wrist and pull the interior three fingers, but the index finger must then use it's strength to depress the outer strings. However, much of this can be alleviated by rolling of the fingerboard edges which allows for a more natural lay of the index and less differential in the required finger pressure of the interior fingers. It's done all the time to electric guitars but I've not seen it done on acoustics and can't imagine why it's not done. There are other elements involved such as nut/neckwidth, neck shape and dept and fingerboard radius. It all goes together.
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  #57  
Old 11-27-2017, 02:43 AM
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No. Remember your index finger is not straight like capo. So while pressuring the outer strings with bicep pulling, the rest of the fingers are still attached to the hand that the index is attached to. So while the fingerboard is flat, to the fingers it is more like it is concave. The outer edges of the fingerboard will only allow the index to come so close to the finger board, but the other three fingers must press down more... Or alternately you can rotate your wrist and pull the interior three fingers, but the index finger must then use it's strength to depress the outer strings. However, much of this can be alleviated by rolling of the fingerboard edges which allows for a more natural lay of the index and less differential in the required finger pressure of the interior fingers. It's done all the time to electric guitars but I've not seen it done on acoustics and can't imagine why it's not done. There are other elements involved such as nut/neckwidth, neck shape and dept and fingerboard radius. It all goes together.
Sorry but I have to disagree. The index is relatively flat against the fretboard where it makes contact. The shape may look a little concave to an observer or in the mirror (though my finger looks relatively straight) as it's rolled slightly on it's side, but underneath (where the finger touches the strings) I have fairly even contact across all 6 strings - however, depending on the chord I won't always go flat, if I only need the outer strings I will curve slightly because that requires even less pressure. See, I always try use as little pressure as is required to press the string(s) I need down those couple of mm to the fret. No more. I do that with each finger no matter the chord shape.

I'm not trying to tell you how to play here, god knows I'm still fairly amateur, but because of my RSI I've spent the last 2 years changing my technique to a point where barre chords are fairly effortless. I've purchased books on the subject. If you can play your way no problem, then go for gold. I'm just trying to convey another method.

I double checked and I can play barre chords without the thumb no problem. It feels odd because the hand is destabilized, but it's no different in terms of pressure. I did forget to mention that the right arm works in tandem here by pressing against the guitar body to prevent rotation.

Could be posture related? I have a guitar leg stand, that gives me good posture when I play. The neck is around 30-40 degree angle from horizontal.

Last edited by s0cks; 11-27-2017 at 03:05 AM.
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  #58  
Old 11-27-2017, 08:38 AM
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Neck can be level and perfectly fine for effective barre chords, but best that your forearm hangs near perpendicular to the floor and tucked in to the waist.
YMMV depending on your body weight.
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  #59  
Old 11-27-2017, 01:39 PM
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Neck can be level and perfectly fine for effective barre chords, but best that your forearm hangs near perpendicular to the floor and tucked in to the waist.
YMMV depending on your body weight.
Yup, I just find it a lot more comfortable raised a bit. There's a lot that goes into left hand - the forearm hangs like you say, plus the shoulder relaxes, the wrist is relaxed, etc.. etc...
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  #60  
Old 11-27-2017, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by s0cks View Post
Sorry but I have to disagree. The index is relatively flat against the fretboard where it makes contact. The shape may look a little concave to an observer or in the mirror (though my finger looks relatively straight) as it's rolled slightly on it's side, but underneath (where the finger touches the strings) I have fairly even contact across all 6 strings -
That may be you, but not everyone...and certainly not me. Remember that fingers naturally curve where the joints hinge, but the bones may have a curvature that may not fit the profile of someone who does better with the technique you've proposed.
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