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Barre chord exercises please

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 Cat
(@cat)
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He needs a tailor, if ya ask me!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@unimogbert)
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[quote="Chris C
I guess the reason that I didn't mention bars needing strength is that I don't believe that it's true. :)

Now I don't want to start a fight, and I'm not saying that one method is necessarily right or wrong, but I do see it differently.

Chris

That sounds so hopeful that I hate to ask but.... electric or acoustic?

I too have experimented with it and haven't found a recipe that doesn't require that I develop some barre-specific strength.
(I'm talking acoustic and classical type guitars played frequently for the last 5 years. )

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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(@chris-c)
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That sounds so hopeful that I hate to ask but.... electric or acoustic?

I too have experimented with it and haven't found a recipe that doesn't require that I develop some barre-specific strength.
(I'm talking acoustic and classical type guitars played frequently for the last 5 years. )

I mostly play a steel 6 string acoustic, but I also have a 12 string acoustic, a nylon string classical and various electrics.

If you feel that building strength works for you, then that's fine. Perhaps I aready had sufficient strength, but it all aspects of my guitar playing (and the other instruments that I've played since) strength has proved less important than placement. The better I get, the more flexible and accurate my fingers become and the lighter and more subtle their touch seems to be.

Bars certainly didn't come quickly or easily for me and it took weeks, if not months to find how far across the neck worked best for each chord, which angles and so on, but it did slowly come together. And once it does, you really don't know quite why it works now when it didn't used to. It seemed to be a very subtle difference in what I did, rather than some big "Aha!" about a single aspect.. I'm sure that others people's experience will vary, but that's how it worked for me.

Chris


   
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(@chris-c)
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To put it another way...

Like most other new players, when things didn't play cleanly on the guitar I tried pressing harder. But it didn't seem all that effective, so I looked at what others were doing. I saw expert players through to little kids all doing what I couldn't do, and force didn't look like an issue. So, logically, it seemed reasonable that the answer might be placement.

Sure enough, when you try a single note on its own, all it needs is a light touch on the right part of the string. You would have to be unusually weak not to be able to hold a single string firmly enough against a fret to be able to get a clean sound, provided you put the finger in the right spot. If you put your other 3 fingers in the E shape, somewhere along the neck, and then place the index on just one of the remaining 3 strings, you need very little pressure. Strength isn't really an issue. But when you try pressing down all three extra strings with the index finger then it's harder to get good placement right across. It's not easy because the finger isn't just a flat bar like a capo, but it's not impossible either. When I started, I thought (like most people) that my bony, knobbly old fingers just weren't suitable for bars, and that I would never really get them working. That proved to be wrong.

So, I say that the light pressure that works for one string also works for six - it's just not as easy to do all at once. :wink:

If building up strength works for you, then that's fine - it's your choice and your fingers. But I don't think that new players should get the idea that the answer to mastering bar chords lies only in getting stronger, and building up a more vice like grip. A certain amount of strength is presumably a useful asset, but I believe that working on accurate placement pays better dividends in the long run. Just my opinion of course, but it worked for me. :)

Obviously it worked for Wes too. Note that he mentions "light fretting pressure".

So, the main thing is good form. When you get the form correct, barre chords will not seem nearly so difficult. Just stay at it, use light fretting pressure, and practice, practice, practice! :wink:

Chris


   
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(@rich_halford)
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Nice post Chris. I agree that the 'better' I get, the less force I need to use.


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
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Nice post Chris. I agree that the 'better' I get, the less force I need to use.

Take a walk along the wild side! Get a GOOD electric six string solid body...and make sure you use these gauges:
.008/.011/.014/.022/.030/.038

The best set is Ernie Ball...extra slinky...#2225

You gotta buy them by the case. Sorry. But they last maybe two days on a set if you're lucky.

Then relearn your technique. I know it's easy to say...but ya gotta do what ya gotta do! Use ultra thin picks...or just scratch at them. You'll get better, so hang in there! There should be neglible pressure as exerted by your fingers...BUT...there's nowhere to hide playin' on these things! Your mistakes will be pretty much "in yer face" but you'll learn PDQ.

If you sound "sour" (you will...this gauge takes some getting used to) it's your fingers being too hard on the set. You'll know when you are doing this because everything will sour sharp...NEVER flat. They'll trampoline easily.

Have fun while yer at it!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Like Cat said, a light gauge will certainly help with barre chords - I know it's restating the obvious, but the thicker the string, the higher the tension. I'd use 8's if I could get away with it - but one full bend and that top E's gone. It's probably the reason I've always used 9's - far easier to hold down a barre chord with them.

I'm going to disagree slightly with Chris C though - I do believe hand strength is an issue. I've noticed it more after the hand injuries I've had over the past few years, I've had to adapt - well, improve - my technique so I can actually play a song with lots of barres, as my hand strength has been noticeably reduced. My wrist HAS to be as straight as possible, otherwise it puts more strain on the back of my hand where the tendon was severed - and that'll hurt like hell after a while, and continue to hurt the next day. It's a question of getting the right amount of pressure - the "pinch" if you like between thumb and index finger. For this reason, I'll only play "proper" barre chords if I need to bring my pinky into play for a blues shuffle - otherwise, I'll use my thumb as much as possible to cover the bass notes. This keeps the back of my hand and my wrist very straight, and there's very little tension on either.

Of course, it does help if you have big hands.....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@chris-c)
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Like Cat said, a light gauge will certainly help with barre chords - I know it's restating the obvious, but the thicker the string, the higher the tension. I'd use 8's if I could get away with it - but one full bend and that top E's gone. It's probably the reason I've always used 9's - far easier to hold down a barre chord with them.

I might be completely wrong here, but my reading of what Cat wrote was that he was suggesting that ultra light strings are a good way to develop really good lightness of touch, not just that they were an ‘easy' way to do bars. As he said, very light strings can show up every little deficiency in your technique, because they are so easy to push too far.

There's a very simple way to demonstrate the effect of not so hot technique - just put a finger on a string behind any fret, with just enough touch to hold it against the wire and sound a clear note. Sound the note then 'floor it' - push the string right down onto the fretboard – even a cloth eared klutz like me can hear it go out of tune by going sharp on you. I'm thinking that the ‘trampolining' that he mentions is somewhat like a mini bend, going downwards instead of sideways. If you're playing pub rock-n-roll, or using distortion, then it may not matter, or even be noticed. It's unlikely ever to bother my fairly amateurish rhythm playing much (although it probably would if I did more lead, and couldn't get a light relaxed touch going). But my guess is that it would be noticed in a studio by somebody with ‘quality ears'.
I'm going to disagree slightly with Chris C though - I do believe hand strength is an issue. I've noticed it more after the hand injuries I've had over the past few years, I've had to adapt - well, improve - my technique so I can actually play a song with lots of barres, as my hand strength has been noticeably reduced.

My guess is that the key phrase there is "I've had to adapt - well, improve - my technique". It could be that the biggest issue is not so much the loss of strength as such, as the loss of flexibility and accuracy that went with the injury. Or maybe you were relying too much on strength, and didn't ever develop a really good technique (or is that heresy to suggest that! :shock: ) Some strength is needed of course – you can't even pick up a guitar without some strength, but I do believe that it's greatly over-rated as a necessity for playing and that many people try and use it as a substitute for accuracy. I'd even go so far as to suggest that anybody who can't let go of the brute force approach and develop good ‘touch' might limit how far they can go as a player. For many that won't bother them, and that's OK too, as long as they're happy with it.
otherwise, I'll use my thumb as much as possible to cover the bass notes. This keeps the back of my hand and my wrist very straight, and there's very little tension on either.

I won't argue with that. Richie Havens plays open tuned guitar using his thumb to do the entire bar. :mrgreen: If it works for him, then why not...

See pics and text about Richie's way of playing

When I initially tried bar chords, in my first year of playing, I struggled right along with all the other beginners. But then I found a web page (which appears to have gone, alas) with photos of full and partial bars, complete with explanations that emphasized relaxation, positioning, reducing tension, and so on. It all sounded a bit technical but, being an engineer and not a weightlifter, it caught my interest. When I tried practising the suggested way for a few weeks, despite my knobbly old fingers it worked, and it still does. :D

Unimogbert said two things that caught my eye:

I still can't hold it as long as I want to yet so more exercises are needed.

Can't do it at all on the 12-string

and
Itoo have experimented with it and haven't found a recipe that doesn't require that I develop some barre-specific strength.
(I'm talking acoustic and classical type guitars played frequently for the last 5 years. )

Five years of frequent playing sounds like a hell of a long time to have not been able to nail something that can take some people only a few weeks of fairly irregular playing. Kudos for being honest enough to say so, and good on him for putting the work in to build up what he sees as the weakness. I certainly hope that it works for him. But it seems at least possible that he just hasn't hit the right spots yet and just might be looking in the wrong place for the answer. But as I said before, we're all different so if he can get it working in a way that he's happy with, then that's what matters.

Cheers,

Chris


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
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Apologies on my part are MOST due! I keep forgetting what is was like for me "way back when"!

It wasn't until I really had some serious studio time under my belt that I had to "relearn" how I held chordings. When you play "through the board" it's EASY to overload the signal from the guitar to the board. It seems like forever that you keep fiddling with the preamp inputs until there's a happy medium between a crappy...versus a REAL crappy definition to the The only solution is to "play lighter" and let the equipment that lies BEYOND your axe make up for the lack in signal. (And "lighter" means miniscule strings!) Even the quietest of sounds coming from your pickups can be translated into "roaring thunder" if the engineer knows his/her stuff!

Vic's quite correct about breaking the .008...but it's NOT from bending "unreasonably". It's from OLD FRETS!!!! As you get many hours on your fretboard there are microscopic "sweeps" etched into the fret bars. These are quite abrasive. They'll pop a .008, no sweat! Solution??? If you're earning a living...fret jobs are tax-deductibubble!!!

The Japanese (and Chinese) alphabets use symbols...and not letters as we use and understand them in English. I like the one on the pro setup Ibanez studio specials: a couple of fingers dangling from beneath a butterfly's wings!

Get it now??? :?

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@unimogbert)
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I'm only playing for myself so the can-you-do-this factor is fairly low.

This has given me a lot to think about and reason to resume experimenting.

thanks for the patient explanations and clarifications.

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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(@unimogbert)
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When you play "through the board" it's EASY to overload the signal from the guitar to the board. It seems like forever that you keep fiddling with the preamp inputs until there's a happy medium between a crappy...versus a REAL crappy definition to the The only solution is to "play lighter" and let the equipment that lies BEYOND your axe make up for the lack in signal. (And "lighter" means miniscule strings!) Even the quietest of sounds coming from your pickups can be translated into "roaring thunder" if the engineer knows his/her stuff!

Cat

Does this apply in some way to an acoustic played on one's living room couch?

(I have yet to plug in any kind of guitar anywhere though I have 2 acoustics with pickups)

For the record, I can do E form and Am form barres quite well now (Hotel California is no issue at all) but getting there required developing strength. Technique certainly deserves another look.

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
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I'm only playing for myself so the can-you-do-this factor is fairly low.

This has given me a lot to think about and reason to resume experimenting.

thanks for the patient explanations and clarifications.

See! THIS is WHY you LOVE guitars!!! Once you come to terms with toning out your finest touch...play it like a lover! And guess what? Sooner than you ever thought poskibule...it'll SOUND that way!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@unimogbert)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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See! THIS is WHY you LOVE guitars!!! Once you come to terms with toning out your finest touch...play it like a lover! And guess what? Sooner than you ever thought poskibule...it'll SOUND that way!

Cat

I've been there in happy tone-land for quite awhile but like a lover, there's always more to learn.

Today, for instance, I learned that there is a significant difference between thumbpicks (National, Fred Kelly speed pick, Fred Kelly slick pick, and Fred Kelly bumblebee pick). Who would have thought?

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
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I've been there in happy tone-land for quite awhile but like a lover, there's always more to learn.

(Laughing!) Ain't it the truth!

Good to talk real time w/u...but now need to get the Saturday chores tended to!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@bmancv-60)
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Couple of things you can do to make barre chords easier. First, make sure your thumb is behind the neck, not draped over the top. Your thumb should point toward the headstock, not up toward the ceiling. I believe it was Dogbite who called it the "hitchhiking thumb". That is a perfect description, your hand should be in this form.

In the past I have posted pictures of barre chords, but most of them actually show poor form. They will show the thumb pointing toward the ceiling. This puts unnatural stress on the thumb and can cause injury. I know this from experience, I had great difficulty with my thumb (super painful) for many years primarily because of improper thumb position. But here is an excellent photo showing the proper form for your thumb.

This guy is doing everything right. He does not have the guitar down at his waist. That will cause the wrist to bend under. Note that his wrist is straight. This is great form. Also notice that he doesn't turn the guitar up toward him to look, that also causes the wrist to bend. He is looking over the guitar. Good form.

Your index finger should not be straight as when you point. It should be curved slightly. You also want to roll your index finger slightly toward your thumb. It is not completely on it's side, but about halfway. Here is a good example.

So, the main thing is good form. When you get the form correct, barre chords will not seem nearly so difficult. Just stay at it, use light fretting pressure, and practice, practice, practice! :wink:

Thanks Wes, this is exactly what I was looking for. I have the wrist bend thing and wanted to get it corrected as soon as possible.

"...I don't know - but whasomever I do, its gots ta be FUNKY!"


   
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