I Hate Barre Chords!

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MrSteve
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I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by MrSteve » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:55 pm

I have a question to a problem that is plaguing me on a piece I have been
practicing "ROMANCE"

on the 9th measure, I come across the dreaded barre chord

My hand forms the proper shape (my fingers are long enough to extend the width
of the neck with no problem), and most of the strings play a someone respectable
sound except the 2nd string

I cannot get that to sound more than a plink, plink

it is Not the flesh of the 2nd finger, as it is clearly pressing only the 3rd
string

I need some sage advice on how I can better perfect this barre chord and
progress on this piece

are there some secrets in applying pressure, position of the left arm, extend elbow???

thanks
Steve
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RobertPavich

Re: I HATE BARRE CHORDS!

Post by RobertPavich » Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:13 pm

there are some good tips on Kevin's site guitar69.com specifically for this issue. They helped me in that exact same spot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYfdYto ... r_embedded

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MrSteve
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Re: I HATE BARRE CHORDS!

Post by MrSteve » Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:04 pm

Thanks Robert
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Ramon Amira
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Re: I HATE BARRE CHORDS!

Post by Ramon Amira » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:34 pm

Rotate your index finger toward the nut. This brings your finger bone against the fingerboard and makes for a solid barre.

Ramon
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brianvds

Re: I HATE BARRE CHORDS!

Post by brianvds » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:41 am

RobertPavich wrote:there are some good tips on Kevin's site guitar69.com specifically for this issue. They helped me in that exact same spot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYfdYto ... r_embedded
I recently saw that video, and at least in my case, it did me no more good than any other barre chord advice I have ever tried out. No matter what I do, I never get much more from barre chords than dull thuds and plunks and buzzes, and I have been playing for years. It wasn't much of a problem when I played beginner's pieces, but it is now severely limiting my progress.

I try to do exactly what Kevin instructs in his lesson. As long as I only use my index finger I can make it work too (although after two seconds or so the finger is cramping so much I can no longer sustain the barre), but the moment I try to use any other fingers along with the barre, I find that even using every ounce of my strength, I simply cannot press the strings down far enough to get a clean sound, and changing finger position while holding down the barre is not even on the horizon. And those exercises he refers to in his video, I cannot even begin to play. I cannot get a single clean note out of any of them.

Thus it seems to me that whatever they say, strength and especially stamina in the hand is in fact a factor, and that independence of the fingers is another.

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Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by Ramon Amira » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:08 am

Try what I said in my original post. Apart from that, you might consider having the action lowered, and/or using low tension strings.

Ramon
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GorillaStrum

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by GorillaStrum » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:19 am

I watched this video... the instructor has some good points.

I think that it is important to focus on the arm... it's not a "pull", it's a "set" (a slight adjustment toward your elbow to apply pressure) when you place your index finger on the fretboard set you arm/elbow position and stop pulling. When placing your finger on the fretboard, be consistent (Same thing, every time) and try not to use your second finger to add additional pressure, this only alters the position of your hand (you'll need your 2nd finger for something else). Don't adjust your knuckle except when performing a half barre. I understand the frustration and I see it many times a month with my students, but it WILL come. When your arm/hand gets tired, stop, walk away and come back... attempting to learn a barre chord with a tired arm/hand does no good.

I hope this helps.

brianvds

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by brianvds » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:18 am

Prominent Critic wrote:Try what I said in my original post.
If I do that, it means I am no longer following the advice in the video, and that is one reason for my constant confusion on this point: I get contradictory pieces of advice from various teachers and expert players.
Apart from that, you might consider having the action lowered, and/or using low tension strings.
Ramon
I doubt whether that is a problem: my guitar is one of those rather cheap ones that already have very low tension strings, and a few other people who have tried it out had no problem at all playing on it.

brianvds

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by brianvds » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:43 am

GorillaStrum wrote:I watched this video... the instructor has some good points.

I think that it is important to focus on the arm... it's not a "pull", it's a "set" (a slight adjustment toward your elbow to apply pressure) when you place your index finger on the fretboard set you arm/elbow position and stop pulling. When placing your finger on the fretboard, be consistent (Same thing, every time) and try not to use your second finger to add additional pressure, this only alters the position of your hand (you'll need your 2nd finger for something else).
I find my second finger does this almost automatically, at least when I am playing an actual piece of music instead of just practicing barres (I am trying out Sor's B minor study at the moment, and cannot manage any of the barres in it properly). I am now working on trying not to make that mistake, but I find that without that second finger I cannot get a single clean note out of the barre.
Don't adjust your knuckle except when performing a half barre. I understand the frustration and I see it many times a month with my students, but it WILL come. When your arm/hand gets tired, stop, walk away and come back... attempting to learn a barre chord with a tired arm/hand does no good.
The above seems to confirm to me that contrary to an often expressed opinion, a certain amount of strength and stamina in the hand IS in fact a factor, and one needs to work on that as well.

Another very big problem I experience with barres is that my fingers simply refuse to move independently, especially on some of those rather awkward barres in the Sor study I refer to above. Whenever I have to shift to a new finger position while holding down a barre with the first finger, the first finger quite automatically shifts out of position. I cannot do it any other way; it is literally impossible to hold it straight. I find it difficult to practice such shifts, because my hand starts cramping within a second or two of trying out a barre, so I cannot do the normal "slow practice" thing.

Thus I found the studies that Kevin's video refers to to be vastly too difficult for me: I cannot get a note out of them.

I now try to practice straightforward "pop" chords, i.e. just your everyday A, B, C etc barre chords of the sort routinely used in pop music. Even those I find almost unplayable: if I start with A, then by the time I reach C or D my hand is cramping so much I cannot play another note and it kind of messes up the whole rest of my practice session. And I run into the same problem with these that I mention above: I cannot shift from one to another without changing my index finger position. E.g. I find it absolutely impossible to go back and forth from, say, A major and A minor, without my index finger shifting around wildly. This happens even when I am fresh, not to even mention when my hand is tired (as it usually is after half a minute or so of playing these chords!)

So in summary, barre chords are at the moment the bane of my existence. They actually have been for years, but I could put off tackling them because I was playing easy pieces anyway. However, I am now at the point where I think I can tackle some of the lower intermediate literature, and for much of that, barres are essential. But I find I cannot follow the normal progression of climbing the stairs one at a time, because even the first one is too high for me to reach! :shock:

codmate

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by codmate » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:43 pm

I start people with a simple Dmaj7 chord, which is just a half-barre across the A, C# and F# on the treble strings and an open D. I get them to change between this and Amaj7 (open position). This is an easy barre to do and removes some of the fear of the barre which can lead to tension, which in turn can lead to the barre finger trying too hard and pulling itself into an arch instead of a straight rod.

Next comes a four string barre, then five, then six. This helps build strength and accuracy. Another thing people don't talk about a lot with barres is the skin hardness. We all know about the callouses on the tips of our lh fingers, but we rarely talk about the skin getting harder along the side of our lh 1 finger. I have found that, when students persevere with barre chords, ignoring for a month or two if they sound rubbish, they suddenly improve in month two or three after the skin gets a bit tougher.

Also don't forget that stings can fall into the creases below the finger joints. Move your barre back and forth along the width of the fingerboard so as to avoid these creases.

Avoid too much squeeze with the thumb or pull with the arm. Use a *balance* of arm, thumb-squeeze and finger muscle to achieve the pressure required while keeping the finger straight.

Roll the barre finger toward the nut and also try the opposite way, toward the bridge; in order to find the optimum position for the barre you are playing.

Don't press down with the barre on strings you are playing with other fingers. Why waste energy? ;)

Watch your lh elbow!

The main thing is to keep trying. If you don't, you will never summon the secret helpers of the barre - extra strength in the relevant muscles and a bit of extra skin toughness on the side of the barre finger you are working on.

Persevere and have fun :)

brianvds

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by brianvds » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:38 am

Someone was kind enough to send me a private message referring me to Douglas Niedt's page on barre chords here:

http://www.douglasniedt.com/techtiphowt ... nutes.html

It was not all new to me, e.g. Niedt advises that one should pull back with the arm muscles rather than trying to press down the barre between thumb and forefinger. I still struggle, because while it is easy enough to pull back with my arm muscles, my forefinger isn't strong enough to hold the barre! What I did find very useful was his advice that in any chord involving a barre, one should first place the non-barre fingers, and leave the placement of the barring finger for last. It is something I have worked out for myself, but I tend to forget it, or not do it when the first note of a chord is one directly involving the barre. I find that when I pay heed to this advice, although my playing inevitably slows down to a glacial pace, I do get cleaner notes.

Not sure how long it is going to take me to learn to play anything up to normal speed, because my fingers are rather slow. E.g. in the first piece in Giuliani's collection of 32 "easy" pieces, right at the end one has to make a very rapid shift from one hand position to another. I have been practicing that bit for almost a year now and can still not get it right. Thus I see long hours of very frustrating practice ahead... ;-)

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senunkan
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Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by senunkan » Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:43 pm

Preservere and eventually you'll get there.
Although there are some helpful reinforcements like using the arm muscles... but you need to build up the thumb muscles.
Specifically the part of "meat" between the thumb and the index.
Unfortunately there is no shortcut.
Just hold a barre chord and try to pluck every single string from 1 to 6.
Ensure you get a clean note each.

The index finger should be just behind the fret for maximum clarity.
But you need to adjust such that each of the strings is press properly by the flesh of the index finger.
If the string is in the folds of the index finger, you will get a muted sound.

Hold for 20 seconds and play all the 6 strings e.g. (pppima mippp), relax for 20 sec and so on.
Repeat for 5 times each prac session.
Sort of like interval training.
But beware don't over exert the fingers
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Blondie
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Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by Blondie » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:40 pm

brianvds wrote: I have been practicing that bit for almost a year now and can still not get it right. Thus I see long hours of very frustrating practice ahead... ;-)
Yep, that's what is going to happen unless you do the one thing that no-one seems to be advising - get a teacher! You need one-to-one help with this to get at the root of your problems. Even if you have to travel, its worth it to sort out basics. i used to make a two hour trip for flamenco lessons and would happily do the same again if need be.

The idea of hacking away at one shift for a whole year and getting nowhere is just such a depressing waste of time and if anything is probably doing you more harm than good as you are inevitably practicing the same incorrect technique over and over. Practice makes permanant, not perfect - you have to study intelligently to troubleshoot problem areas and if you hit a brick wall, get expert help.

All the grief you have with barre chords for so long as well...a teacher really is the only sensible option, you owe it to yourself. Just reading your posts about the Sor B minor study, I will bet that you are trying a to hold a barre where you don't need to for example, which is just one thing making that study harder than it needs to be.

You seem convinced its all about strength and stamina in the right hand, well at advanced level there is some repertoire that demands a little of that, but it builds on getting the basics right. Finger independence is certainly a factor, you are right there, but the harder you squeeze the more independent control becomes compromised. Tension is the independence killer.

RobertPavich

Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by RobertPavich » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:44 pm

Tension is the independence killer.

I'm coming to realize that....

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elindley
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Re: I Hate Barre Chords!

Post by elindley » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:21 am

Lots of good suggestions here! Thanks.

One thought: Try working on strengthening exercises using a capo on the 3rd or 5th fret. Of course, do your full barre below that! You will find that you can work a little longer before fatigue so that you can get a more extended workout. Then, "wean" your capo help a little at a time until you are working sans capo. It goes without saying that what this does is lowers the action slightly so that you can practice with less pressure.

Again, just a thought.

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