building strength for barre chords

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puttputt

building strength for barre chords

Post by puttputt » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:42 pm

Hello,

I hope this is the right place to post this...these forums are so thorough, it's a little intimidating to dive into!

Are there any additional exercises I can do to build strength for barre chords? It seems like I have to press really hard to get all the notes to sound out, and it doesn't take long for my wrist to start hurting. That can't be good! Will I build enough strength through practicing (if I take breaks when it hurts, obviously), or are there other things I can do to get those muscles in good shape? Thanks!

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Michael McGrath
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Michael McGrath » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:54 pm

Try looking up different ways; and watch other people do them very carefully.

It doesn't take that much strength to do a barre; and if you're hurting you're probably doing it wrong.

You need to approach this carefully; you can get seriously injured and be out of guitar playing for months; so if it hurts try another way.
Armed with Book, Forum, and Guitar, I will bare my teeth and face the world! Music is a way of thinking, an art. There is nothing more demanding, and nothing more rewarding.

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Robin
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Robin » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:28 pm

puttputt wrote:Hello,

I hope this is the right place to post this...these forums are so thorough, it's a little intimidating to dive into!

Are there any additional exercises I can do to build strength for barre chords? It seems like I have to press really hard to get all the notes to sound out, and it doesn't take long for my wrist to start hurting. That can't be good! Will I build enough strength through practicing (if I take breaks when it hurts, obviously), or are there other things I can do to get those muscles in good shape? Thanks!
As Michael stated, having success with barres isn't so much about developing strength as it is about being able to direct the pressure needed to hold the strings down. Most of the time you will not need to hold all 6 strings with one finger. I think the underlying skills related to developing successful barres may have more to do with finger independence and extension (think "fixed finger" exercises) and the ability to use the weight from the arm rather than tyring to squeeze with the hand.

The exercise that helped me to improve my barring skills is something like this:

Using the first finger, choose a fret that is comfortably in reach for your arm (usually between fret 3 and 5). Lay the first finger lightly across all six strings. On the 6th string, place the finger like you are going to play that note, then, flatten your finger out and play that note in a barre position--repeat until you feel at ease doing both, then progress to the 5th string, the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st. As you do this on each string you will begin to find how you need to apply weight to the string to just get that string to play as though you were playing a note. Then, when applying the skill in a piece, you can isolate which strings you will be barring and then add any additional fingers that are required.

There are other ways to approach this but for me, it wasn't until I could direct the pressure from my finger to individual strings that I had any success. Before that it was like I was taking a sledge hammer to kill ants! The touch for barres is specific and directed but it doesn't take that much strength.

Best,

Robin
So much music, so little time.

puttputt

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by puttputt » Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:07 pm

Aha, thanks. The B string has been the bane of my barre for as long as I've played guitar. I have chubby little Italian fingers, so I've always assumed that that segment of my index finger was too soft to hold down the B string without extra strength. I didn't mind sacrificing it until now, when I want to play the classical guitar. I'll try isolating the strings like that. Also, I don't know if this makes a difference, but for the moment I'm practicing on a steel string guitar. I know, I know...it's all I have. The nylon might bend a little easier, when I can finally afford a proper classical guitar. Thanks!!!

jnb

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by jnb » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:04 pm

Trust me on this barres on a classical guitar are infinitely easier than a steel strung acoustic.

jeff_hatcher

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by jeff_hatcher » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:18 pm

Kevin Gallagher explains his approach in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYfdYto ... ontext-chv. I've found his suggestions useful.

AsturiasFan

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by AsturiasFan » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:16 am

Strength and technique are equally important, but once developed strength tends to be taken for granted. Andreas, Duncan, and Parkening explicitly state that strength is important for bars. Andreas and Duncan have exercises which they describe as strength development exercises. The right hand plays arpeggios while the left hand forms bar chords. This requires holding the bar for an amount of time before switching to another bar, and will bring to light any bar notes that aren't being correctly formed. Duncan suggests 7-10 minutes of intense daily practice. The web muscles between the thumb and index finger are used to press the index finger into the fretboard and constitute the primary muscle group that needs strengthening. Because of their close proximity, web and thumb soreness have similar sensations, and so you need to make sure soreness is caused by lactic acid buildup in the web. The thumb should never get sore because the thumb should press little if at all. The wrist must also be strong (flexible). Since a person's wrist doesn't necessarily have the needed flexibility it may become sore with overuse. Care should be taken to let the wrist slowly adapt over time -- stretching exercises for the left wrist are a good way to prevent injury.
Duncan wrote: Important: Do not press too hard with the thumb. The function of the thumb is to supply counter force to the first finger, but some counter force is also supplied by body pressure against the back of the instrument. Moreover, be especially sure that the thumb lies somewhat on its side with the tip turned back. This position with the bones of the thumb locked into passive support, allows the most efficient use of the correct muscles, while preventing needles exertion from the thumb.

Vassily

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Vassily » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:46 pm

I found bar chords completely impossible at first, it was completely bizzare how people could do it so easily. But over a few days something clicked, and suddenly I can do them without too many issues. They still take some time to apply, but I know that can be fixed with practice... I thought I might share my recent enlightenment so perhaps one newbie can help another :P. Of course, please do not put too much faith in my suggestions.

I think the key realization for me was that there is no magic bar that will make all the notes sound out that you can use all the time. Its better to just pressure the notes you need to use, only for the length of time you need them. Often you will only need 2 notes. So for example in the first two bars of Sor Op 35 22 you actually only need the bar on one string once in each bar for a short period of time. So you need to figure out each bar on a case by case basis. If you are lucky a well-placed knuckle or two will get you there with absolutely no effort. Sometimes you will need to use the soft bit of the finger (the strings dont work out) , then you will have to use more force, but only for that short length of time.

Everyone's finger is different, so its probably a matter of trying to find it out for yourself once you know the basic ideas. I kept trying for a couple of minutes a few times each day, each time I will naturally do something slightly different, and some of them work. Over time the hit rate goes up, and then suddenly you will realize the trick and then its all good. If it doesnt work within a couple of goes quickly give up and come back again later. No sense in squeezing harder and harder practicing the wrong thing; if the fingers are tired and cramping after two minutes then you are definitely doing it wrong, and even if you were to get it right it might not work if you fingers are cramping (or worse, it works only if your fingers are cramping :D).

1) I think the rolling the finger trick is good. Sometimes bending the rolled finger seems to help too, maybe the extra torque from the bend, and also sometimes closer to the fret.
2) The "depth" of the finger (knuckle position) is crucial, so try many positions. Also, theres two knuckles, sometimes running the finger at a slight angle (i.e. not parallel to the fret) can help place the two knuckles in the good spots.
3) Putting the knuckle (base of the finger) higher and having a straighter finger helps if you need middle strings. If you want the end ones then a lower knuckle and a more bent finger can be better.
4) The finger position is obviously easier when near the fret, but it doesnt actually matter all that much once you figure it out.


Finally, you must absolutely believe that a solution exists, the only (easy) problem is to find it. Maybe it is harder if you do not have a RulerFinger, but is is possible. I think I only made real progress after I stopped bemoaning my finger shape. Now I think my finger is actually quite ideal for this!

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petermc61
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building strength for barre chords

Post by petermc61 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:23 pm

If your fingers are cramping and you feel you have to "squeeze harder" then I think you are doing it wrong. Most of the pressure should be the arm pulling back to the fingerboard not the hand squeezing. A good practice exercise is to play open barres at different positions with the thumb completely lifted off the neck. This forces the arm to apply the pressure not the hand.

Regards

Peter

ben etow
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by ben etow » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:07 pm

puttputt wrote:Hello,

I hope this is the right place to post this...these forums are so thorough, it's a little intimidating to dive into!

Are there any additional exercises I can do to build strength for barre chords? It seems like I have to press really hard to get all the notes to sound out, and it doesn't take long for my wrist to start hurting. That can't be good! Will I build enough strength through practicing (if I take breaks when it hurts, obviously), or are there other things I can do to get those muscles in good shape? Thanks!
Hello,

Don't build strength, use the weight of your arm as described by Scott Tennant in Pumping Nylon and others (most notably Pavel Steidl) during masterclasses.
I can play barres without thumb and still be more "relaxed" than before...
It should be(come) standard "technique" IMO.

mk49

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by mk49 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:23 pm

I can also play barres without thumb touching the neck. You don't really need much hand strength. If everything else fails for you, you might want to try taller frets. That should help.

Philip.Lawson

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Philip.Lawson » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:57 pm

Hey puttputt,

Matthew McAllister just posted a set of technical videos in the 'Classical Guitar Technique' section. Video number 6 is all about the Barre.
Check it out, i think it should help a lot!

Peter_Mortelmans

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Peter_Mortelmans » Tue May 01, 2012 3:43 pm

I am also struggling with bar chords, and here are some hints "from experience"
1. I don't do anything special to build strength. I just practice passages with bar chords, as they come along. Of course, my teacher was so friendly to give me a a version of "yesterday" that is full of bar chords. Yes, on steel strings!
2. I have rather long fingers. I never could get good contact with all the strings, if I followed the techniques I found in books or on the web. Now I have almost my entire first digit going past the 6th string. So if you have large hands, try this to.
3. In the higher frets, I find it easier to make a full bar, even of only a half bar is needed. e.g. for a 4-string C-chord at the 8th fret. (which has a bar across the 1st and second string) for the same shape F-chord on the first fret, I will only bar the first 2 strings. (I am not yet able to play a 6-string F-chord... :oops: )

ilya122

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by ilya122 » Mon May 14, 2012 10:20 am

All you need is practice, Start with a simple barre, Get a barre on the fifth fret and try to pick every note so it would sound perfectly.
If you succeeded- Get a Amaj chord on the fifth fret and try to pick every note so it would sound perfectly.
After doing that get a Fmaj chord on the first fret, Pick the chord and move one fret at a time.
From now on it's practicing different chords and finger positions.

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robin loops
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by robin loops » Mon May 14, 2012 6:23 pm

There are countless threads here with great tips for barre chords. I would search for them as they are quite extensive. I really liked the Kevin Gallager tips (recommended above)

Main thing to remember is technique is much more critical than strength. In fact with good technique, little strength is required. Guitar action is another MAJOR factor. High action makes barre chords very difficult if not impossible, especially in the higher positions. With action on bass side around 3.5mm, you can almost make feather touch barre chords (provided technique is good). Any higher than that and they get progressively more difficult. Higher than 4mm and you can pretty much forget about barre chords unless you have perfect technique and very strong hands... Also Nut action is a big factor too (not just saddle height and action at 12th fret) because you will be fighting that all the way up the neck. Also a lot of information on that topic here too (action)
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