building strength for barre chords

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Mark Featherstone
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby Mark Featherstone » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:01 pm

Philip.Lawson wrote: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!


I am unable to locate these videos. Someone had posted a link to one on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/nsrMcAllister/videos), but it has been discontinued. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Mark
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woodenhand
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby woodenhand » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:06 am

I just skimmed the replies, so I might be repeating something, but in my experience keeping the palm side of the first finger flat against the fingerboard did wonders. Note that many people say they find it easier to hold barre chords in higher positions. This is because it's easier to keep the palm side of the finger against the fingerboard in higher positions; in lower positions, the finger tends to rotate to the side owing to hand/arm angle. Work on keeping the finger palm-side-down and flat against the fingerboard in all positions, and see if that helps in your case.

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mike.janel
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby mike.janel » Fri Jun 20, 2014 7:41 am

I may add that while 80% of the difficulty in barre is related to guitarist techniqu, 20% cat be attributed to the guitar itself.
If you play a poor quality guitar, and as a biginer you sometimes do, it makes life much harder.
Also setup of proper action height is important.
Michael
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Les Backshall
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby Les Backshall » Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:42 am

Correct action at the nut is critical for lower fret barres - especially at the first fret. Some set ups, even on expensive instruments, make them virtually impossible to do quickly and cleanly. Try putting a capo on the first or second fret; if the barres are now much easier, then the nut needs looking at.

As has been said, barres have very little to do with strength on well set up instruments (you should be able to play them with no opposing thumb). A good analogy is with golf - why does Phil Mickelson (for example) hit a drive 150 yards further than I can. I'm sure he's no stronger than me - it's all about technique.

Les
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chip.altman

Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby chip.altman » Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:58 pm

As many replies have said, arm weight is is the key. Instead of squeezing with your hand, use your bicep; pulling against the neck, in and a little bit downwards. It feels strange at first because you'll have to use your right arm to keep the guitar against your body.

Also try practicing your piece with no left hand pressure at all. It will sound terrible - thump-thump OPEN STRING thump thump - but it will feel better. This way you can isolate learning the music and the fingerings; then practice making a successful barre once the other things are learned well. You may notice that some of your 'thumps' are flat when they should be in tune. That means you should get closer to the frets if possible, which makes fretting (and barre chords) easier. Another happy surprise will be that playing with 'no pressure' will occasionally (accidentally) make great sounding notes without much effort. That's called 'minimal pressure' and it should be your eventual goal.

A good piece for practicing barre chords is Sor's Opus 35 No. 22 in B minor.

Hope this helps!

dory
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby dory » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:17 pm

Douglas Nietz (sp?) has really nice videos on guitar technique and his one on barre chords is particularly good. He shows a tiny quite young girl playing nice barres versus a strong-looking adult man struggling to demonstrate that it isn't brute strength necessary but knowing exactly which muscles to use and how. You need to use the large, strong muscles in your arm more than the strong, relatively weak muscles in your hand. That said, i recently learned to play Lágrima which is dead easy except for one chord--a half barre in which one note has a tendency to go dead. I think it isn't just me because several other players at my level have complained that the only technical difficulty in the piece is that one barre. I went back to the temptstion of applying too much pressure and then made myself back off and position my knuckles right so the note that tended to got dead didn't. "Et voilà!" No more strain or pressure. My feeling is that anyone who is using extreme hand-destroying pressure on a barre is doing it wrong, but many of us get occasionally tempted until we have totally forced ourselves to break the habit.

My teacher asked me to play folk guitar for a while, and began transposing the songs somall had difficult barre chords. He did this to improve my technique on barres, and my fluency in chsnging chord positions. I felt like I was being punished until I realized how much it was helping, and how it had become impossible to put a death grip on the neck of my guitar while doing barres and still make the chord changes. I was playing a folk song a few minutes ago and noticed how lightly I needed to press down on the strings to get a clear barre chord. I am lucky I like to sing, though. If not, the folk guitar MIGHT have kept on feeling like punishment rather than a fun and useful excursion. For people who don't mind singing I recommend the folk experiment to get more fluent barres and chord changes.
Dory

Izaac

Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby Izaac » Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:26 am

There's always a great piece of music out there to address any technical issue. My favorite thing to do for barres is Segovia's no. 19 Sor study. It has a lot of barres, but there are breaks. This is a good one to dig into really slowly. Put the metronome on the lowest setting and go for it. Try to be as relaxed as you can in the left hand while holding the barres. It should have the same kind of burn that you get from doing yoga, but not the kind of burn you get from hypertrophy style weight-training.

sbrodhead
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby sbrodhead » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:20 am

Some guitars have shallow frets that can cause barring problems. But guitars can be re-fretted to fix the issue.

Try barring with a friend's guitar or try a good guitar in a music store to verify if the guitar is the problem or if your technique is the problem.

Believe me -- no amount of technique will fix a poorly setup guitar. But try other guitars first to verify if is is a setup issue.

VasquezBob
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby VasquezBob » Fri Nov 25, 2016 10:09 pm

Guess what? When you want to get in shape, you work out; right? Well, in addition to technique, strength is needed in your hands. I found a small book (not expensive on-line) that may interest you. "Fingernastics" by Quercia & Crescione with lots of pictures to show you how to stretch and develop strength in your fingers, hands and wrists. There are a number of strength and stretching exercises that you can do while watching TV or sitting on the beach. Dr. Quercia talks about finger independence, coordination, strength and flexibility for all ages. Hope this helps.

AndrewPenny
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby AndrewPenny » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:21 am

I've long been good at doing standard barres, but my recent problem is doing barres while using my 2 and 3 fingers two or more frets from my barre, most usually on strings 1,2 or 3. I lose my strength on the barre because I'm stretching too much to get the other notes. Any suggestions?
Best Regards,
Andrew

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robin loops
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby robin loops » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:53 am

AndrewPenny wrote:I've long been good at doing standard barres, but my recent problem is doing barres while using my 2 and 3 fingers two or more frets from my barre, most usually on strings 1,2 or 3. I lose my strength on the barre because I'm stretching too much to get the other notes. Any suggestions?

Try moving elbow out a bit further away from the body (if it's not already) and keep knuckles of left hand parallel with the fretboard and barre with pad of finger rather than twisting to side and using side of finger for barre (again if you're not already doing that). I find both these bad habits not only were an issue that weakened my barre but also shortened the distance I could stretch out the other fingers (away from bar finger on frets further up) and resulted in a lot more tension and strain in playing.

Even after discovering this as an issue, I still had to keep an eye on it to avoid the tendency to creep back... Slowly dropping elbow in too close to body and twisting hand counter clockwise (looking down from the top) without being aware of it.
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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby Yisrael van Handel » Fri Dec 30, 2016 9:55 am

dory wrote:Douglas Nietz (sp?) has really nice videos on guitar technique and his one on barre chords is particularly good. He shows a tiny quite young girl playing nice barres versus a strong-looking adult man struggling to demonstrate that it isn't brute strength necessary but knowing exactly which muscles to use and how.

Douglas Niedt. Dory's advice is superb. Unfortunately, Douglas Niedt is now charging to look at his technique articles. I don't blame him. We live in a world in which you have somehow to make money for your efforts. For those who do not wish to pay and are only interested in bar chord technique, I have posted many articles on the subject here in the forum. Look for my posts on barre chords. It includes everything I learned from Douglas Niedt and more.
Yisrael van Handel
Modi'in Ilit, Israel

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scottszone
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby scottszone » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:53 pm

One bar that I have specific trouble with is in the song Spanish Romance where it goes up to the B7 chord on the VII fret. You have to hold the bar while simultaneously using the 2 and 4 finger to play melodies on the 8th and 11th fret 1st string while playing the arpeggio pattern with the right hand. The b string in particular has a tendency to buzz a little while reaching for the 11th fret with the pinky.

Some of the advice here has helped, using the arm to pull back and down, adjusting finger angle and pad placement. In particular keeping my finger straight all the way down to the last knuckle helps. When pulling with the arm, the base of the finger wants to bend a little, which works fine many times, but not in this case.

But it requires a lot of hand strength as well to keep all the notes ringing clear for the duration of that part. I do agree the subtle details matter, but strength still counts too.
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Annette
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby Annette » Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:16 pm

But it requires a lot of hand strength as well to keep all the notes ringing clear for the duration of that part. I do agree the subtle details matter, but strength still counts too


My experience (and I'm a woman with childlike small hands...):
Even for this chord you don't need very much strength, but the right technique and of course a well playable guitar with a fine set up. I can play this chord and the melody even without the help of the thumb!

Why do you use a straight index finger in this situation?
For me this chord is much easier with a bowed index finger. A straight index-finger isn't necessary, because you need pressure of the barre-finger only for the outward strings 1,2 and 6!
I just don't want to waste any power...

Another hint, maybe helpful for you, too:
For my small hand it's nearly impossible to play the melody note on the 11th fret in the "right way" with the tip of the pinkie und keep simultaneously the barre-notes clear.
My solution: I play this melody note more with the side of my (stretched) pinkie.

Yours Annette

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scottszone
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Postby scottszone » Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:43 pm

Annette wrote:
But it requires a lot of hand strength as well to keep all the notes ringing clear for the duration of that part. I do agree the subtle details matter, but strength still counts too


My experience (and I'm a woman with childlike small hands...):
Even for this chord you don't need very much strength, but the right technique and of course a well playable guitar with a fine set up. I can play this chord and the melody even without the help of the thumb!

Why do you use a straight index finger in this situation?
For me this chord is much easier with a bowed index finger. A straight index-finger isn't necessary, because you need pressure of the barre-finger only for the outward strings 1,2 and 6!
I just don't want to waste any power...

Another hint, maybe helpful for you, too:
For my small hand it's nearly impossible to play the melody note on the 11th fret in the "right way" with the tip of the pinkie und keep simultaneously the barre-notes clear.
My solution: I play this melody note more with the side of my (stretched) pinkie.

Yours Annette


Thanks for the tips Annette, I agree about using a bowed finger for bars, but I sometimes get a little buzz on the b string in this instance. It goes away if I keep a straight finger. And I do the same with the pinky using more of the outer side to fret the note. I do think hand shape and size make a difference.

I should add I am going for perfection here, every note ringing clear and not even the slightest buzz. I have found this particular part of the piece, in both part 1 and 2, is played a little sloppy. Another way around this is to play faster and/or quieter for this part. I hear that done often, even with the pros.
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