building strength for barre chords

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SunnyDee
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by SunnyDee » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:46 pm

Mr Kite wrote:
Luis_Br wrote:I am totally against pressing with whole arm, as taught by some players, since it overstresses finger muscles. You press from finger, arm weight is used, but just enough to prevent hand moving up as a reaction from fingerboard. String feeling and finger detailed sensation gives you the control for just right amount of strength to press, and you equilibrate with arm weight, rather than the brute force of whole arm makes your poor fingers hold its massive unnecessary weight.
Well, the weight is always going to be mainly supported by the shoulder joint. Is the brute force comment really about weight, or could it be about pulling with the lats / biceps?

It seems to me that there has to be a little tension in the shoulder to keep the hand in a position where it can move freely up and down the neck, and we are just talking about relaxing it a bit while the bar is down. Come to think about it, there's no reason why that would only apply to bar chords.
Agree, not "pressing" with the whole arm, that would be the same as clenching with the hand as far as tension, I suspect. I think we have 2 different ideas here. When beginners are told to use the bicep, I think of that as more of a transition kind of thing, to stop them clenching the hand, but it is useful when you have to change the angle steeply, for example, it's impossible as far as I can tell to relax the arm in order to help form a bar above the 9th fret. I pull with my bicep. There may be a better way but I haven't found it yet with this guitar.

Yes, we obviously need some tension in the sense of muscle contraction to move the arm. I think the idea is you don't want more than necessary. If you totally relax your shoulders you can still move your arm, right? Maybe a detailed description would be helpful to someone. When I'm playing my shoulders are completely relaxed and even, balanced (unless I screw up, of course). My fingers are quite firmly on the strings at the frets, but the muscles in my fingers are also relaxed in that they are not pressing down at all. Because of that my hand is relaxed. Again, if I don't screw up. At its most relaxed, this is enough pressure to make lines on my fingers even with good callouses but there's no pain. It is probably a bit slower, but I mostly play slower. When I need to play faster, I notice that I'm lifting a bit of the weight off using the bicep very slightly, this is less pressure on my fingertips so they can move faster but less relaxed than I would want to be all the time. Again, I'm self-taught, so if anyone has other suggestions, I'm happy to listen. Hey, free lessons! :)

Absolutely, it does not apply only to barres. In fact, I first used the idea in the very early days when I could not sound anything without buzzing. Ugh, I hope the nightmares don't return. :) I realized that my trying to press down harder on the strings did nothing for the tone. As soon as I relaxed the arm, the tone rung out and far more pure and consistent than all my pressing did. Then I could play chords. It was a miracle. :) I think it's partly a matter of where you put your attention. Just being aware that your relaxed arm has much more "power" than your death grip is a powerful concept.
"Militantly left-handed."

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kertsopoulos
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by kertsopoulos » Tue Apr 25, 2017 3:38 pm

1) One should place the left hand thumb as low to the bottom of the fingerboard as possible.
2) Afterwards, place the left hand well out and forward facing the fingerboard, the knuckles being parallel to the strings.
3) Let the hand push the first finger performing the barre on the fretboard, which should be placed right behind the fret wire.
4) Keep the first finger performing the barre completely straight without bending at the middle and top joints and tilted just slightly towards the opposite direction of the other fingers of the left hand.
5) By doing steps 1-4 the bottom joint that joins the first finger with the remaining hand locks and the hand
pushes the first finger on the fingerboard with very little effort. A 90 degrees angle forms on the joint that joins
the first finger with the remaining hand.
6) The locking effect occuring on the joint, which is responsible for an effortless and relaxing barre will never occur
unless one performs the specific steps as listed at 1-4.
7) The thumb only rests on the fingerboard and does not apply any plier-like gripping pressure, it is completely
relaxed and could very well be lifted off in the air and the barre will sound successful and clear since all the work is done
by the correct positioning of the hand, the locked bottom joint and the straight first finger (tilted slightly).

One should practice the above with patience (do not let down) and after many trials it will suddenly work so successfully that one will be
really amazed how easy a barre can become.

A completely relaxed hand with no strength efforts is necessary for all the actions of the left hand and if one
applies a strength plier-like grip between the left hand thumb and the remaining hand trying to get a clear barre
in this manner, the playing becomes stiff and slow because all fingers become stiff and are not relaxed, effecting in a negative
manner the interpretation. This is the gift of correct technique, to accomplish successful and dificult looking tasks with the
less required effort. Otherwise, we would not be in a need of a correct technique. There are no good techniques in everything
we do, there are only correct or wrong ways and a correct technique is what we should aim for, not a good technique, because a good
technique might give good results but it might also simultaneously be a wrong technique and consenquently if one applies a
correct technique vs a good technique the results might be much better than just good results.
Wishing the best for a successful and completely effortless relaxed barre technique, Yorgos

Mr Kite

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Mr Kite » Tue Apr 25, 2017 3:59 pm

SunnyDee wrote:Yes, we obviously need some tension in the sense of muscle contraction to move the arm. I think the idea is you don't want more than necessary. If you totally relax your shoulders you can still move your arm, right?
Mmmm, not sure. What I meant was not so much that we need muscle contraction to move the arm but that we need a little to keep it in a position where it is ready to move. The reason for making this point was that I think Luis comes from the school of thought where you want minimum tension, and from that point of view it's a bit difficult to say that you bring the weight of the arm to bear by relaxing the shoulder, because the shoulder should be relaxed already. When I thought about this a little I realised that actually we may want to be supporting the weight with the shoulder, even if it does involve some muscle tension, so as to keep it ready for the next change of hand position - in other words the tension we get rid of by relaxing the shoulder may not be unnecessary or dysfunctional tension that we want to get rid of anyway.

With all of that in mind I think the overall picture is that we normally want a bit more tension than we could get away with*, but for difficult bars it may still be worth relaxing the shoulder to get some help from the weight of the arm.

The shoulder is involved in the arm movement (at least in my sitting position) so if the arm is moving the shoulder is working, i.e. is not totally relaxed.

* I agree we don't want more tension than is necessary, but the question is always "necessary for what?" Keeping the hand poised to move quickly and smoothly to the next position is necessary...

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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by SunnyDee » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:29 pm

Mr Kite wrote:When I thought about this a little I realised that actually we may want to be supporting the weight with the shoulder, even if it does involve some muscle tension, so as to keep it ready for the next change of hand position - in other words the tension we get rid of by relaxing the shoulder may not be unnecessary or dysfunctional tension that we want to get rid of anyway.

With all of that in mind I think the overall picture is that we normally want a bit more tension than we could get away with*, but for difficult bars it may still be worth relaxing the shoulder to get some help from the weight of the arm.

The shoulder is involved in the arm movement (at least in my sitting position) so if the arm is moving the shoulder is working, i.e. is not totally relaxed.

* I agree we don't want more tension than is necessary, but the question is always "necessary for what?" Keeping the hand poised to move quickly and smoothly to the next position is necessary...
Yes, maybe, I would need an anatomy lesson to do a better a job of talking about it. I'm sure someone else can do better. I'm talking about releasing the kind of large muscle tension we see in shoulders and necks when people do a lot of desk work, for example, that tension that causes trigger points in the shoulder blades, often when hunching the shoulders or sloping them forward. You see it quite often very exaggerated in the strumming shoulder of acoustic guitarists who hold the guitar on their strumming-side knee and then hunch over the fretboard a bit. The idea is you don't need that large muscle tension to move your arm or fingers. It's the feeling you get when you "let the shoulders hang." For me, if I am lifting off some weight, those large muscles don't seem particularly involved, just the larger muscles in the arm, particularly the large extensors on the top of the forearm (I think) or the biceps. Now we probably are getting off-topic. :)
"Militantly left-handed."

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SunnyDee
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by SunnyDee » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:32 pm

kertsopoulos wrote:1) One should place the left hand thumb as low to the bottom of the fingerboard as possible.
2) Afterwards, place the left hand well out and forward facing the fingerboard, the knuckles being parallel to the strings.
3) Let the hand push the first finger performing the barre on the fretboard, which should be placed right behind the fret wire.
4) Keep the first finger performing the barre completely straight without bending at the middle and top joints and tilted just slightly towards the opposite direction of the other fingers of the left hand.
This is wonderful. Thank you. I think that locked knuckle is the key to keeping that finger straight. I knew I was trying to keep it straight but this brings it all into focus.
"Militantly left-handed."

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First guitar was a vintage Russian 7-string classical.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by AndreiKrylov » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:46 pm

Strength? why? do we really need it in this case?
- precision is what ones mostly need.
If strength is necessary - then it is a guitar problem: Action is too high. Strings too tensed (high tension). Neck, fingerboard or frets are not good.
I never needed any strength on good guitar...
But to get to this precision one must work with those chords - to find proper position for the finger which will play barre and then to play a lot progressions of chords with barre so to make this movement and precision of it automatic and unconscionable .
And playing works - I could play whole barre itself clear with any finger of my left hand...
As far as strength in general? - yes I lift myself every day (chin ups) on a bar for many times... but not for bar chords, but just to feel normal and OK... :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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kertsopoulos
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by kertsopoulos » Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:38 pm

SunnyDee wrote:
kertsopoulos wrote:1) One should place the left hand thumb as low to the bottom of the fingerboard as possible.
2) Afterwards, place the left hand well out and forward facing the fingerboard, the knuckles being parallel to the strings.
3) Let the hand push the first finger performing the barre on the fretboard, which should be placed right behind the fret wire.
4) Keep the first finger performing the barre completely straight without bending at the middle and top joints and tilted just slightly towards the opposite direction of the other fingers of the left hand.
This is wonderful. Thank you. I think that locked knuckle is the key to keeping that finger straight. I knew I was trying to keep it straight but this brings it all into focus.
You are welcome SunnyDee, I was very pleased to know that the info. helped you, my kindest regards, Yorgos

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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:36 am

Mr Kite wrote:
Luis_Br wrote:I am totally against pressing with whole arm, as taught by some players, since it overstresses finger muscles. You press from finger, arm weight is used, but just enough to prevent hand moving up as a reaction from fingerboard. String feeling and finger detailed sensation gives you the control for just right amount of strength to press, and you equilibrate with arm weight, rather than the brute force of whole arm makes your poor fingers hold its massive unnecessary weight.
Yes I was talking about pulling from biceps or moving elbow backwards (maybe a bit of each thing). True arm weight (using gravity) is only possible in the position I use to play (kind of Galbraith's way).

On hand positioning, I think there is no necessity to move shoulder. We may move the arm from shoulder, but the shoulder itself should be down and relaxed. My last teacher, who is renowned here for fixing up bad technique in everybody he teaches, said me most common problems are shoulder and wrist unnecessary tension. The little experience I have instructing others tells me the same.

I think generally people either moves the arm too much (elbow too far the body) or they move too little not paying good attention to arm-wrist helping the hand. Typically people unnecessarily tense shoulder while moving arm or lifting some weight from biceps, but this is not the easier way. We normally develop bad habit through tensing a lot of things together just in case, because we are nervous or afraid, mainly when doing something new that require some strength we are not used to do. Try any new sports or some body exercise you are not used to do. First thing is to become too tense, at least for most people this is the case. It is a kind of tense situation to learn something new, our "fight of flight" instinct comes on, so we tense a lot of things unnecessarily. If we have good body perception, or good orientation from a teacher, after some repetitions we are a bit more comfortable and relaxed, so we start refining the movement towards the easier way. If we are not aware of the problems, if we can't relax enough, we just keep repeating the wrong way and the extra-tension becomes a pattern and it seems a normal condition and our brain even thinks this is the relaxed and right way, although it isn't. To change this faulty internal perception is not an easy task, this is where a good teacher helps a lot in things we sometimes do not notice. From Alexander's book - The Use of the Self: "'I had proved in my own case and in that of others that instinctive control and direction of use had become so unsatisfactory, and the associated feeling so untrustworthy as a guide, that is could lead us to do the very opposite of what we wished to do or thought we were doing".

Mr Kite

Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Mr Kite » Wed Apr 26, 2017 12:34 pm

Luis_Br wrote:On hand positioning, I think there is no necessity to move shoulder. We may move the arm from shoulder, but the shoulder itself should be down and relaxed.
Yes, that's what I meant - if the arm moves from the shoulder then the shoulder muscles are engaged.
Luis_Br wrote:My last teacher, who is renowned here for fixing up bad technique in everybody he teaches, said me most common problems are shoulder and wrist unnecessary tension. The little experience I have instructing others tells me the same.

I think generally people either moves the arm too much (elbow too far the body) or they move too little not paying good attention to arm-wrist helping the hand. Typically people unnecessarily tense shoulder while moving arm or lifting some weight from biceps, but this is not the easier way. We normally develop bad habit through tensing a lot of things together just in case, because we are nervous or afraid, mainly when doing something new that require some strength we are not used to do. Try any new sports or some body exercise you are not used to do. First thing is to become too tense, at least for most people this is the case. It is a kind of tense situation to learn something new, our "fight of flight" instinct comes on, so we tense a lot of things unnecessarily. If we have good body perception, or good orientation from a teacher, after some repetitions we are a bit more comfortable and relaxed, so we start refining the movement towards the easier way. If we are not aware of the problems, if we can't relax enough, we just keep repeating the wrong way and the extra-tension becomes a pattern and it seems a normal condition and our brain even thinks this is the relaxed and right way, although it isn't. To change this faulty internal perception is not an easy task, this is where a good teacher helps a lot in things we sometimes do not notice. From Alexander's book - The Use of the Self: "'I had proved in my own case and in that of others that instinctive control and direction of use had become so unsatisfactory, and the associated feeling so untrustworthy as a guide, that is could lead us to do the very opposite of what we wished to do or thought we were doing".
This always makes sense to me as an idea but it is hard to put into practice. Constructive rest only seems to help so much and I don't know what else I can do.

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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by robin loops » Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:13 pm

I find that if I keep my back straight my shoulder and arm position are much more conducive to making a good bar. Often when I notice tension building, it is because I have started to slouch forward. Also using pads that keep the guitar from slipping around on my legs helps a lot with tension as I can hold the guitar stable using just the legs and forearm and not involve hand for extra support.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by SunnyDee » Thu Apr 27, 2017 9:34 pm

robin loops wrote:I find that if I keep my back straight my shoulder and arm position are much more conducive to making a good bar. Often when I notice tension building, it is because I have started to slouch forward. Also using pads that keep the guitar from slipping around on my legs helps a lot with tension as I can hold the guitar stable using just the legs and forearm and not involve hand for extra support.
This sounds promising. Do you have a pic? What part of the guitar is on your legs?
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:30 am

To step back a moment from the specific issue of bar chords, there’s something that gets too little attention in left hand technique. That’s the efficient timing of left hand pressure. Good players apply only as much pressure as they need. Of course they do, and we all know that. Less well understood, however, is that good players apply pressure exactly when it’s needed and release pressure exactly when it’s not needed. When the left hand is in transit to another position, it relaxes. When a finger isn’t stopping a string, it relaxes, even if other fingers are applying pressure. Good players take advantage of every single opportunity to relax the left hand. That’s a huge factor in endurance.

I’m currently working on the Sor etude in thirds (Op. 6, No. 6). So much of getting this piece to a performance tempo lies in the exquisite timing of tension and release. Each dyad must sound without buzzing—that requires pressure. But each dyad also must flow smoothly into the next—that requires release. Hold pressure too long, and the tempo drags. Release pressure too soon, and the notes are choppy or buzzy. The perfect timing between pressure and release is incredibly precise.

This Sor etude makes left hand timing particularly obvious. But good timing of pressure and release pervades everything the left hand does. The more we’re alert to it, the better we can refine it.

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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by robin loops » Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:56 pm

SunnyDee wrote:
robin loops wrote:I find that if I keep my back straight my shoulder and arm position are much more conducive to making a good bar. Often when I notice tension building, it is because I have started to slouch forward. Also using pads that keep the guitar from slipping around on my legs helps a lot with tension as I can hold the guitar stable using just the legs and forearm and not involve hand for extra support.
This sounds promising. Do you have a pic? What part of the guitar is on your legs?
Standard classical position. I advise against using photos (or even videos) to dial in posture. The reason being unless someone has the same body dimensions (height, leg lenth, etc.) and technical approach, etc. I find that if you don't have the option to get with a teacher (at least to work out the basics) that it's better to learn about the theory behind it and apply that to your own body type rather than trying to emulate another player's position.

The pads I use are just thin cupboard (pantry) liners that are a non slip foam. Many worry about guitar's finish (I used to use only a soft leather) but I stopped caring but found that the rubber matt has not compromised my guitar's finish at all (though not a French polish). The part about the back is just to be conscious of keeping it arched a bit (and not slouching forward after playing for a bit).

A good starting point for me is to start with scales, and not use thumb. If I can play without using the thumb (left hand) the guitar is stable enough to play. If it is wobbling about then I need to make some minor adjustments. Once I have a comfortable position I start playing but try to keep aware of my posture as I play. Basically I have a tendency to start out in perfect posture but it deteriorates as I play. Also something I have noticed is that certain pieces cause this to happen more. Basically the more difficult the piece and the more concetration it takes, the more I need to be aware of not doing this.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
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SunnyDee
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by SunnyDee » Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:42 pm

robin loops wrote:
SunnyDee wrote:
This sounds promising. Do you have a pic? What part of the guitar is on your legs?
Standard classical position. I advise against using photos (or even videos) to dial in posture. The reason being unless someone has the same body dimensions (height, leg lenth, etc.) and technical approach, etc. I find that if you don't have the option to get with a teacher (at least to work out the basics) that it's better to learn about the theory behind it and apply that to your own body type rather than trying to emulate another player's position.

The pads I use are just thin cupboard (pantry) liners that are a non slip foam. ...Also something I have noticed is that certain pieces cause this to happen more. Basically the more difficult the piece and the more concentration it takes, the more I need to be aware of not doing this.
All good advice. I, too, tense up on something new or difficult.
I asked because only the shoulder of my guitar is touching my fretting side leg, so I couldn't quite picture this. Thanks.
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robin loops
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Re: building strength for barre chords

Post by robin loops » Sun Apr 30, 2017 2:13 am

A couple of things to note about the traditional classical posture (curved bout of guitar body resting on fretting arm leg with back of bout against the other). I find this works best if the curved bout sits flat against the left leg (right leg for the militantly left-handed) as opposed to being at an angle. Not only did this keep the guitar a bit more stable but also keeps the corner/edge of the guitar from digging into the leg. It also helps if the forearm of your picking hand doesn't contact the guitar at an angle for the same reasons. To accommodate this (better angle of arm against guitar) I lean into it a little and tilt the guitar back slightly (making an A-frame between the guitar and body. I also find it helpful to wear a long sleeve shirt or a single sleeve (for hiding tattoos) when the weather is warm. This allows freer movement of the arm which is helpful for picking hand control and doesn't move the guitar around as much arm sticking to guitar when changing positions up the neck can cause it to wiggle around)
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

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