Barre struggles

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mChavez
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:38 pm

Barre struggles

Post by mChavez » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:18 pm

Hi All,

I would be grateful for some advice on resolving issues with barre.

I am used to playing guitars with Martin and LP style necks and, as I am switching to classical, I found myself really struggling with barre on classical necks - I don't always manage to fret all the strings and my left hand gets tired very quickly. I think that this is a combination of lack of radiused fretboard, wider necks and poor left hand technique. I currently have a 50mm-at-nut C-shaped Hofner and 50mm D-shaped parlour, both with straight fretboards, and I am struggling with both.

1) What can I do to combat the technique problem? I am getting the feeling that I am either not placing my left hand correctly or not fretting with enough strength, which might be the bad habits that I picked up when playing narrow necks.

2) Can this be resolved by selecting a different neck profile? I can pick any neck shape I want for my next guitar, so should I stick to the classical C or try a different profile (say, Martin Low Profile)? While I appreciate the importance of correct technique, there is no need to make things harder than they have to be :twisted: .

Has anyone had similar problems?

Thank you.

Rasputin
Posts: 519
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Barre struggles

Post by Rasputin » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:25 pm

There is a thread called something like "developing strength for barre chords" where this is discussed at length. Personally I think if you just stick at it then in a matter of weeks or months it will be easy and changing to a different neck profile is massively overcomplicating things. You might even find that it makes other things harder than they have to be.

dtoh
Posts: 223
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Barre struggles

Post by dtoh » Mon Oct 30, 2017 6:38 pm

Barre (and LH technique in general) require the development of muscles in the hand that allow the fingers to move independently. Once these muscles have developed, you should be able to play Barre chords with very little pressure. Until then, you'll need to compensate for the lack of precise independent LH finger movement by applying excess pressure which can lead to muscle fatigue, injury and the development of bad habits.

It will take time. Keep practicing but don't overdo it. It's impossible to play Barre chords correctly until the muscles have developed. And remember, you need the muscles for independent finger movement not for strength.

Todd Tipton
Teacher
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:21 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA

Re: Barre struggles

Post by Todd Tipton » Mon Oct 30, 2017 8:16 pm

In my more than 20 years experience teaching, I've found difficulty with barre chords to be a symptom of seated position and use of the left arm. While it is very difficult to write about, it is far easier to demonstrate in person or via Skype. Many players eventually manage to obtain results through trial and error, and sheer determination. Moving to the wider classical neck compounds the problems.

In the studio, I often have my students do an introductory exercise. In a good default seated position, imagine the left hand holding an apple. Slowly bring the "apple" to the fingerboard. My experience has been then students have already made a mistake at this point, where gentle guidance and persistence has to untrain the fingers to "do something." Imagine the fingertips of the left hand outlining a straight line. Now imagine that line running on either a 3rd or 4th string. Using the shoulder, elbow, and wrist (like turning a door knob), spend time getting the fingers as close as possible to their targets (one finger per fret) without actually using the fingers. Repeat as often as necessary until it becomes easier for the shoulder fist, then the elbow, and finally the wrist to do most of the work. Then allow the fingers to do the minimal work. Place the 4th finger. Then the 3rd. And finally, the 2nd." Now, meditate on the 1st finger. Allow it to reach its destination the easiest, laziest way possible. This exercise cannot be practiced too much.

Once the exercise becomes more familiar, imagine the line of the fingers NOT being parallel with the strings. Imagine it being more diagonal, or even forming a right angle from the strings. How do shoulders, elbows, and wrists compensate then? Mediate on on extreme counterclockwise turns of the wrist bringing the elbow close to the body. Imagine extreme clockwise rotations bringing the elbow away from the body.

Finally, apply this knowledge to some actual barre chords. Always use combinations of shoulder, elbow, and wrist to place 4th, 3rd, and 2nd fingers in place. Then it is time to experiment with the 1st finger. Usually, a 1st finger is only required to play the first and sixth strings, or the first and fifth strings. Further, if everything above is done well, the 1st finger is usually naturally approaching the fretboard from its side: often very counter-intuitive for many people. By experimenting with subtle movements of the first finger, by either moving upwards or downwards, or by flexing or extending more; students begin to discover ways that require far less effort. The movements require far more accuracy with far less margin of error. As a result, the desired goal is usually not readily available. As a solution, most students use far more effort than is necessary in order to achieve more immediate results.

I DID warn you that this is difficult to write about. ;-)

If we can find a suitable time that works for both of us, I'd be happy to take a quick look on Skype sometime. Warmest regards, and happy practicing! :-)
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA (available via Skype)
http://www.toddtipton.com

msa3psu
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2016 1:19 pm
Location: State College, Pennsylvania

Re: Barre struggles

Post by msa3psu » Mon Oct 30, 2017 8:24 pm

Be careful about trying to muscle through it as once you get comfortable with the technique, pressing hard isn't required but it does take a bit more pressure and stamina than normal string stops. As mentioned, finger independence is important so that the workings of the other fingers aren't disturbing your barre finger use. A few tips that might help...
1. When you need to apply a little more pressure and/or need to hold the barre for long use the weight of your arm as if hanging on the barre finger or press with the shoulder and bicep rather than squeezing the neck between index finger and thumb. Don't over tense the shoulder because you can find great strength in the barre with just a little pull with the bicep, shoulder and back. Try to barre without having your thumb on the neck to get the feel for this. You will find that you want to pull the neck closer to your body but you can compensate with just a little more weight on the right arm to hold the body of the guitar firm against your torso.
2. Work on developing a feel for the segments of the barre index finger. You rarely have to barre all six strings even in a full barre. Learn to apply pressure where needed. Sometimes you press a bit more with the tip, other times with the really fleshy part down near the knuckle and sometimes you'll find that you have to over straighten the finger into a slight backward arch to press more in the middle. Sometimes in a passage with a held barre you are varying the press location as the passage requires.
3. Watch out for strings that fall in the joint depressions of your finger. This can be a real struggle to find just the exact vertical position of the barre finger on the neck but it is necessary that you find the sweet spot which varies from situation to situation. If you are buzzing a string that sits between the protuberance of the bone ends at the joints, no amount of pressure will fix it. Four string barres are a big problem with the third string falling into the tip joint for me. I have to be very careful when I play the middle section of Mallorca.

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oski79
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Re: Barre struggles

Post by oski79 » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:09 pm

You might also get your bridge height checked. I had mine adjust slightly a year or so ago and it made a world of difference.
“People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” --Florence Foster Jenkins

powderedtoastman
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Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Re: Barre struggles

Post by powderedtoastman » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:24 pm

Another thing that may help is to position your hand so that the big knuckle of the index finger is out in front of the fretboard. That helps with the leverage for using your arm weight instead of squeezing with the hand.
For partial barres it can be a little more awkward but it still may help to do that if you adjust how the other fingers will be positioned to compensate for it!

ashepps
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Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re: Barre struggles

Post by ashepps » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:34 am

Google - "Douglas Neidt's guitar tips"- tips on Barre chords and a lot of other tips!

douglasniedtDOTcomSlashTech_Tip_Little_JenniferDOThtml

Good luck,

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

davekear
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Location: California

Re: Barre struggles

Post by davekear » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:43 am

Different parts of the index finger depress the strings with more pressure than other parts. Where the joints are, you'll have more pressure then other parts of the finger. With a standard classical guitar that has a 52 mm nut, it's wider than steel and electric guitars.There are some cross-over classical guitars with thinner necks, but then many problems on the other end. I don't like the cross-over's myself. (I think they should be Illegal :)).
Anyway, when barring, you have to move your finger to different locations vertically in order to get the clearest sound. And sometimes turn it a bit too. For example playing a dom 7th barre configuration, I keep my index finger lower than if I play the same barre chord without the 7th added. (I'm referring to the 7 added on the D string as an A7 barre on the fifth fret; 1,3,1,2,1,1). Move it around vertically until you find the best location for the "chord" configuration you're using. And make sure to remember it. It would be nice if all our index fingers were more like capos; straight with no gaps. I'm still waiting for that great invention to attach to your index finger. But until then, experiment by moving it around.

mChavez
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:38 pm

Re: Barre struggles

Post by mChavez » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:06 am

Thank you - I'll try experimenting before resorting to a Humphrey neck profile.

ashepps
Posts: 561
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:06 pm
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re: Barre struggles

Post by ashepps » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:39 am

My link for Douglas Niedt did not work!

Try to pull the guitar into your body instead of squeezing the neck hard. It will work immediately and then work on the other techniques with at least knowing that this one thing you can always do and will help immediately.

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

dtoh
Posts: 223
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Barre struggles

Post by dtoh » Fri Nov 03, 2017 10:17 am

It's like pole vaulting. Technique is super important, but until you've developed the requisite physical strength, flexibility and coordination, no amount of technique will get you over the bar(re).

ashepps
Posts: 561
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:06 pm
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re: Barre struggles

Post by ashepps » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:52 pm

The technique in the way you hold the guitar agains your body is one that should be learned and let all else come after. That is a foundation for the bar, it takes the muscle fatigue out of the equation first.

Alan
Alan Sheppard
1986 630mm Asturias JM-15 Spruce
1955 650mm Framus SL-32R
2015 650mm Yamaha SLG110N

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