Barre struggles

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Re: Barre struggles

Post by bear » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:45 pm

Barre chords are one of those things that are easy once you get it, like tying your shoes or riding a bike. One day it just clicks and everything everyone has said makes sense.
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Re: Barre struggles

Post by Erik Zurcher » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:51 pm

The barre technique starts at 9:30

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by Ramon Amira » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:33 am

1) The shape of the neck does make a difference. These guitars with necks that come out in a half circle make barring more difficult because it's harder to properly place and maintain your thumb. The great luthier Manuel Reyes said that he slightly flattens the back of the neck "to afford better placement of the thumb."

2) Rotate your index finger in the direction of the nut. This brings more bone onto the strings and makes barring much easier.

3) Consider trying low tension strings. They will make it easier to bar, and as a bonus they sound better.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by PeteJ » Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:00 pm

This may be one of those issues for which there is no substitute for having a good teacher standing over you and examining your technique. It could be that you just need to keep going as you are or that you need to make significant changes but there's no way to know. The only comment I have is that the rotation of the first finger is crucial. If you follow Tod's practice exercise (one that I also used to use) and place the first finger last then it will rotate away from the second as it should (probably) but if it is placed first then it may not. With all these things it seems best to practice getting into the correct position and not worry too much about rattles and buzzes since they'll go away as the muscles improve. Or so they tell me...

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by ashepps » Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:04 am

BellyDoc wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:33 pm
My bad technique so far has at least been a huge workout, so while I learn I get stronger! For me the biggest steps forward were learning how to substitute some of the crushing force with just hand and arm weight by experimenting with doing the barre with the thumb completely free. This puts my left hand fingers in opposition to my chest instead of my thumb, and I’m stabilizing against my right arm on the body of the guitar. It’s not a solution by itself but rather an example of how to get some of the crush force reduced by distributing the force elsewhere. The other thing is that most of the time I have to maintain the barre, it’s because I’m struggling with slowly fingering out the rest of the left hand maneuvers. Once that smooths out and I can anticipate moving into-through-and-out of the barre in a reasonable amount of time, I find that the amount of force I’ve been using is way too much and it gets much easier as I learn to relax a bit.
This is not the first time I have posted on this subject and I know the technique side of making a proper barre like the finger close to the fret and the knuckles etc all great, but your post is, in part, what I was trying to communicate from Douglas Neidt's instructions all along!

Yes do the proper placement of the hand and fingers, but pull the guitar into the body and it takes much of the stress of making a barre, as you say! This way you can use a barre without the thumb in some circumstances and it will amaze you. Try something simple like Romanza (trad.).

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by ameriken » Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:47 am

Ledhand75 wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:12 pm
Kevin Gallagher has an excellent video tutorial with exercises regarding barre technique at .

Echoing some of the advice given earlier in this thread, he advocates for using the weight of the arm and shoulder, rather than trying to achieve a vice grip. To use a pincer type of grip is tiring and leads to difficulty with shifting.

Good luck. I hope that you’ll find this helpful.
Thanks for posting that video. I thought I had barre's mostly down but it pointed out some issues I was having and how to correct them.
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Re: Barre struggles

Post by Ledhand75 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:57 am

I’m glad that you found it helpful. Kevin is an incredible teacher, and out of the box thinker. He has a number of insightful videos available online that are well worth seeking out.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by Kenro » Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:23 pm

Hi there, from my experience lowering the action makes it easier to play barre chords, higher action means more strength needed to press down the strings, also I agree with what Ramon Amira said about low string tension being easier to bar :)
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Re: Barre struggles

Post by CactusWren » Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:27 am

I am always surprised when people talk about barres as a function of thumb strength. The vise is fatiguing and not very enjoyable, so I try to use arm weight as much as possible, and find that perhaps the majority of barres can be played without the back of the thumb even touching the neck. It seems to mostly be a matter of experimentation and accuracy, as well as being aware of the issues others have pointed out: leverage, weight, the hard and soft parts of the finger, the various configurations of the finger.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by dtoh » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:55 am

It's about strength and dexterity of certain muscles in your hand (interossei and lumbricals). Until you develop these muscles (which takes a long time), you won't be able to play barre chords properly.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by petermc61 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:15 am

In my view too much focus is being put on strength. Focus on technique and use of the weight of the arm. In my view it will pay greatest dividends.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by dtoh » Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:29 am

Sorry but IMHO, it really is the small muscles in the hand (not in the arm or in the thumb). If these hand muscles are properly developed so you have finger dexterity, you can easily play barre chords. (It literally took me about 30 minutes to learn to play barre chords cleanly with negligible pressure.)

If you do NOT have these small muscles developed you are going to need to a) use weird technique b) excess pressure, and probably spend a lot of time to be able to play cleanly.

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Re: Barre struggles

Post by Ledhand75 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 1:32 pm

Aside from the above noted technical recommendations, there is the importance of paying attention to the score. Make sure that you’re not barring more strings than are necessary. Also, once you have set your barre across the required strings, you don’t necessarily need to maintain pressure across all strings throughout the passage. This is where some attention to the score can pay benefits (work smart, not hard). You may find that you only need to apply pressure to one or two strings variably under your barre, at any point within a given passage. Anything that will bring more ease into your playing will improve your tone, your ability to shift smoothly and your overall enjoyment; all while decreasing fatigue and the risk of injury.

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