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If you really want to experience all the muscles that can help you to barre, experiment by playing one of your exercises without the thumb on the back of the neck. You should immediately notice how much the right-arm can help.
All the best,
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Then you try keep pressing/ringing 2 strings each time, then 3 strings and so on.
Also try pressing with thumb tip (use forearm muscles) releasing thumb knuckle muscle tension (which uses palm muscles and hinders other fingers movements).
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- Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:13 pm
- Location: Toronto, Canada
Recently I visited Kevin Gallager's website to review his video on barre technique as well as acquire the exercise he so generously supplies.
He really is very encouraging and supportive and I may even look to him for a lesson or two, even if it is on-line.
However, the concept of "arm-weight" is still not quite connecting with me. I find myself pulling on the poor guitar, squeezing the body against me under my right arm, ( which impedes hand movement ) and pulling back on the neck with my left arm like I'm reeling in a 30 pound lake-trout. If I keep that action up, I'm afraid I'll damage the instrument. I don't think the wonderful luthiers who made my guitar braced it to be played by the Hulk.
I feel it in my shoulder, neck and forearm. I even, "raise the knuckle," of my index finger to flatten my finger across the neck, but all that action simply hurts my hand and only produces a clean sound occasionally.
If anyone can suggest any other methods of describing this action or technique, anything that I might finally be able to perhaps experience a little "aha" moment with, my lovely little Alhambra will be very relieved to hear.
Meanwhile, I believe I will investigate teachers in my area of the planet, simply to see and feel for myself how they do this.
thank you all and kindest wishes to you.
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- Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:13 pm
- Location: Toronto, Canada
Careful review of the Kevin Gallager video, some further research, and finally, a very neat little "aha" moment when I simply relaxed my left arm and let it
"hang-back." It was like I could swing my elbow, or at least, it would sway a bit if someone gave it a little nudge, but gravity simply did the work of providing the "weight of the arm" against the fretboard. Of course, the "pull" came more from my shoulder, and raising the knuckle of my index finger covered the strings more solidly, but over-all, the tension I described earlier disappeared and playing the barre simply became easier.
Simple exercises help,( found here ) definitely never holding the barre for more than 10-15 seconds,( advice fro a link suggested somewhere else at this site) and being very mindful of what notes were required of the barre all seemed to break through an unexpected barrier that I have encountered as I gradually upgrade my skills to match the quality of the beautiful new guitar I acquired in March.
Biggest realization: relax!
So it can be done, and I'm grateful to have this space to find very helpful tips and shared stories.
cheers and thanks!
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- Location: Manchester, CT
Other suggestions that have been said like using the tip of your thumb instead of the thumb pad and feeling the arm weight are all very good as well. I've used those with students to help them get a sense of how the arm works and how much the thumb actually has to do (which is very little).
Arm weight is very tricky, and for students can be an odd concept for them to understand. William Kanengiser's 1st Hotlicks video (Effortless Classical Guitar ??) has a great example of what arm weight actually is. Once I saw the video explain it, I was finally able to explain the idea to students -- it's proven invaluable!
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- Location: Scotland
Welcome to the Delcamp classical guitar forum.
If you have not already done so, please have a look at our welcome page for more information about the forum and its rules, then please introduce yourself here for a proper welcome.
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar
Bailey wrote:I've just started to play in positions other than first and am now working with 5th position using a barre. With the barre in 5th position, when I do scale work on the above 3 frets; particularly on the bottom strings; for instance, working a C, B, C, D, E, F, G sequence, I get a bad cramp in between my thumb and index finger; bad enough to make me stop, shake my hand out (sometimes massage it a little), then go back. It gets worse with continued playing in that position. ...
Is this a normal part of getting used to playing in other positions while using a barre? If so, is there a way to deal with the cramping? Will is go away with continued practice? Any suggestions?
Yes it will go away with continued practice! Yes it is a normal because you are a beginner and are developing the necessary muscular strength to form bar chords. Duncan recommends 7-10 minutes of intense bar chord practice daily. Both Duncan and Andreas have strength development exercises that are similar to your holding a bar and playing a scale, but instead of a scale they use some other arpeggio.
You perfectly describe the location of the muscles that are used to keep the bar down. There is nothing that would prevent your experience because the web muscles between thumb and index finger must develop. These muscles are necessarily used to press the index finger into the fretboard or equivalently to prevent the force against the index finger from bending the index finger back into an unplayable position. Duncan, Jamie Andreas, and Parkening are all on record by stating that bar chords take strength. So strength must not be discounted at least for beginners. There are pain lines one shouldn't cross, but some transient soreness from lactic acid build up is normal and to be expected.
Charles Duncan wrote:Most guitar players can remember all too clearly the struggle to master the bar-chord grip. The challenge of bar chords never really goes away, because at successively higher levels of repertoire, we encounter more and more taxing bar-chord demands. (An excellent and well-known example is the Albeniz "Leyenda," especially measures 38-46.) The ability to execute such passages cleanly and confidently depends upon the available strength in the first dorsal interosseous and adductor muscles -- respectively, the outer and inner muscles between the first finger and thumb. Given sufficient work, this muscle area enlarges visibly over a period of several months, while the difficulty of bar-chord playing diminishes in turn.
baily wrote:I've tried using as little thumb pressure on the barre as I can get away with and still get a good sound from the strings, but that doesn't seem to help.
It didn't help because your issue is a sore web muscle whose use is a given. The soreness of the web muscle can fool one into thinking that the thumb is sore. To see if this is the case for you, hold a bar for an extended period with the thumb off the neck. If you think the thumb is getting sore you are being fooled by the web discomfort. You don't want to press the thumb too hard for the thumb's sake, but excessive thumb pressure would also increase the demand on the web in counteraction.
Duncan also has a great hint concerning the thumb's position.
Charles Duncan wrote:Important; do not press too hard with the thumb! The function of the thumb is to supply counterforce to the first finger, but some counterforce 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 of the thumb.
Edit: If you don't believe that bar chords take strength consider the following quote from someone that has big and naturally strong hands to begin with.
Christopher Parkening wrote:Strength does play an important role in bar chords ...
If you have played bar chords for a long time, form a bar chord with the index finger alone and with only the minimal amount of pressure needed to sound all six strings. Reach over with the right hand and feel the web of the left hand. You will feel a rock solid and bulging web muscle. This shows that even the simplest bar chord takes strength despite all efforts to minimize exertion. You can compare the left and right hand web muscles by pressing the index fingers onto a horizontal surface. You get a bulging web muscle for the left hand but nothing like that for the right. Once one has developed the web muscle so that the strength needed to form bar chords is well within its capacity, the lack of discomfort can easily lead to the mistaken impression that no strength is needed.
All you have to do in the left hand is press a string against a fret so that it doesn't buzz. A three-year-old has enough strength to do this.
do not GRAB the neck between your fingers and thumb. The thumb should rest LIGHTLY on the back of the neck and let the weight of the arm wanting to pivot at the shoulder (keep the elbow flexed) supply the "strength" to play the notes.
above all try to remove strength and tension from your playing. Play a chord or passage and then try to do it again with less tension. Do it relaxed as you can.
As Henry David Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" (but I don't know why he felt he had to say it three times.)
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