The " -capo" - pain

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
kristi

The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:24 pm

Hey all!

Firstly, I am not sure whether the technique I refer to should be called "capo", thus please excuse in case I misuse the word. Here saying "capo", I do not mean the clamp that you put on the frets -- I mean the technique when open strings are pressed with the LH index finger.

My question is, do you have any tips how to deal with the pain caused by this "capo playing"? All the years I've played CG, I've been always trying to avoid those pieces where "capo'ing" is necessary in more than 3-4 measures in a row (otherwise my LH index finger would start to hurt, and the cramps finally go down to the whole palm making it almost impossible to continue playing). :mouton: Now I really want to learn a piece where you can't go without this technique, it requires full (6 string) "capo'ing" for like 20 measures in a row, and the whole thing is positioned between 7th - 12th frets. I cannot find a way to deal with it.

I've also noticed that the higher the fret is, the more miserable my "capo" is. If I take it on all strings, normally the sound of the middle strings suffers the most -- G and D strings just lack pressure. Meanwhile both Es are perfect, and B with the low A are so-so. Needless to say, the quality of the sound goes down dramatically as I try to hold it longer. :chaud:

Do you have any ideas how to address this? Maybe I should turn the index finger a little (press more with the side of finger)? Or maybe this is just a question of practice time, and the muscles will stop aching once they are trained enough (like with sports)? Eventually -- did you ever experience the same, and what was your solution to this annoying issue?

Many thanks beforehand for any comments!

All the best,
//Kristina

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remmus
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Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by remmus » Tue Jun 03, 2008 3:39 pm

Hi Kristi,

The only way I could ever possibly address this problem would be face to face. And since that isn't possible, I strongly urge you to see a competent classical guitar teacher and get proper instruction on how to do full barre chords before you injure yourself in a potentially bad way. Really, stop trying to figure it out by yourself and get with someone who can analyze what you are doing and what needs to be corrected. Believe me, it's money well spent. I am assuming you do not have a teacher because this would already be discussed with him/her. But, if you do have a teacher PLEASE get proper instruction immediately and stop trying to do barre chords (capo as you say) until then.

Barre chords can hurt when done wrong and any pain is a sure-fire sign you are doing something wrong. They shouldn't be painful and are easy to do when you know how. :)

summer
"...it is awfully easy to become content with a level below what one is actually capable of." - Carl Peter

montanajim

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by montanajim » Wed Jun 04, 2008 6:05 am

kristi wrote:Hey all!

Do you have any ideas how to address this? Maybe I should turn the index finger a little
This would be a good start also make sure that the middle strings arent falling under the creases on the barre finger sometimes you need to shift this finger a little towards the low e to avoid this.also remember that if the other fingers are fretting other notes you dont need to crank down on this finger only pressure the notes you need to sound. Another issue could be the action of your guitar .Barres can strain the hand a little but should not be causing the pain that you have indicated .

best of luck

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Wed Jun 04, 2008 7:14 am

Aha, so this is called "barre", how clever! Just the same word I use in other languages... why did I think English must be different?
Summer wrote: I am assuming you do not have a teacher because this would already be discussed with him/her.
I am currently learning on my own, although I did have a teacher years ago, when I was taking up CG at a musical school as a complementary instrument. First 2 years of the guitar lessons I actually had an outstanding teacher. However, these cramps playing barre chords have always been occuring to me... I asked my teacher once whether he could see why this happens -- he reviewed my posture, LH position etc., and only had comments about the left thumb. Other than that, he did not make any notes. I fixed the left thumb issues, however the cramps remained, and thus I remained thinking this pain is normal and the only way forward is to avoid barre chords at all... I actually quite succesfully did this by those times, and now I'm facing bitter concequences :oops:

//K

DaD

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by DaD » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:20 am

Holding your straightened index finger sideways you can see your problem instantly: it is not a straight line; the 1st phalange is fleshier than the other two, especially the middle one which is the part over which the middle strings tend to rest. The area closest to the joint is the most problematic making the G string the hardest to finger in a barre. What you need is to fill that gap, not much, by stiffening the skin in that area, slightly off-center (ie a little towards the thumb). You do not want a big great corn on your finger, just a light callouse that hardens the skin sufficiently to provide better contact with the string. You can use a nail file, I used my front teeth to gnaw gently at the flesh for a week or two. That is all it takes to play barres effortlessly.
Denis

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owl
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Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by owl » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:21 am

There have been quite a few discussions here on barre chords
If you do a search you will find a lot of information... here is a link to start you off

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=28854&hilit=barre+chords

Owl
Never, ever give up!... I leave my songprint on your heart.

nudge

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by nudge » Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:18 pm

There is a wondferful technique called FELDENKRAIS which deals with all types of body posture and movement. It is widely used throughout general classical performance to avoid RSI and other injuries. Look for a therapist in this field for assistance.

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:08 pm

DaD wrote:Holding your straightened index finger sideways you can see your problem instantly: it is not a straight line; the 1st phalange is fleshier than the other two, especially the middle one which is the part over which the middle strings tend to rest. The area closest to the joint is the most problematic making the G string the hardest to finger in a barre. What you need is to fill that gap, not much, by stiffening the skin in that area, slightly off-center (ie a little towards the thumb). You do not want a big great corn on your finger, just a light callouse that hardens the skin sufficiently to provide better contact with the string. You can use a nail file, I used my front teeth to gnaw gently at the flesh for a week or two. That is all it takes to play barres effortlessly.
Denis
Thank you, I would have never thought of this... very creative! On my way to develop one more bad habit -- starting to gnaw the left index finger from today on :D

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:10 pm

Many thanks for the opinions and for the link to the former discussion! I will make sure to get the most of all the advices given :)

:merci: (for being THAT helpful!)

//K

cn90

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by cn90 » Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:52 pm

1. The key thing is to slightly tilt the guitar 5-10 degrees (looking sideway as in the post below):
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=28440&hilit=+arm+weight

This way the BARRE force is shared by the LH "Thenar" muscle as well as the "Arm weight".
Remember that the Thernar muscle (thumb) is rather small and gets sored if barre too much.
Using the Arm Weight creates some sort of strain on the body of the guitar, which is counter-acted by the RH elbow (very much like a pivot), so be careful with arm weight technique, too much excessive use of it can cause structural problem for the guitar.

2. Here is another thread that I drew a diagram of a pivot:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=12734&st=0&sk=t&sd= ... t&start=15

HTH.

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:44 pm

Many thanks for all the advises! I've practiced all possible techniques advised above, and I must admit it helps (espetially helpful is the awareness itself), though I still can't find a way to get a clear barre at, say, ninth fret...

Do you think, in general, is it normal that the higher the fret is, the harder it gets to play a clear barre chord? I've learned from the previous links, that the 3rd fret is considered to be the most convenient for barre. I've noticed that for me, anything up to 5th fret is super, and I've also discovered that on these frets, I've been playing barre chords with my arm strength all the time (without realizing it), which is probably why it went so smoothly.

Although on higher frets it gets worse and worse -- for instance, 7th or 9th frets seem to be almost impossible to take clearly :( Or can it be so that I just use different muscles when taking barre chords on the high frets?

//K

cn90

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by cn90 » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:42 pm

kristi wrote:Many thanks for all the advises! I've practiced all possible techniques advised above, and I must admit it helps (espetially helpful is the awareness itself), though I still can't find a way to get a clear barre at, say, ninth fret...

Do you think, in general, is it normal that the higher the fret is, the harder it gets to play a clear barre chord? I've learned from the previous links, that the 3rd fret is considered to be the most convenient for barre. I've noticed that for me, anything up to 5th fret is super, and I've also discovered that on these frets, I've been playing barre chords with my arm strength all the time (without realizing it), which is probably why it went so smoothly.

Although on higher frets it gets worse and worse -- for instance, 7th or 9th frets seem to be almost impossible to take clearly :( Or can it be so that I just use different muscles when taking barre chords on the high frets?

//K
- If you have problems with higher fret barre, check:

a. string tension: are you using high-tension strings.
b. action, is your CG set up with the typical action of 3mm-1ststring-12thfret and 4mm-6thstring-12fret.

c. your LH index finger, is it straight when barre. A trick I learned from the pro is if you slightly rotate the LH index finger (point the LH index finger at yourself and rotate it 3-5 degrees COUNTER-CLOCKWISE), the LH index finger will lock into a straight line and it will help with higher-fret barre.

Also barre is a technique that takes people years to perfect it, so don`t feel so bad that you cannot do it well at this time. Just play the usual repertoire at your level and soon or later you should be able to barre well. »Watch some video clips of John Williams, he has beautiful barre technique.

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:19 pm

cn90 wrote: a. string tension: are you using high-tension strings.
I am using normal tension strings -- should I switch to high tension?
cn90 wrote: b. action, is your CG set up with the typical action of 3mm-1ststring-12thfret and 4mm-6thstring-12fret.
I've just checked this; the 12th fret action for the 1st string is 4.5mm and for the 6th, it is 7mm. I play Alhambra 4P and this is how it came from the factory (I actually switched to this guitar rather recently). Should I be concerned about this and ask to set it to the defaults?
cn90 wrote: c. your LH index finger, is it straight when barre. A trick I learned from the pro is if you slightly rotate the LH index finger (point the LH index finger at yourself and rotate it 3-5 degrees COUNTER-CLOCKWISE), the LH index finger will lock into a straight line and it will help with higher-fret barre.
This is actually what I'm practicing at the moment :) I am barely improving though, but it could be as you say, that more practice is required.

//K

kristi

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by kristi » Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:47 pm

Sorry, I've just reviewed what I previously posted and would like to add a little correction -- the guitar I play is Alhambra 5P, not 4P. Although I presume they are very close to one another, only wood used for the neck differs.

//K

DaD

Re: The " -capo" - pain

Post by DaD » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:23 pm

The action on your guitar is much too high, Kristi, and I very much doubt you'll ever be able to finger a barre comfortably, if at all, in these conditions. I would certainly not advise you to persist but have your guitar looked at with a view of having its action lowered (I would say halved).

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