Hand Fatigue With Barre Chords

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by KagakuNinja, Feb 17, 2008.


  1. KagakuNinja

    KagakuNinja Member

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    I'm trying to play the arpeggios for Maggot Brain, just simple barre chords Eb, D, Bb, C. After a few minutes my hand gets tired and I need to stop. I've been doing this several times a day for 3 days now, and I fear it isn't going to get any better.

    I've tried following the common advice here: slow, use as little pressure as necessary. A big part of the problem seems to be the Bb chord, I have to grip my index finger hard to get the minor third to sound. The other chords I can put pressure on just the 4 strings that I need to play.

    I am playing seated, using a telecaster with 10s.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    3 days is not a lot to get into working those muscles, I think you may have to just take it slowly (don't overdo it)... barre chords can be easier on a vintage radius (7.25") but it sounds like you may just have to work into the physical strength aspect of it, it can take a while.
     
  3. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Is the neck really comfortable for you? My hands used to ache playing barre chords until I got a '56RI Les Paul with a big baseball bat neck, and then I could play rhythm all night. So I found out that I do better on fat necks and have been pretty picky about what I play on since then.
     
  4. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

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    part of its playing seated, you really should stand up, you create un natural angles sitting down, also there are ways of forming the chords with out having to use barre chords, thumb over the top is common for advanced players.
     
  5. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    When playing barre chords, it is important to squeeze and release the barre.
    This is the only way oxygen gets to the hand muscles.

    Holding a barre will deplete the O2 and your hand will fatique, cramp.

    You can squeeze in time with the beat.
     
  6. BluePowder

    BluePowder Member

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    Are you playing standing up or sitting down?

    If you're sitting down you might want to place the guitar in an angled position, this will help in relieving some of the stress on your wrist.

    Relax your arm as much as possible, the only muscles which should be working are the ones in your wrist.

    Take it easy!
     
  7. JohnCovach

    JohnCovach Supporting Member

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    C'mon guys, you're overthinking this. Three days is not nearly long enough to build up the muscles you'll need to do this. It's easy: try not to grip any harder than you need to. Give it a few weeks, not a few days.

    To develop greater hand strength, it's also helpful to practice on an acoustic guitar for a while each day.

    Even experienced guitarists can get tired hands when they are playing something that uses the muscles in ways they aren't used to. Try playing the guitar part to the Beatles "I Feel Fine" about four times in a row. All that moving of the fourth finger while holding down a full bar is enough to get anyone's hand aching after a few times through the tune.
     
  8. KagakuNinja

    KagakuNinja Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm actually using an Oldworld Tele copy, which presumably has a vintage neck. I haven't tried playing this on all my guitars, but I had the same problem with a Jazzmaster.

    I suppose 3 days isn't enough, but I'm not new to barre chords. I thought I had them down several years ago, maybe I let them get rusty. I can play scales and single note noodling for much longer with no fatigue.

    I guess I'll keep slogging through the chords, and try my other guitars.
     
  9. tybone

    tybone Member

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    Strengthen you hands (squeeze a ball or finger tip push-ups or something.
    And stretch your fingers and hands. I like those Chinese balls that you rotate in your hand too.

    http://www.natashascafe.com/html/balls.html

    Cheers
    Larry
     
  10. JohnCovach

    JohnCovach Supporting Member

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    Even a tennis ball will do.
     
  11. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

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    That's exactly what I used back in the day.

    FWIW, It took me weeks to be able to play my first barre chord song (Bastille Day) without cramping up.
     
  12. TommyStrat

    TommyStrat Member

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    First have your guitar set up really well. This helps 40%. Second you have to practice at least two hours a day and take a day off once in a while to heal. It is like working out in the gym. Stretch your hands slowly after you have them warmed up. Also to gain strength you need to also work the extender muscles. Do this by holding your left fingers and opening them as hard as you can holding them with your other hand to give resistance. Let them open slow and keep opening them as hard as you can until they are all the way open. This develops fast twitch muscles. It takes years to get really strong and if you quit for three weeks you loose it fast. Stay with it bud and let us know how it come out.
     
  13. Elektrik_SIxx

    Elektrik_SIxx Member

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    Just wait for the moment when you're on a gig and they're calling 'Wonderwall' and you don't have your capo with you while you want to play those exact chords.
    Happened to me last saturday and I'm still collecting pieces of my left hand.:dude
     
  14. The Captain

    The Captain Member

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    Squeeze and release yes, but the muscles are mostly in the forearm, not the hand for this, except for flexor pollicis brevis.
    I agree with the overthinking thing. 3 days is not long, in fact you are at the peak of the fatigue cycle if you have been going for 3 days solid (just ask my ski legs). Rest for 2 days, then you will come back way stronger.
    The biggest difference between an experienced player and a novice is teh economy of pressure they apply to the strings.
     
  15. The Captain

    The Captain Member

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    Actually, you do NOT have to exercise your extensors. They work to stabilise the hand against the pull of the flexors EVERY time you do anything wiht your hand. You don't really notice this until you get extensor tendonitis, or tennis elbow. Then you feel everything your flexors are doing, at the extensor insertion. My current bout of this came directly from prolonged FLEXOR stress, which impacts on the relatively weaker extensor system.
     
  16. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Yes. thank you for getting me straight on the main muscles
    are in the forearms. No muscles in most of your hand or fingers.
     
  17. KagakuNinja

    KagakuNinja Member

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    Thanks for the great tips...

    2 hours a day? I can manage that now, but not when I have a job, and this will never be anything but a hobby for me. Do you mean 2 hours of just barre chords, or general guitar practice?

    Going to look for my old finger grip thingies from my marital arts days... But, this sounds like developing slow twitch muscles, not fast twitch.

    So far, I've been backing off when the arm gets tired, rather than "going for the burn". Putting down the guitar, or working on other things.

    The "squeeze, release" tip will come in handy, but for this song, I think letting the notes ring sounds better.
     
  18. Mondoslug

    Mondoslug Supporting Member

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    Keep doing it. It took me 2 weeks to play a barre chord. I ain't lying.
     
  19. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Tell you the truth, I rarely play big barre chords.

    Two, three, and four note chords are where it's at for me.

    I truly believe you can hear three notes better than six.
    95% of the time you don't need big barres.
    Unless you're learning George Van Eps, Martin Taylor and
    that school of playing, small chords are the way to go for me.

    When I attend the local Blues jam, I always see the guitars playing those
    big E shape chord on every song. The next guitarist gets up and plays
    the same frickin chords.
    That is so uncreative. The guitar has an opportunity to be a "horn section"
    and play melodic chord comping.
    Those big chords??? Boring.

    Now if you play Neil Young it's cool because it's stylistically correct.
    So there is always some application of big chords.

    I look at big six note chords as much like a menu in a restaurant.
    You don't have to eat everything, pick and choose.

    That also makes it easy on straining.
     
  20. tomb

    tomb Member

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    Regarding sitting vs. standing while playing:

    I always wear a wide, comfortable, leather strap even while sitting as it puts the guitar at the same position as while standing.
     

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