I f****** hate barres! When will the pain stop?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Desmond007, Jan 2, 2018.


  1. Caprica

    Caprica Member

    Messages:
    1,289
    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2015
    Location:
    Orion Nebula
    If you are like me and have a desk job, your fretting hand is weak. It took me 3 or so months to build some strength up. OTOH because Chuck Norris does one finger pinky push ups while he sleeps, barre chords came really easily to him.

    Just give it time. In the meantime, try alternate between playing open chords and barre chords to your fretting hands a rest. For example, play the verses of a song using open chords and play the chorus in barre chords. That way you get a rest within a song.

    ps wait till you start on bends. then you will find out how weak you are all over again.
     
    massacre and The Captain like this.
  2. JonR

    JonR Member

    Messages:
    11,722
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Location:
    London
    Oh, one other thing... 6 months is nothing! My (adult) students don't even start working on barres before 6 months. And they find it difficult for at least 6 months after that.

    Personally, btw, I disagree with rolling the index on its side. It's effective for getting all the strings on to the frets, but (a) it puts your other fingers at an inefficient angle, and (b) (as mentioned) you never need to hold down all 6 strings.

    In the standard "E" form barre (that we use for the dreaded F chord... that's why we call it the "F****** chord!"" :D), place your index so that bony underside of the first joint holds down the 1st and 2nd strings, right up close to the fret. (You can work with this shape anywhere on the fretboard btw, it doesn't have to be down on fret 1. You will eventually be using it all over the neck.)

    Support the pressure with pad of the thumb on the back of the neck, opposite the index pressure (thumb pointing upwards). Keep the index dead straight, only bend at the knuckle. Keep the wrist straight, elbow at 90 degrees or less (raise the neck of you need to). There should be an inch of air between the bottom edge of the neck and your palm below. You pinch the neck between thumb pad and first (lower) joint of the index. Get those 2 strings working, then everything else should fall into place. You can drop the fingertip to fret the 6th; and the other three fingers should curl gracefully over - ;) - to drop down on the required strings 5-4-3. Remember to keep the index straight and the other three evenly curved, so the fingertips fall at right angles (near enough) on to the strings. (The more comfortable you get with the barre, the more you can relax the index a little and let it curve, but to begin with you need to focus on straightening it, in contrast with the other fingers.)

    You can (and perhaps should) also support the index pressure by bracing the guitar with your right arm, pulling back a little on the index. I.e., the index pressure is countered partly by the thumb, partly by your right arm. (I never believed this until I checked and found I did it instinctively.)
    You can also use the weight of your fretting arm. If the arm is held in an "L" shape, then its whole weight will tend to naturally pull back (as the arm wants to swing back), rather than just fall off the guitar. But it's not so much the physics of it, but if you think about it in that way it helps you relax the shoulder, and ease off on any unnecessary degree of thumb pressure.
    In truth (eventually) the barre is achieved by an instinctive combination of all three forces: left thumb, left arm weight, right arm bracing (but mainly the left thumb).
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    Alan Dunn and specialidiot like this.
  3. Alchemist XP

    Alchemist XP Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,538
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2016
    What I would start trying is making some open chords (start with E, A, E7, A7, B7, Am, Em, C) with just your ring, middle and pinky fingers to train them how to do the chord shapes and just strengthen them. This way, even playing open, you'll be making some progress. Then, when you're in, for instance, an E Chord > just slide it down to the third fret barring with your index finger for a G chord then slide back to the E chord open position. Your middle, ring and pinky stay on the strings and it gives your index some rest/relief. Just play the barred position for a few seconds then come back to the open position and keep playing while your hand rests a bit ... Believe me, this will help you make progress with a lot less pain and you'll be working on staying in rhythm while going from open to barre positions.

    Keep in mind, when doing this exercise, when in the open positions, your index finger WILL NOT be fretting any strings at all and will be resting. Most of the pain of bar chords is from the pressure of pushing on that index finger. Also, as your skin toughens and thickens, you won't have to press nearly as hard on the strings to fret them properly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  4. The Captain

    The Captain Member

    Messages:
    11,521
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Australia
    The pain starts to go as you develop more efficiency.
    If you watch an experienced guitar player, they hold their fingering the required position with minimum effort, and only apply as much pressure as they need to for as long as they need to and no more, They rest as much as possible, often taking short breaks with muting etc, or between strums.
    It takes time to develop the relaxed hand position that allows for effortless barres.
    I'm in much the same boat, despite years of playing, with a song I am working on that has a fast tempo, with a constant huge stretch.
    I'm starting to develop the relevant efficiency, but in the beginning it totally killed me. I am just starting to be capable of sustained playing at full tempo, but it's taken several months of conditioning to make any progress.
    To make it through the whole song at tempo, I'll have to know t well enough to flow effortlessly and develop physical endurance as well.
    Your progress with barres will follow the same path.
     
    massacre likes this.
  5. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

    Messages:
    5,757
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2017
    Location:
    Grrrmany
    Chuck Norris doesn't need a finger to do barre chords. Not even a guitar.
    So please stop spreading misinformation!
     
    Alan Dunn and Caprica like this.
  6. Neer

    Neer Member

    Messages:
    12,082
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2007
    Location:
    NJ
    Do you play acoustic guitar or electric? What gauge of strings? How high is your action? Wide neck?
    We shouldn't need to exert too much force to barre a chord. Could very simply be related to play-ability of your guitar.
     
    hobbyplayer and JustABluesGuy like this.
  7. don carney

    don carney Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,032
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2009
    Location:
    Michigan
    Lots of good advice here. If you search, there is a u tube with exercises for guitarists to build strength and avoid injuries. Also posture is critical. I found (after years of playing) that sitting on a certain couch at home and noodling while watching tv produced an arm pain for me-it took me a while to figure this out. It was the change in the angle between body, arm, and guitar that produced different tensions and caused injury. Now I avoid that couch. Try standing when you practice for a while until the pain goes away. Consider visiting a doctor or health professional if the pain does not go away. I have occasionally treated with a guy known as a trigger point physical therapist from time to time who works wonders on nagging muscle injuries that do not seem to heal. I learned of this guy from other family members who are physicians.
     
  8. iconte

    iconte Member

    Messages:
    271
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2017
    Location:
    Florence (Italy), "soon" Atlanta
    The best trick to get the best out of a barrè chord or progression is to use your shoulder, people think it's the hand who push, try this.. without using any muscles of your hand push your elbow and shoulder down little by little. The index have to remain the more relax as possible, it's the union of shoulder + elbow and finally index that allow you to play barrè chords for long time without pain. PLUS if you keep playing barrè wrong it can happen injury at your muscls and tendons.
     
    middlechainringguy likes this.
  9. AbstractLunatic

    AbstractLunatic Member

    Messages:
    4,333
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Location:
    Denver
    You can also mix in some power chords during the jam to take some of the pressure off.
     
    Desmond007 likes this.
  10. ToneDeVille

    ToneDeVille Member

    Messages:
    1,598
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2017
    Location:
    Warsaw

    you have about 28 months left to go before the pain and burning sensation end
     
    Desmond007 likes this.
  11. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

    Messages:
    5,962
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I found barre chords really hard starting out as well.

    I don't play them all that much anymore, especially in band situations. With bass and another guitar, it's just too much, sometimes.
    Sure, I play them, but I don't stand there hammering on barre chords for 30 minutes. Heck, my hand would probably hurt doing that, lol, and I've got a few years doing this. :)
     
    JustABluesGuy and Desmond007 like this.
  12. hobbyplayer

    hobbyplayer Member

    Messages:
    1,151
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2012
    Amen.

    This first really hit me when I was learning the intro to Johnny B. Goode.

    Try as I might I couldn't get it to work, so I watched an old movie of Chuck Berry playing it.

    Now, I'm a pretty short guy with correspondingly short fingers; I came to find out that Chuck had fingers that wrapped around the neck like tentacles.

    Clearly, watching him was not going to be helpful to me.

    Then I stumbled on a video of the "Marty McFly" version of the song. Michael J. Fox also had issues with the Chuck Berry version when he played the song for "Back to the Future," and so he fashioned a workaround that sounds slightly different but works just the same.

    It was something of an epiphany.

    Since then I have played many "unofficial" versions of songs and I haven't been struck dead yet...
     
  13. That70'sbro

    That70'sbro Member

    Messages:
    1,142
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2017
    Location:
    The Old Pueblo
    Barre chords are overrated. Find comfortable alternatives.
     
    Jabberwocky and Desmond007 like this.
  14. Desmond007

    Desmond007 Member

    Messages:
    472
    Joined:
    May 21, 2016
    We play Johnny B Good in the band as well. My teacher tought me another way to play it, than the barres.
    7th fret, press down the a and d string with index finger. Hold them down while playing.
    I then play the rythm with a and d pressed down on the 7th fret, while hitting the a string twice with my ringfinger on the 9 fret, then realeasing and playing the a string twice on 7 th fret. Then move the thing down one string, and then down to 9 th and 11 th, playing the same rythm way.

    Sounds killer, with my teacher on lead, and me through my modded Wem Dominator.

    We play it in a different key. ****...cant remember which..hey, i'm new at this :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  15. Desmond007

    Desmond007 Member

    Messages:
    472
    Joined:
    May 21, 2016
    I say 12 months :D
     
  16. ninjaaron

    ninjaaron Member

    Messages:
    1,131
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2009
    Just stop playing barres. They really aren't that important. :D
     
    Jabberwocky and Desmond007 like this.
  17. ninjaaron

    ninjaaron Member

    Messages:
    1,131
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2009
    Also, just screwing with you. Depends a bit on the style of music, but you probably actually do need them.
     
  18. AbstractLunatic

    AbstractLunatic Member

    Messages:
    4,333
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Location:
    Denver
    Anytime you write a progression with only full barre chords, you're asking for trouble ;)

    Mix it up, have fun, no need to strain.
     
    JustABluesGuy and Desmond007 like this.
  19. Desmond007

    Desmond007 Member

    Messages:
    472
    Joined:
    May 21, 2016
    Listen guys. This was a tremendous help.
    What really helped, was no pressing down ALL the strings with my index finger, and using the albow a bit more to press the guitar down somewhat. And just relaxing when playing. Already much, much better. Wrist doesnt hurt the same way. Just a bit, but when i feel it, i stop playing, relax a bit, shake my hand, start playing again, and pain is gone.
     
  20. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

    Messages:
    11,752
    Joined:
    May 30, 2007
    Yeah, that effin F bar chord was not my friend when I started playing guitar. I forgot when it stopped hurting, and if it was before or after the 6-month mark. The guitar I learned to play on was a steel string acoustic my roommate bought at the swap meet for $30. Don't remember how heavy gauge the strings were but I do remember they were pretty high off the fretboard.

    An electric guitar with light strings and fairly low action is nice to have when you're starting out - kinder to the hands, so you can focus more on learning to play instead of fighting the instrument all the time.
     
    JustABluesGuy and Desmond007 like this.

Share This Page