June 12, 2019 at 10:07 am #135544
I was wondering if anyone could come up with any ideas…
I am very new to the guitar, a ‘mature’ student who has been playing about 3 months. All’s coming along nicely (including the calluses) – I try to play for an hour or so a day, not all in one go.
As I understand most beginners do, I’m struggling with barre chords. Or rather just the one for the moment, F. I cannot for the life of me have my index finger flat and the others angled at anywhere near 90 degrees. They’re either all up or all flat. This could be a) finger flexibility, in which case I need to look for exercises or b) the fact that I’ve only got half a thumb on my left hand. I lost the other half years ago. That means I balance the neck of the guitar on the flat top of my half thumb. Do you think this could be the problem? Or is it just the normal problem that requires practice, and practice, and practice…?
Any thoughts or ideas most welcome! Thanks
June 12, 2019 at 12:12 pm #135547
Hi Liz, welcome here. It’s hard to judge from here if your thumb is the reason for your difficulty with barre chords, but since barre chords are often the first major stumbling block for beginners, I am pretty optimistic that you will master them with practice. My first advice would be to practice not the F-chord right away, because it is the hardest barre chord of them all. Being so close behind the nut, it needs most strength to grab. Why not begin with an A? That’s exactly the same chord shape, only with your index finger barring at the 5th fret. With more practice you can move up the neck until you are back at the first fret F.
June 12, 2019 at 12:31 pm #135548
I think I understand, Liz, but a picture can be worth a thousand words. To make a bar chord you normally have to drop your wrist well below the neck of the guitar and the missing part of your thumb would press behind the neck somewhere around the middle. You could try one of two tricks. Let’s use the F chord as an example. You could not play the low 6th string, period, and voice the chord with 3rd finger on 3rd fret, 5th string; pinkey on 3rd fret 4th string, 2nd finger, 2nd fret, 3rd string; bar the first fret strings 1 & 2 with the index finger. Alternatively, if your hand is big enough, you can hook your thumb over the top of the fretboard to play the first fret 6th string and form the rest of the F chord as usual. This puts your palm flat against the neck so you can arch your fingers. Jimi Hendrix used this style and often muted the 5th string with the thumb or for normal people the tip of the 3rd finger that is fretting the 3rd fret, 4th string can do the job. Jimi had huge hands. Are you okay for 5th sting rooted bar chords? A lot of us have one issue or another that requires some compromise on the guitar. Luckily, it doesn’t usually sacrifice much in the way of your sound.
June 12, 2019 at 3:38 pm #135551
I usually don’t play the F as a bar chord at all. Try this: Make the short F (played only on the highest 4 strings) where your index finger bars only strings 1 & 2. Now move you’re ring finger across to the 5th string 3rd fret, and use your pinky to grab the 4th string 3rd fret. Let your ring finger lightly touch the 6th string to mute it. Try going back and forth between a C and this new way of playing an F. It’s waaaay faster and easier than going from a C to an F bar. Ain’t nobody got time for that pesky F bar chord. BTW, 99% of the time jazz guitarists only play 4-string chords, usually on the first 4 strings or the middle 4 strings.
June 12, 2019 at 3:44 pm #135552
I found when I started out playing it was easier to do a half barr chord, index finger barrs the 3 strings on the 1st fret and don’t play the top E string another thing I still do is replace the F chord with an F7 chord, this is the same fingering as an open C chord only the ring and middle fingers are dropped down a string.
Experiment with hand positions and chord substitutions, but at the end of the day practise is the key.
Keep in mind that Django Rhinheart only had two usable fingers on his fretting hand and look how phenomenal his playing was..best of luck.
June 13, 2019 at 3:52 am #135562
Gosh, what a great response! Thank you all. It sounds like my choice is between aiming for Jimi Hendrix or Django Rhinheart…
You’ve given me so ideas to try. I can absolutely see it makes sense to start further down the neck, those ‘cheese cutter’ strings on the first fret do need most pressure. To be honest some of the terms are a bit advanced for me, I’m very early days still, but I’ll certainly look into everything.
June 13, 2019 at 9:20 am #135568
When you channel your Hendrix and Reinhart you will be one fine guitar player, Liz.
June 14, 2019 at 2:05 am #135602
Thank you, Charjo! It’s good to have goals!
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