The Woodshed

Barre Chords

26

Yep. Don't. Focus on triads instead. You'll be a better player for it.

– Strummerson

I wish someone had told me that 50 years ago.

27

I always mixed barre chords and 'thumb over' depending on what I was playing -- until about three years ago when I was knocked down by a car and had my left arm and wrist in plaster for six weeks. Since then, and despite much physio, I can no longer play barre chords -- my wrist (not helped by arthritis and general old age) just doesn't want to bend that much. Some of the things I used to play I now no longer bother about, and I do try and incorporate more 'inside chords' in what I do. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is now my guitar playing motto.

28

If you are doing an E shaped Barre:

Roll your hand and Barred forefinger outwards and let it curve a bit. Use the inside knuckle and boney part of your 2nd knuckle on the first and 2nd string, then your fingertip edge on the 6th.

You don't have to press your forefinger down on the 3, 4, 5 as they are pressed down with the chord shape .

You may have to raise the neck up a bit to bring your forearm in behind the neck, your elbow in and roll your knuckles up and out towards the headstock.

29

I learned barre chords before any other chord. Maybe it should be taught first because you can play barre chords all over the neck on the low E and A strings. Like anything else, the more you practice them the easier they will become. I like Troy6120's advice.

30

It's still Bar Chords...don't believe the internet.

31

There's a place for Bar chords and a place for triads. To say one is more important than the other is poor advice. I play Bar chords and can't imagine playing most rock or country tunes without them. Besides, a guitar has six, not three strings.

32

A Rock 'n' roller plays three chords in front of 2,000 people. A jazz player plays 2000 chords in front of 3 people.

33

It's still Bar Chords...don't believe the internet.

There's truth in that. They're the chords you need to play cover tunes in bars.

34

Smaller neck like a Fender Mustang should make it easier to wrap one's fingers around the neck and fretboard rather than a larger neck.

– ThePolecats

The scale length is the overall length of the neck. It is neither a measurement of the width of the fretboard nor the thickness of the neck. So, this still doesn't make any sense to me.

35

Not directly, Bob. (Or at least not much - though having a shorter distance to reach between notes because frets are a little closer together might help.)

But more generally, guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally scaled down in other ways as well, because at least part of the assumption is that target players for these guitars would be more at home on a generally smaller guitar. To keep everything proportional, all neck dimensions are likely to shrink a bit on shorter-scale instruments. I haven't measured, but it sure feels that way to me.

36

Not directly, Bob. (Or at least not much - though having a shorter distance to reach between notes because frets are a little closer together might help.)

But more generally, guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally scaled down in other ways as well, because at least part of the assumption is that target players for these guitars would be more at home on a generally smaller guitar. To keep everything proportional, all neck dimensions are likely to shrink a bit on shorter-scale instruments. I haven't measured, but it sure feels that way to me.

– Proteus

I accept your suggestion that all dimensions are somewhat proportionately reduced on a short scale neck. I think.

And while the suggestion that the distance from the barred fret to the furthest fingered fret is shorter is undoubtedly true, the greatest complaint that new players have about barre chords is the fact that they are unable to fully depress the strings with the barre finger. Most of the discussion in this thread has been about the "straight" finger. In my mind, the short scale length neck doesn't really do anything to make that any easier.

37

The scale length is the overall length of the neck. It is neither a measurement of the width of the fretboard nor the thickness of the neck. So, this still doesn't make any sense to me.

– Ric12string

It's been a really long time since I touched a Mustang guitar, but as recall there wasn't anything unusual about the neck cross section. However, they were short scale either 22.5 " or 24".

My memory of getting the bar chord down was with the Dano/Silvertone guitar which had a short scale. I was 13, nearly 60 years ago.

I really don't like light gage strings. But my advice to Sorefingers is to get some really light gage strings.

The trick for bar chords, is to to learn the exact pressure to hold them down just right. So, form your chord above the strings, squeeze the chord, strike the strings, release the strings. Do this over and over again until it strikes clean. Any death grip on the neck will just hurt you.

It's a Zen thing. When you get it right get some real strings.

Lee

38

Not directly, Bob. (Or at least not much - though having a shorter distance to reach between notes because frets are a little closer together might help.)

But more generally, guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally scaled down in other ways as well, because at least part of the assumption is that target players for these guitars would be more at home on a generally smaller guitar. To keep everything proportional, all neck dimensions are likely to shrink a bit on shorter-scale instruments. I haven't measured, but it sure feels that way to me.

– Proteus

Let's everyone stop and take a breath. Once again, a phrase is being used - "short scale" that hasn't been defined!!! For me, the term "short scale" is 24.6" unless specifically designated shorter and given an exact measurement.

"But more generally, guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally scaled down in other ways as well, because at least part of the assumption is that target players for these guitars would be more at home on a generally smaller guitar."

Now, if you try to apply the usual definition of short scale - 24.6" - you can't extrapolate any part of that guitar is scaled down, just because the scale isn't 25.5". My Super Chet (or 6120's as those aren't 'smaller' guitars either) with it's wider neck (the early ones), 17" wide body and 2.75" depth just happens to have the shorter scale.

I suggest if the scale isn't 24.6" or 25.5", for this discussion the actual scale length please be mentioned. No one is a mind reader and only you know what actual length your post is alluding to.

39

I came up on 12string acoustics, 90% of which were not cutaways, so for the average bear they pretty much topped out at the 12th fret.

Barre chords on those animals ain't easy, specially when you have short, stubby digits and a thumb that was physically detached (and reattached) in your early teens. Getting the combination of windings and wire to sound across the whole neck is quite a challenge, and I have never quite grown comfortable enough with it to use it - much. Howsumever,

After lo these many years, I can (and do) play quite a few barre chords when needed on an electric, but the 12string influence is strong, and triads are more my thing.

40

And just to clear up a point regarding fingerstyle playing where we fingerpickers fret with our thumb; it is categorically NOT a form of cheating in lieu of a barre chord, it's a specifically chosen form of playing chords that accomplishes what a barre chord can't necessarily provide and that's to free up the index finger for playing the melody! Chet didn't play this way because he was cheating!! He, along with Merle, lead the parade of how fretting with your thumb is a superior style of play for fingerstyle playing in that it provides options for the left hand for fingering that using barre chords doesn't always allow.

A good example of using your thumb to chord that a full barre chord can't accomplish, is moving [in the first position] from an F - thumb on the 6th string 1st fret, to a C chord. You play a B7 as a transition chord between them and to do this you slide your thumb up to the second fret - index half barre on the 1st fret - and then play the C chord with a choice of playing either the 3rd finger on the 6th string 3rd fret to complete the bassline run or on the 5th string 3rd fret. A full barre for the F won't let you do this.

I play with barre chords and thumb fretting, depending on which style gives me the positioning I need at that moment. I have normal size hands so this isn't a style of play reserved for folks with big hands. I could make great use of my pinky being another 1/4" longer though. My secret to making thumb fretting easy is to replace the nut, leave the position of the first string groove the same but moving the even string spacing closer to the outer edge of the fretboard so I don't have to rotate my wrist to grab the 6th string

41

Fair point about definition of “short scale,” Dave. I guess for the purposes of this conversation, I consider anything from 24.5 to 25.5 to be “normal,” since that encompasses about 96% of all electric guitars in this quadrant of the galaxy. (I personally counted ALL of them.) And you say true: there’s no scale-related difference in other body or neck metrics amongst this writhing mass.

But in other conversations, indeed, we could and often do say “short-scale” when referring to 24.x scale, and “long-scale” to refer to 25.5. (That leaves PRS’s neither fish-nor-fowl 25” scale out in the cold, flopping around and gasping for air, as is only right.)

So, indeed, one should not be expected to read my mind.

In THIS conversation about scale length as it affects playability in general - and barrability in particular, I had in mind guitars with scales under 24”, particularly student and other overall-smaller guitars.

42

Not sure how long You have been playing the guitar?

I remember many, many years ago struggling to find just the right place for my fingers on the fretboard.

I honestly don’t remember when it happened it but there comes a time when it just all comes together.

I will say just keep plugging away at it.

I can honestly play any bar chord in my sleep now, but that wasn't the case when I started. Just keep at it. There is no magic technique other than practice and muscle memory.

– Hipbone

This is it! Hipbone is right! Has your guitar been set up? When i began taking lessons, my teacher had me set up the guitar. And, yes,Troy6120 is right! I played all the Ramones I could get my ears on.

43

I had a capo grafted to my index finger. Ruined my piano playing and rock climbing, but well worth it.

44

I can think of lots of other sensitive activities that require fine motor skills from one's left index finger that such an operation would complicate.

45

the thing that makes barres easier on short-scale guitars is the lower string tension from the shorter string length. my 22.5" Duo Sonic is the easiest electric i've played since a Mustang back in the 1970s. 10s feel like 9s or 8.5s, and i can bend off the edge of the fingerboard like Albert King.

46

the thing that makes barres easier on short-scale guitars is the lower string tension from the shorter string length.

Yes! Stupid of me (and the rest of us, I guess) to overlook that. Absolutely. And in that sense, a 24.x guitar would differ from a 25.5.

Thanks for straightening us out...

47

the thing that makes barres easier on short-scale guitars is the lower string tension from the shorter string length. -- macphisto

Indeed, this makes great sense.

48

It can be horribly limiting to focus too much on bar/barre/barré chords, but some songs only sound right with 'em. So yes, learn many voicings, many positions, but get bar chords (like Billy, I prefer that spelling) down too.

Stop, freeze, pose, whatever you want to call it, when you have difficulty; breathe, relax, and analyze the mechanics of what you're doing. Use the minimum amount of tension the task requires, be patient, and don't develop bad habits. That does often involve using the weight of your fretting arm. The Principles of Correct Practice for The Guitar by Jamie Andrea is a GREAT resource for guitar technique. There isn't a single musical example in the book, but it will make you a better player. It's very much worth checking out.

49

My own $.005 (my opinion ain’t worth 2 cents yet) is that, technique aside:

Both of my Mod Shop Fenders came with high frets and 9’s on them. On those two, I actually have to concentrate on not squeezing as much as usual in order to avoid some strings going sharp using bar (as opposed to arena or studio. See what I did there?) chords. Had to force myself to relax more.

So high frets and light strings ease the exertion, I’ve noticed.

50

Man, you guys sure whine a lot....


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