You know – I just always bar everything when I do bar chords. I don't really know why. I think I've picked up a lot of bad habits over the years. I'll give it a try and let you know how it feels NOT pressing down as hard as I can, lol. Granted – I do want the high E (string) to play..... So I think that's part of the thought process.
So this is...left hand related. There's a song I've been playing...probably since I was, like 16. But I've never really found a comfortable way to switch between two of the chords. At one point it happens pretty quickly. For some reason my mind never had the thought of barring with more than one finger, but I think that's what I need to do?
It's going between a B and C#m. So from (picture) to (picture). Should/could I be playing the B differently to make it smoother to switch between the two? How would you play it?
Edit: It goes back and forth between the two a few times.
I don't know if this is relevant, but do you notice that your index finger is all the way up on your sixht string? Maybe if you place your index on your bass notes (b and c# instead of f# and g#), the strecht becomes easier? Maybe this is wrong, but it's a suggestion :)
I think Torgeir’s advice here is good. The less work your first finger has to do, the better. Because you’re fretting strings 4, 3 and 2 with your other fingers, you only need to actually bar strings 1 and 5, which is much easier than pressing down all 5 strings. Because your finger is curved, this is actually much easier than feeling like you need to press down on all 5 strings. You can use the tip of your index finger to gently mute the 6th string. This should relieve the amount of work (read: tension) required of your first finger and should make the change much easier.
Also, for what it’s worth, I almost never play the first string when I’ll playing those particular chord shapes unless for some reason I feel like those notes have an important voice leading or melodic function. I’ll tend to play strings 5, 4, 3 and 2 and use the underside of my fingers to mute the first string. This can *really* make the physicality of playing those chords much easier.
Let me know if those suggestions help!
So last time I looked at this song and lesson series there was a part I just literally couldn't reach. Now...coincidentally I happened upon a guitar that was a smaller scale length (24.75”) and fell completely in love and ended up buying it after convincing myself it was worth the price tag (it was). And magically.....I could physically play this whole song. And everything just felt more comfortable for me.
So.....that's an expensive solution to reaching more notes and having certain hand positions work -- but I was wondering if you had some good exercises that you know of or like to do that help with stretching, strenghthening, and all that sort of stuff. So -- this includes exercises on the guitar -- and also things you might do away from your instrument that can help improve your playing and comfort in the long run. Primarily hands, fingers, and wrists -- but if you have any other things you find have been helpful (shoulders, neck, anything else that needs care when you're playing a lot -- or even posture tips to help avoid pain) -- I'd love to hear any suggestions you have -- things that you do on a regular basis or know you should probably remember to do more.
Thanks so much -- again I appreciate it!
Hi Sarah, congrats on your new guitar! It's such an exciting feeling to find an instrument that unlocks things and makes you want to play!
To answer your question, I don't have specific exercises and stretches that I do consistently. But I do think that it's important to warm up by playing things that are relatively "low stress" for the first 15 or 20 minutes after you pick up the instrument. I've gotten into trouble by diving into technical things immediately, and then I have to take a day or two off to let my hands recover. That said, there are lots of "guitar stretching" videos on youtube. I think that a lot of them go a bit overboard, but you may find that they help.
I think the most important thing in this discussion though is hand and thumb position. You can drastically increase your reach and your strength by simply having your thumb on the middle of the back of the neck. Would you mind making a video of the spot in Butter and Eggs where you were having trouble? It's possible that a tweak of hand position could allow you to play it on any guitar.
Hi again. Another question about this -- I still haven't tried Nickel Bronze on my guitar -- but I've tried them on my mandolin.
Over the past year I've gotten a much better understanding of what I like and where I hear imperfections in sound and what I'm looking for. I still don't necessarily know HOW to achieve that -- but I'm staring to get a real sense of what I'm looking for.
So -- I acutually DON'T like them on my mandolin. They seem to sound.......too dead? Is it possible that they're enhancing the flaws in my instrument? I have a Loar LM-400 -- so it's a WONDERFUL starter instrument that I'm hoping to be happy with for the next 10 years. I already have a luthier in mind to get one in....2028....but until then.....
So I guess there are a lot of possibities -- either I just don't like the strings, the strings are enhancing flaws in my instrument, or my mandolin just needs a full workup by a good luthier (including a new bridge).
Um...I guess I don't really have a SPECIFIC question -- just if you have time any input and thoughts on the matter.
I'll still give them a shot on one of my guitars.....or maybe I'll try them on all of my guitars just to see the difference. This kind of stuff fascinates me so I'm excited to keep exploring all of my options.
Thanks for your time! I appreciate it! :)
I love working on this song! In the same vein of things -- the song "Gardens" that Julian does on "World's Fair" is incredible -- is that something we could potentially work on?
I second this 100%
Now look what you've made me go and do....
Haha -- no really though, thanks for the recommendation. They're on deck for the next string change. I'll let you know what I think!
And actually -- an additional question if that's all right. What is the main reason that flatpicking is the style for bluegrass? Is it mostly just volume? I'd been doing a lot more fingerstyle lately -- being in a folk-y groove a lot of the time. I almost do need to retrain myself to flatpick -- so these lessons have been good. But yeah -- is there any other...history, reason, etc. for flatpicking being the real go-to for bluegrass and that sort of thing? Are there any bluegrass guitar players who DON'T use picks? Or even...I guess use finger picks, or just fingers/nails?
I'm guessing you, personally, got into this style from the people you were into growing up, like Tony Rice and other greats. But I guess...I might even be asking where flatpicking started, like, originally. Where did it really come from in the tradition of guitar playing and bluegrass specifically?
Ok, cool -- I think that's it for now. Thanks for your time! :)
I just started going through the fundamental lessons on the site. I don't know if you talk about this later in any of your lesson series, but I was curious about strings. I've been trying to dabble in different types & gauges to get an idea of what I like and really how it affects sound and playability for me. I was just wondering what strings you tend to use -- and do you use the same type of strings for most of your playing -- or do you change depending on the project/style?
Hi Sarah, welcome! It's timely that you should ask about strings because I am newly enthused about a particular string. I recently tried D'addario Nickel Bronze and I absolutely LOVE them. Seriously. So much so that I subequently sought out an endorsement from D'addario last month after having been fairly ambivalent for the last several years about which strings I used. To my ear they have plenty of life, but they have less "artificial" overtones than phospher bronze or brass strings. The result is you wind up hearing more of the fundamental of the note/more of the guitar and less of the string.
I've never gotten into making up my own custom string guages - I just use mediums if I'm playing a drednaught and lights if I'm playing anything else.
All of this said, some guitars still might favor certain strings over other ones so you really should try different things. But I am truly psyched about the D'addario Nickel Bronze and have loved them for the same reason on every guitar I've tried them on so far. Martin makes the Tony Rice strings which are similar which might be worth checking out as well.
Thanks Sarah and Chris for this interesting point on strings. I will follow you and buy D'addario Nickel Bronze strings, but I hesitate to cross the step to the Medium gauge from light one. I saw the phosphore bronze "light top / med bottom" strings named "Bluegrass strings". There are also Nikel Bronze "light top / med bottom" strings. What are the pros and cons of that king of mixed gauge ? Why do they name these "light top / med bottom" phosphore bronze strings "bluegrass strings" ? Is this special gauge better for bluegrass ? Many thanks for your insights (and sorry for my poor english level, I'm french... ^^ )
Hi Sarah, yes, please let me know what you think! As you can tell, I really like them.
The reason that people in bluegrass use some sort of pick (Lester Flatt played rhythm guitar with a thumb pick) is simple: volume. The guitar is *by far* the quietest instrument in a bluegrass ensemble of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and bass (and dobro). You simply can't compete volume-wise with those other instruments if you are just using your nails/fingerpicking if you're playing bluegrass in any traditional sense. Now, if bluegrass is just a stylistic jumping off point and you are playing with sensitive players then you might be able to hear fingerpicked guitar. But the guitar will naturally be putting out maybe 25% of the volume as a banjo. So that's really it. There were times in Flatt and Scruggs' music when Earl would set down the banjo and pick up the guitar still playing in his 3 finger style. This was usually (but not always) for gospel songs. He was using finger picks and it sounds killer! Check out the song God Loves His Children for a good example of this.
Re the pioneers of flatpicking solos in a bluegrass or fiddle tune context: Doc Watson was the first of noteriety, with Clarence White a few years later. But Don Reno and George Shuffler (crosspicking innovator with the Stanley Brothers) were also there in the beginning.
Hi Remy, the main reason to choose your own string guages has to do with feel and the tonal balance of an individual instrument. It's very personal really. If you feel comfortable using lights then stick with lights. I prefer a medium guage string on a drednaught because I can lean into the guitar more on rhythm. "Bluegrass Guage" is just a marketing term - just a way to sell more strings. I don't think I actually know anyone who uses them. That said, if they feel better to you then by all means use them!
Hey Sarah, thanks for sharing your experience! I think there are a couple of things to mention here:
1) Personal preferences vary, and that's a good thing! I think it's great that you're refining the idea of the sound that you want to hear. Whatever you're into, stick with that. There's absolutely no right or wrong here because liking a either bright or dark sound is like liking either sorbet or ice cream. It may just be that I tend to like a string with less overtones.
2) Different instruments like different things. Whenever I get a new instrument I try different strings on them. At this point, because I know that I tend to like what the Nickel Bronze strings do, I'll try them first, but the particular timbre of a particular guitar might work better with a set of Phosphor Bronze, or even 80/20 strings. Norman Blake takes this to a whole other level: every time he gets a new guitar he goes string by string trying out different string guages on each string to see what the guitar likes best. But the reason a person would have more that one instrument would be so that they could get a different sound. We don't want all of our guitars to sound the same. Your string choice is part of that sound.
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