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How long can you hold a barre chord?   You are logged in as Guest
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Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

How long can you hold a barre chord? 

Say you are holding a Minera G# chord with a barre on the first fret, and continue playing with different notes and chords all within that chord shape, without releasing the barre. I want to play a longer section but can only go about 30 seconds before my hand is dead...

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 21:17:00
 
FredGuitarraOle

Posts: 897
Joined: Dec. 6 2012
From: Lisboa, Portugal

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

That's normal Andy, but maybe you are also tensing up the left hand more than needed. I'm learning to accompany Fado and sometimes you have to play only barre chords for 3 or 4 minutes straight. After less than a minute I'm already dead and I really have to focus on applying the minimum amount of pressure so that the chords sound clean.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 21:41:16
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 1098
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

(1) Thumb location is not optimal?

(2) A book I'm reading these days says: "Don't regard the thumb as a device for clamping. Always apply the minimum pressure necessary. Excessive force will only tire the hand and cause tension"
I second that.

(3) In this video at 5:00 onwards he says that 40% of pressure to the string must come from the muscles of the forearm and biceps. Another 40% comes from the weight of the left arm. Only 20% from the thumb. I recommend you watch the whole video. Really helpful stuff.



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 22:04:08
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to FredGuitarraOle

quote:

That's normal Andy, but maybe you are also tensing up the left hand more than needed. I'm learning to accompany Fado and sometimes you have to play only barre chords for 3 or 4 minutes straight. After less than a minute I'm already dead and I really have to focus on applying the minimum amount of pressure so that the chords sound clean.


That is possible. When I used to accompany baile I got pretty strong at playing long barre chord sections, as long as I was changing chords. Holding one chord for an extended period of time makes my hand feel almost useless for a few seconds after I let go of it but I guess that's normal. It really becomes an issue when practicing because I can hold it the first time for longer, then I get progressively worse and worse.

Really I just wanted a hear a pro like Grisha or Ricardo say something like "oh, 3 minutes easy, then I can go right into a fast picado run...but why would I want to?" lol
Javier Conde has an insane left hand when it comes to barre chords.

devilhand, thanks I will check that out. It is my thumb where I feel it mostly.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 23:02:29
 
Mark2

Posts: 1689
Joined: Jul. 12 2004
From: San Francisco

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I had a rumba group with no bass player so I filled up the harmony with big bar chords on some tunes. Sometimes my hand would go numb. Same with playing in classes. This one teacher would open her class with ten minutes of spb. Sometimes with cold hands that was tough. I played for her for three hours straight regularly. Once one of the girls said I don’t know how you can sit there for three hours. I said I don’t know how you can jump around for three hours. But I think you get used to what you force yourself to do. Antonio Rey said he does two hours of technique every day. Two hours and I’m pretty much done for the day and he’s just getting started.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 23:15:06
 
Auda

 

Posts: 217
Joined: Sep. 28 2019
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

It is my thumb where I feel it mostly.


At times I will practice extensively, barre or not, without using my thumb in an effort to keep the thumb light as much as I can. Might give it a go but you have to rely on the bicep.

Cheers
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 19 2020 23:59:26
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3194
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Culpepper
It is my thumb where I feel it mostly.


So, lighten up on the thumb. Experiment to find the minimum pressure needed to fret the barre, using only the weight of the arm, arm muscles if needed, keeping the thumb off the back of the neck.

Once you know how much pressure is actually needed, work on only using that much. Use the thumb more as a positioning anchor, not part of a clamp.

If you don't need all six strings all the time, fugure out how to direct the barre finger pressure only to the strings being played.

If you use the thumb to clamp constantly, eventually your hand will get too tired to play, so relax the thumb at least once in a while, and just use the force of the arm for a bit. You don't need to lift the thumb off the neck, just give it a break for a second or two once in a while.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 2:11:06
 
flyeogh

Posts: 729
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RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

If you don't need all six strings all the time, figure out how to direct the barre finger pressure only to the strings being played


Richard that was the biggest breakthrough in guitar playing I've ever had. And it isn't really a 100% physical thing - it is more a mind driven process. Overnight (well almost) my full barre playing went from cr*p to easy-pizzy. No longer are barre chords even a thought. Before as they moved nearer I'd get all tense and the thumb would grip like a vice

The longest things I play only last 4 minutes max and never noticed Andy's problem.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 7:53:46
 
Andy Culpepper

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Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Thanks for the advice everyone, much appreciated.

flyeogh, you mean 4 minutes in the same barre chord?? I don't have a problem when moving or changing barre chords throughout a piece.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 13:52:37
 
flyeogh

Posts: 729
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RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

flyeogh, you mean 4 minutes in the same barre chord?? I don't have a problem when moving or changing barre chords throughout a piece.


Andy no for sure. The longest I'm in a semi-fixed position is Simon and Garfunkel's America, There's a bit of F, F7 and Fsus4 and I repeat it trying to get it right. But a minute or so at the most. But it is more my ring and pinkie with arthritis that suffer.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 14:48:19
 
Neil

 

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RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

When it comes to barre chords I find that the most important thing is having the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers in exactly the right place with only the very tips pushing directly down on the strings and as lightly as needed to make a clear sound. Getting this right eases the burden and tension on the 1st finger and the thumb. I think it is much more about technique than strength with barres.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 15:54:34
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

This is the very first of exercise I have started total beginners with.
Barre without thumb (by pull of arm). Figuring out the least of force needed.

Preventing them from falling into cramping habit in the the way I used to.
-

PdL once said something to the extend of: "We don´t press down the strings anymore, only just touching the string lightly with the fingertip."
- At best same with the finger at barre.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 16:42:05
 
Ricardo

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From: Washington DC

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Oh, 3 minutes easy, then I can go right into a fast picado run...but why would I want to?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 16:59:49
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Ricardo

quote:

Oh, 3 minutes easy, then I can go right into a fast picado run...but why would I want to?




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Andy Culpepper, luthier
http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 22:59:33
 
JasonM

Posts: 1776
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Neil

You can conserve your strength by not always applying full pressure across all 6 strings of you don’t have too.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 20 2020 23:44:12
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3194
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Neil

quote:

ORIGINAL: Neil

When it comes to barre chords I find that the most important thing is having the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers in exactly the right place with only the very tips pushing directly down on the strings and as lightly as needed to make a clear sound. Getting this right eases the burden and tension on the 1st finger and the thumb. I think it is much more about technique than strength with barres.


There are muscles that flex a finger, and there are different muscles that move it from side to side. For me it's important that the barre finger be powered almost exclusively by the flexors. The side-to-side muscles tire much quicker when used to supply force for the barre.

Presenting the hand to the fingerboard to use the flexors also puts 2, 3, and 4 in the position Neil describes.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 21 2020 6:30:35
 
devilhand

 

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Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

For me it's important that the barre finger be powered almost exclusively by the flexors.

How about 40-40-20 rule I mentioned above? 40% of the pressure should come from the weight of the left arm. Another 40% from the flexor muscles in the forearm and bicep. Otherwise, the thumb and barre finger will get tired quickly.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 21 2020 16:32:03
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3194
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to devilhand

Something else to think about. Measured from the inside of the big knuckle joint the "effective" length of my left index finger is 83 mm. By "effective" I mean to omit the part of the tip that curves upward enough not to contact the fingerboard in a partial barre.

My guitar with the widest nut measures 54 mm. The neck widens out a bit, but for any full barre up to the 12th fret, the length of the finger in contact with the strings is a lot shorter than the finger itself.

Finally getting to the point, put the inside of the big knuckle joint against the treble side of the fingerboard. Otherwise you need more force than necessary from the flexors, due to the leverage of the tendon/joint geometry.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 0:52:29
 
Andy Culpepper

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From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

The difficulty of a barre depends entirely on what the other fingers are doing. I think most of us can whack out simple bar chords all day long if you're just holding chord shapes, but if 4,3 and 2 are flying around playing scales and whatnot it starts to put 1 and its friend the thumb to the test

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 1:18:51
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Here is a little exercise I came up with years ago. It has a nice mix of different tortures - arpegio to picado switching and barre chords with little scale runs played over them. I think if we ever do another Foro challenge I would nominate this exercise, to be played continuously at 100 bpm, see who can repeat it the greatest number of times. If you think your thumb and index are invincible this may challenge that notion To this day I can barely play it cleanly, though I can't say I have touched it much in the last few years.



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http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 2:37:59
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 3194
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Here's something you might try.

Move your left hand up, so that the first point of contact of 1 is at the inside of the big knuckle joint. That means that a lot of the tip of 1 will stick up above the top side of the fingerboard.

Make sure that 1 is energized only by its flexor muscles, not the side-to-side muscles--to the extent possible. This brings the palm pretty much parallel to the plane of the fretboard.

2 will need to bend a little more, but you ought to be able to make it work. 4 won't have to reach nearly as far. Watch yourself in the mirror and put some curve into 4. Since the strongest flexor tendon connects between the big and little knuckle joints, effectively shortening 4 by putting some curvature into it significantly reduces the muscle force required to operate the pinky as a lever.

Holding the guitar to make the neck stick up higher will relieve some of the twist on your left wrist.

Experiment with left hand position to reduce tension. Seems like there's quite a bit of tension.

This is just the way I try to make it work for myself. Each person's hand has its own mechanism to some extent, but the anatomy is pretty much the same for everyone.

When I was your age I just blasted away without much thought to left hand technique. When I started back trying to play almost ten years ago, 3 and 4 were so numb they wouldn't even go to the right string. Probably pinched nerves from a bone spur that developed over the years from an old motorcycle wreck.

Somehow the bone spur resolved on its own 12 or 14 years ago, because I stopped having shooting pains in the neck, but the fingers were still numb.

To my surprise, the fingers started to work better when I started trying to play again. But I had to analyze pretty carefully what I was doing, because they were weak. I'd say 3 and 4 are back to about 95%, maybe a little more. I doubt that I will ever be as fast as I was when I was your age, but i can play now, and I've learned something in the process.

One of the main things is to work toward hand positions that are inherently stable, and which don't require continual strong effort to maintain.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 8:52:36
 
flyeogh

Posts: 729
Joined: Oct. 13 2004
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

most of us can whack out simple bar chords all day long


I did a few tests and even just playing arpeggio (pami) with simple full 1st fret barre chords. I started to hit index finger pain after 90 seconds (less so the thumb). I tried the same with moving between barre chords on different frets but much the same result.

Guess I'm wimp level

quote:

Richard: One of the main things is to work toward hand positions that are inherently stable, and which don't require continual strong effort to maintain.

Thanks Richard makes sense. When my hand has recovered I'll give your suggestions a try. As you say good left hand position, which for me came when I started using a guitar support, makes a world of difference - well possibly moved me from 30 seconds to 90 seconds

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 10:07:27
 
mrstwinkle

 

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RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I find that force holding a full barre very tiring especially if I consciously doing it. If I know a piece well, I'm shifting the weighted part of the barre I'm holding depending what I'n doing with my right hand.

Good trick I learned is to not put the thumb behind the neck at all while learnign a new piece which is barre heavy. Forced relaxation.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 11:33:43
 
Andy Culpepper

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Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Richard, thanks for the advice.

It is a thing of beauty when you see someone playing difficult material in a fully relaxed and competent way. It speaks to thousands of hours of *effective* practice where no detail of technique or hand and body position is overlooked. Ideally every bit of tension has been systematically eliminated.

I think in my case I'm just bad and out of practice, and probably never really practiced the right way anyway. But, you can always make improvements at any age or level of free time for practice.

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 13:41:08
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Nigel, I tried the same thing as you and got about the same results. I tried to use all the techniques suggested above and it did seem to help, but of course you still hit a wall and get tired at some point. I guess you actually need to do this thing called "practice" - who knew?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2020 17:46:05
 
mark indigo

 

Posts: 3324
Joined: Dec. 5 2007
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

I think if we ever do another Foro challenge I would nominate this exercise, to be played continuously at 100 bpm, see who can repeat it the greatest number of times.


Thanks for posting this, I think you posted it before a while ago, but I didn't have a go at it then.

There's a breather from barre at the end of the 1st and start of the 2nd compas, and the 3rd compas a longer rest, so as far as barre is concerned it's not super difficult (for me at least). I did about 15 minutes continuous practise on it yesterday after learning it from the video. Getting it clean and clean up to speed is something else though!

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 24 2020 19:36:33
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

Mark, I'm glad you're taking a stab at it! Yeah, the last compás gives you a nice rest from the barre.

Here's a slightly slower version I recorded before for anyone else who's trying to learn it. It might have a couple of different notes but no worries:



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Andy Culpepper, luthier
http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 25 2020 1:56:13
 
devilhand

 

Posts: 1098
Joined: Oct. 15 2019
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Culpepper

Mark, I'm glad you're taking a stab at it! Yeah, the last compás gives you a nice rest from the barre.

Here's a slightly slower version I recorded before for anyone else who's trying to learn it. It might have a couple of different notes but no worries:



What I noticed is your hand and barre finger (index finger) move in a clockwise manner (from the player's perspective) when you play 1st or 2nd strings with your m and a fingers and pinky, for example at 0:05, 0:07 and 0:09. Should the hand or barre finger be kept motionless?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 25 2020 12:02:50
 
Andy Culpepper

Posts: 2955
Joined: Mar. 30 2009
From: NY, USA

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to devilhand

quote:

What I noticed is your hand and barre finger (index finger) move in a clockwise manner (from the player's perspective) when you play 1st or 2nd strings with your m and a fingers and pinky, for example at 0:05, 0:07 and 0:09. Should the hand or barre finger be kept motionless?


I'm not sure, but playing the run on the first string with the barre finger steady might actually lead to more tension. The other option is to just release the barre for those bits but it doesn't seem as efficient.

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http://www.andyculpepper.com
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 25 2020 16:51:01
 
Auda

 

Posts: 217
Joined: Sep. 28 2019
 

RE: How long can you hold a barre chord? (in reply to Andy Culpepper

I'm a bit jealous of your left hand pinky finger and the ability to bend it at the last joint. That is a nice feature to have to clear the other strings!

Cheers
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 25 2020 17:01:33
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