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Old 03-24-2013, 01:41 PM   #1
dragnet99
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Hendrix Chord Embellishments With Smallish Hands/No Thumb over the Neck

The last week or two I've been trying to get Hendrix's various chord embellishments down (the ones that make his rhythm style so recognizable). The problem is, when playing a 6th-string root barre, every tutorial frets the low-E string with the thumb, and my hands just aren't big enough to do that (and I've spent a while trying, stretching, etc.).

Does anyone have any insight into playing with this style (or anything else that Hendrix incorporated into rhythm) for those of us who don't have his massive hands and must barre chords the traditional way?
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:08 PM   #2
ComradSputnik
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Just fret it the normal way, no big deal.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:11 PM   #3
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You may already be doing this, but realise that when you try and play the root note with your thumb, your hand will need to be in a completely different position.

When you play barre chords normally, your palm is away from the kneck and pointing towards yourself.

To be able to reach your thumb around, your palm needs to swivel so that it is facing up and right against the kneck. This way your thumb should naturally be resting on the E string.

Hope that makes sense.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:53 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nugiboy
You may already be doing this, but realise that when you try and play the root note with your thumb, your hand will need to be in a completely different position.

When you play barre chords normally, your palm is away from the kneck and pointing towards yourself.

To be able to reach your thumb around, your palm needs to swivel so that it is facing up and right against the kneck. This way your thumb should naturally be resting on the E string.

Hope that makes sense.


It does. Glad I'm not the only one who had this thought as well.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:30 PM   #5
dragnet99
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Interestingly, it might not be my hand size after all. I just tested it with my other hand and can actually hit the position quite comfortably. But my thumb was hyperextended in a snowboarding accident that left my left thumb SLIGHTLY less curl-able than my right thumb. It's almost imperceptible, but it seems to make a crucial difference with this technique. In fact, the accident was 18 years ago or so and Hendrix-style barring is literally the first time since I've ever actually been affected by it. So it's actually kinda funny how subtle the difference is, but it's there.

Anyway, whether it's hand size or an injury-related issue, it appears that I can't quite hit that position.

Is the general consensus that the techniques can work given either style of barring and I should just get on with it using the style I'm most comfortable with? Or are there any specific insights anyone has to best apply this technique to the traditional barre chord grip?

Last edited by dragnet99 : 03-24-2013 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:59 AM   #6
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I asked this question and a couple things came to light:

A) You can omit the 6th string (try muting it with the thumb instead of fretting it)
B) You can omit the 1st string if you want

So you could actually play these on only 3 strings: 4, 3, 2. Still gives you all the notes of the major triad and leaves your pinky free for embellishments.
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:21 AM   #7
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Actually, what I tend to do is strum the traditional barre (all 6 strings) with a downstroke as a major chord, then use my pinky to play the embellishments, which means that if I were to strum the chord again it'd become a dominant 7th. So while this does technically change the quality of the chord, the difference is subtle, and chances are I'm not going to strum the entire chord again anyway (I often usually just pick the string I'm hitting with the hammer-ons/pull-offs, or do a double-stop).

So in other words, if you play a 7th chord, or even switch from major to 7th for the embellishments, you can have a pinkie free even with a traditional 6-string barre grip. It takes some getting used to and I'm not exactly perfect with it yet, but the results are very encouraging so far.
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Old 03-25-2013, 06:01 AM   #8
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You can get pretty much the same sounds without the thumb over, although you might have to release the bass note occasionally. It's not a big deal to refinger things to suit your hands, it's one of the best things about the instrument.
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freepower
You can get pretty much the same sounds without the thumb over, although you might have to release the bass note occasionally.


Could you clarify that a little, in particular?
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Old 03-25-2013, 12:10 PM   #10
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Sure. Just don't hold onto the bass note any longer than necessary if you're having hand size problems.
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:49 PM   #11
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Oh I see, I thought you were referring to some specific instance/technique. In my case, since it actually might be less about hand size and more about thumb mobility due to the injury, I've actually found it's possible to do just about everything without releaseing anything other than potentially switching the major to a dominant 7th or the minor to a minor 7th. So far so good!
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:09 PM   #12
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My piano teacher in college was a diminutive japanese woman of quiet intensity. She was a very respected piano player and played technically challenging pieces and when I asked her about her technique during a lesson she looked down sadly at her small hands, "My hands aren't big enough to play Rachmaninoff," looking up with a scary smile, "But I am quick enough!" and she slapped me with blinding speed. She also couldn't pronounce the letter "L"...

But what she said stuck with me...My hands are nowhere near as big as 'ol Jimi's...but they're quick enough to get the job done

Also, have you thought of physical therapy for your thumb?
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:37 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrenkert
My piano teacher in college was a diminutive japanese woman of quiet intensity. She was a very respected piano player and played technically challenging pieces and when I asked her about her technique during a lesson she looked down sadly at her small hands, "My hands aren't big enough to play Rachmaninoff," looking up with a scary smile, "But I am quick enough!" and she slapped me with blinding speed. She also couldn't pronounce the letter "L"...

But what she said stuck with me...My hands are nowhere near as big as 'ol Jimi's...but they're quick enough to get the job done

Also, have you thought of physical therapy for your thumb?

wow! what a great story! puts things into perspective....thanks for sharing!
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Old 03-26-2013, 01:51 AM   #14
xxvenom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dragnet99
Interestingly, it might not be my hand size after all. I just tested it with my other hand and can actually hit the position quite comfortably. But my thumb was hyperextended in a snowboarding accident that left my left thumb SLIGHTLY less curl-able than my right thumb. It's almost imperceptible, but it seems to make a crucial difference with this technique. In fact, the accident was 18 years ago or so and Hendrix-style barring is literally the first time since I've ever actually been affected by it. So it's actually kinda funny how subtle the difference is, but it's there.

Anyway, whether it's hand size or an injury-related issue, it appears that I can't quite hit that position.

Is the general consensus that the techniques can work given either style of barring and I should just get on with it using the style I'm most comfortable with? Or are there any specific insights anyone has to best apply this technique to the traditional barre chord grip?


Remedy your weakness. Lack of practice.
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Old 03-27-2013, 04:18 PM   #15
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Your hands are big and strong enough for whatever you want to play before you ever touch the guitar. It takes very little energy to move a .001" thick metal string 1/16th of an inch.

But it takes a lot of practice to do it musically.

Also, I've never heard Jimi Hendrix walk a bass line, so the thumb-over technique should rarely be essential. It's mostly just a way to omit the A string from chord voicings, which you can do easily enough by muting.
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