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Old 10-27-2012, 12:26 PM   #1
Monkeyleg
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I just cannot play this barre chord

For over six months I've been learning guitar, and have learned songs, including "Brown Sugar". The barre chords in that song were a problem at first, but not any more, except for one.

The song calls for barring the B, G and D strings at the first fret while muting the high E, A and low E, for a half note. Then hold that barre and hammer on the B string 2nd fret and D string third fret for a half note. Pull off those two fingers to the barred first fret, pick the strings enough to make them ring during slide the barre up to the 3rd fret, then hit the chord with fingers on the B string 4th fret and D string 5th fret, then pull off on those two fingers after a half note.

I can do this maybe once or twice before my wrist is screaming from having to press so hard. The third fret isn't a problem, it's the first, because the strings there a so taut that it's much harder to press them.

Any suggestions?
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:42 PM   #2
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Keep practising....
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:42 PM   #3
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Those instructions were a bit too confusing for me.. I would've just preferred a tab :|
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:43 PM   #4
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Post the tabs, it's hard to understamds what you're talking about.

The obvious thing to do is to practice slowly without unnecessary pressure until you get the hang of it......
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Old 10-27-2012, 01:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeyleg
The third fret isn't a problem, it's the first, because the strings there a so taut that it's much harder to press them.

Any suggestions?


1. If you put a capo on fret 1, can you play it then? If so then your nut needs filing so the strings aren't so high at the first fret. Get it set up.
2. Check your posture, you may be trying to play with the guitar too low to suit you.
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Old 10-27-2012, 01:47 PM   #6
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You should've known that it was Barzini all along.
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:00 PM   #7
Monkeyleg
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OK, here's the tab as best as I can do a tab:



The first finger is barring fret one, then barring fret 3 after the slide, then barring fret 5. The hammer-on's and pull-off's are with the 2nd and 3rd fingers. The slide from 1 to 3 is pretty quiet, so it almost sounds like there's just five chords being played from the first barre on fret 1 to the last bar on fret 3.

I have my guitar up very high so that I don't have to bend my wrist much, if at all. For this sequence, though, I can hold the neck vertical, upside down, horizontal, it doesn't matter. Getting the strength to barre the three strings on fret 1 while doing the hammer-on is just too much.

I tried tuning the guitar down a full step to see if moving this up two frets would help, and it did slightly, although the sound is quite different.

I could play the chord on the first fret before I did a proper setup on the guitar. (I could play the chord, but on other notes and chords strings were buzzing on the frets).

You can see it done properly at the 1:54 mark on this video:

As for practicing, I've been practicing this song 2-8 times a day for over six months. I have the rest of it down, but can't do that chord.

Last edited by Monkeyleg : 10-27-2012 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:06 PM   #8
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You could use a capo, or just practice like you should.
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:16 PM   #9
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I honestly don't think you could use a capo efficiently there.

To me, it looks like you're using two positions (and switching between them in three different positions on the fretboard), simply barring the three strings and then adding the two notes above the barre chord, like so:

1 2
1 1
1 3

I'd just practice switching between these two barre chords over and over. Then just keep your left hand positions and slide up, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Also, I used to have a Don Corleone avatar too. But I got rid of it because another user had the exact same picture as their avatar, so I just became Tom Hagen.


Edit: If you're having trouble applying enough pressure for the first barre chord, then I honestly have no idea how you can play the rest of the song. I saw some barre chords much tougher that in the video (at least IMO). It could be something thats just specific to how you play or to your guitar, but then I can't really help you there.

Last edited by whywefight : 10-27-2012 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:55 PM   #10
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Thanks for the reply, whywefight. I have no problem with the rest of the song. Actually, I have no problem with barre chords in any songs I've tried, although the most difficult song I've been practicing is SRV's "Pride and Joy".

There's something about that first fret. I can't get enough pressure on the G string when I have the 2nd and 3rd fingers on the B and D strings. I have to get my thumb behind the center of the fret and push like crazy, which makes it difficult to make the B and D strings ring.

I'm trying to imagine how something in the setup of the guitar could make this more difficult.

Just a minor nit to pick: the quote from the movie is, "You're taking this very personal. Tom, this is business, and this man is taking this very, very personal."

Last edited by Monkeyleg : 10-27-2012 at 06:17 PM.
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Old 10-27-2012, 05:58 PM   #11
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Having played many, many guitars I can tell you for sure that some are ten times harder to fret barre chords than others. I think a big factor is the strings, but I honestly don't really know.
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Old 10-27-2012, 06:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeyleg
There's something about that first fret. I can't get enough pressure on the G string when I have the 2nd and 3rd fingers on the B and D strings. I have to get my thumb behind the center of the fret and push like crazy, which makes it difficult to make the B and D strings ring. .
If you're having only trouble with barre chords SPECIFICALLY at the 1st fret., the problem sometimes is that the nut grooves aren't deep enough, and are holding the strings too high above the board.

Regardless, the 1st fret is the hardest place to play a barre.

Before you launch into a big top nut filing frenzy, please take it to a pro guitar tech for a second opinion. It's too easy to screw up the operation, and the rest of the adjustments, (neck "relief", and string height), need to be done first.

Sometimes it's not easy to build up strength working at the same tension that you're going to be playing at. Try a harder guitar to play than an electric, work with that for a bit, then come back to the electric. It should seem easier (If you're already using an acoustic, sorry for suggesting that).

Quote:
Originally Posted by whywefight
Having played many, many guitars I can tell you for sure that some are ten times harder to fret barre chords than others. I think a big factor is the strings, but I honestly don't really know.
The string gauge is definitely part of the equation. But that said, you should be able to play most any barre chord at the 1st fret fairly easily, on a well set up, 6 string solid body, even with an "electric regular", (.010 to .047), string set.
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Old 10-27-2012, 06:41 PM   #13
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Thanks for the reply, Captaincranky. I've tried with my other Stratocaster. My "Brown Sugar" Stratocaster is a MIM Strat, the other is an American Standard with heavier GHS Rocker strings.

I can barre the first fret no problem. The finger is parallel to the fret. When I put my 2nd and 3rd fingers on the B and G strings, my first finger angles slightly and takes pressure off the G string. This happens no matter how far in or out from the A string I put my finger.

I guess I'll just have to work at it. Maybe I'll try some other guitars, too. This was a problem for me when I got the American Standard Strat. When I got the MIM Strat, I was happy to find that it was no longer a problem. After hearing buzzing strings and having other problems, I had to do a proper setup, and then the barre problem was back.
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Old 10-27-2012, 08:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeyleg
I can barre the first fret no problem. The finger is parallel to the fret. When I put my 2nd and 3rd fingers on the B and G strings, my first finger angles slightly and takes pressure off the G string. This happens no matter how far in or out from the A string I put my finger..
There are two potential problems here, the first one is the chord is a problem for you to stretch. Since Strats are long scale, it might behoove you to try the song on a short scale guitar, such as a Les Paul. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, "Brown Sugar" is a single coil song if I've ever heard one).

If you can play this song on one guitar, but not the other, you might drag out a set of feeler gauges and compare to two actions. Something might jump out at you.

Fret work is important, a high fret or two, can prevent you from lowering the action as much as possible. (Those buzzes you heard, might be a high fret or so). So, drop the action until you get buzz, then see if you can localize it.

If your fingers are torquing off to the side, you're compensating because the fretting force is a bit more than your native strength provides.

I suppose there's no real shame in slapping on a set of .009 to .042 "electric lights" to get you through this one torturous song. (But yeah, It'd be better if you didn't have to ).

Whenever I'm in the mood for some self flagellation and frank self appraisal, I crack out an acoustic 12 string, and try to play, "Pinball Wizard" on it.......

Last edited by Captaincranky : 10-27-2012 at 08:09 PM.
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Old 10-28-2012, 11:48 PM   #15
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Thanks for all of the suggestions. I have the B, G and D strings as low as they'll go without buzzing.

I can play the chord maybe the first time in the song, but after that things hurt from having to push so hard. I also can't move quickly to the third fret, as I have to have my thumb right under the first fret on the G string to apply enough pressure.

So, what is this "electric light" you're talking about?
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Old 10-29-2012, 12:07 AM   #16
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I think he's just talking about the lightest electric guitar strings, 9-42. I use that string gauge
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Old 10-29-2012, 12:38 AM   #17
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Thanks for the explanation. I'll try a lighter gauge string for the G and see if it makes a difference. In the meantime, I'll try doing curls with 5 lb weights using my left index finger.
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Old 10-29-2012, 07:57 PM   #18
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Just a FYI for those who've been kind enough to give advice.

I watched closely as I tried to play the chord, and saw that it was the thicker D string that was making it more difficult to press the G string all the way to the fingerboard on fret 1 when my other two fingers were on frets 2 and 3.

I played with the truss rod, giving it more curve, and wound up going the other direction to where the guitar was when I bought it. The fretboard is practically flat. I set all of the strings as low as they would go without buzzing on a fret somewhere.

With it set up like this, I can play the chord a couple of times, and come close to playing it properly a couple more times. Then my hand just won't take it any longer. But this tells me that I can exercise my fingers enough that I should be able to get it eventually.

Interestingly enough, this setup has made playing some chord changes easier, ones that I was stumbling with before. The guitar is much more playable. I guess that setting a guitar to factory spec's isn't necessarily as good as going for what works for the player, at least in this case.

Last edited by Monkeyleg : 10-29-2012 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 11-03-2012, 05:52 PM   #19
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A little late, but...

Quote:
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, "Brown Sugar" is a single coil song if I've ever heard one).


I've seen it written that Richards used his guitar, "Micawber", on the recording of Brown Sugar. That's a 1952 Telecaster with a Gibson humbucker neck pickup. I've seen a video of him about 1972 or so (judging by the way he and Mick Jagger had their hair cut) with him playing the song using a clear plastic (acrylic?) Ampeg Dan Armstrong, which looks to be more of a Gibson-style guitar. In that video he's playing the song note for note the way it was played and sounded on the album.
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Old 11-03-2012, 06:26 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monkeyleg
I've seen it written that Richards used his guitar, "Micawber", on the recording of Brown Sugar. That's a 1952 Telecaster with a Gibson humbucker neck pickup. I've seen a video of him about 1972 or so (judging by the way he and Mick Jagger had their hair cut) with him playing the song using a clear plastic (acrylic?) Ampeg Dan Armstrong, which looks to be more of a Gibson-style guitar. In that video he's playing the song note for note the way it was played and sounded on the album.


The Ampeg Dan Armstrongs actually have very easily swappable pickups, I wouldn't be in the least bit if he was using the single coil one.
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