Hello all,

I've picked up my guitar for the first time in years and have been playing a lot over the last month (typically 2+ hours a day) and I decided I wanted to tackle Stairway to Heaven.

I was never big on finger picking or barre chords in the past, so I'm finding I do get a fair amount of discomfort and fatigue in my left hand (right handed guitar) when I'm playing and it happens rather quickly. I did some reading and found a nice article on proper posture and form, and most importantly to keep your body relaxed and not to tense up while playing.

In addition to that, I bought one of those D'Addario hand exercisers where you can adjust the tension for each finger and I use that frequently throughout the day.

Is it normal to be getting so much discomfort when I'm only getting through the first 6 or 8 notes of the song? Are there any exercises I can do to help alleviate this discomfort? (I do stretch my left hand before playing, holding my left arm out straight, palm out, and pressing my finger tips back to stretch out my forearm/wrist).

How long did it take you to be able to get through a good chunk of a song before having to stop from discomfort?

I hardly have any discomfort finger picking regular chord progressions (E, Am, D, C, G, B7) for example is a different song I'm learning and I'm able change chords and finger pick at a moderate pace without any discomfort for up to several minutes.

I'm playing on an acoustic, if that makes a difference to anyone.

Ovation Celebrity
Martin Custom D Classic
Schecter C-1 Artist Limited Edition
Epiphone SG G-400

Line 6 Spyder II
The only bit I can think of which would tire you is the beginning chord (Am I think). But which part of your hand is tiring you? The fingers? Wrist? Or just your whole hand in general?
It's most probably giving you discomfort since you are not used to that kind of playing/technique. Try to play it for a matter of days and see if it gets easier for you. If not, there's something wrong with how you place your left hand in my opinion. Good luck!
Quote by Skizz_oV
....[ ]....I'm playing on an acoustic, if that makes a difference to anyone....[ ]...
Strangely enough, it makes quite a bit of difference.

First, there's the issue of your age and hormonal structure. Different people build muscle tissue at different rates. Let's ignore that though, at least for the time being

"Stairway" is not terribly demanding from a fatigue standpoint. 80% of the song is simple open chords, which are not tiring to play for extended periods. Only the outro is constructed with a barre chord progression, (Am, G, F, rinse & repeat).

I would say though, if you just practice bits and pieces of songs, instead of actually performing a few them all the way through, you won't build stamina quickly, if at all.

A make and model of your guitar, and the gauge of the string set on it would have been helpful.

So, my initial impression is that the problem is with the guitar. Acoustics are more likely to have "high actions" than electrics. They also have a bunch more string tension. (About 100 Lbs for "electric regular", .010 to .047, as opposed to about 165 Lbs tension for an, "acoustic light" set, .012 to .053).

If the E-6 string on your guitar is more than 1/8" @ the 12th fret, that's the problem.

That's measuring from the top of the 12th fret, to the bottom, (underside) of the E'6.

Ideally, the action should be closer to 3/32" of an inch!

Here's a very detailed setup tutorial: http://thbecker.net/guitar_playing/guitars_and_setup/setup_page_01.html

So, investigate the setup situation, or take the guitar to the music store and let a tech check it out.

You can, in addition to having the guitar setup, change the string set to "custom light", (.011 to .053) for a bit of additional relief.

I wouldn't go lighter than that though, as acoustics with extra light strings start to sound tinny and lack bass, particularly dreadnoughts & jumbos.

Once everything's OK with the guitar, then we can try protein shakes, but only as a last resort...!
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 31, 2014,
Along with what cap'n said, if you're just now starting to play again, you are probably not used to the tension and strain chords can put on your hand. Try moving your hand in different positions (from being nearly over top or nearly parallel) while still holding the same chords, and see if that alleviates any stress. The position of your thumb can make a difference. Hopefully you'll get used to it soon and you don't have arthritis or something like that D:
Thanks everyone for the responses - As far as where the discomfort is, I would describe it as my entire hand has discomfort, meaning it feels tense/tight and even a little bit cramp-y feeling.

The guitar I'm playing is a Martin Custom D Classic - I don't have anything to measure the action, but I know the action is much lower compared to the Ovation that I've had for years.

I know I don't have any type of arthritic problems, so it sounds like it's a matter of getting used using my left hand in a way it's never really been used. I thought this was likely the case, it just seemed strange to me that after only playing a few notes that I start to feel discomfort.

I'll keep at it for a few weeks and see if I can build up my hand strength and hopefully that will alleviate the discomfort. If it doesn't, I'll have to delve deeper into this problem and I'll check back with everybody and try to determine if I'm having a bigger problem than simply "getting used to it".

Thanks everyone =)
Ovation Celebrity
Martin Custom D Classic
Schecter C-1 Artist Limited Edition
Epiphone SG G-400

Line 6 Spyder II
Skizz, are you playing full barre chords for the intro? When I was learning it I found barring just from the D up (wahey) really helped relax my hand. I don't know, practice will probably help, just do what works for you
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