#1
I got a gig for a local theater production of Man of La Mancha. Rehearsals start next sunday and I'm not prepared. For the most part, knowing what notes to play isn't terrible (I still get stumped on some of the 6/9 chords and the occasional 13th), but my issues are:

-Grabbing the chords easily
-Endurance

Grabbing the chords easier is going to come down to practice, but I can barely make it through one song before I need to rest because my left hand is just exhausted. I don't want to loosen my grip because the chords end up getting muffled, but there's no way I'll be able to finish a show if I need to stop midway through every song to "catch my breath"

Advice?
#2
i used to have this problem for over 2 decades. nowadays i have my action set lower (that doesn't mean use the truss rod - it means adjust the nut and saddle) and use slightly lower strings, and barre chords are no longer an issue.

that's assuming that the neck of the guitar is a decent fit for you as far as nut width (i still struggle with barre chords on necks that are narrow or really wide - over 2") or with a profile that isn't comfortable - for me, a D or most V necks can mean my hand/arm fatigues sooner.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#3
^^^ yes, plus make show the nut slots are low enough. - A high nut can cause major problems on the two lowest frets.

There tends to be a bit of confusion over truss rods. When setting up a new guitar, the first thing to do is get the neck relief (truss rod) right, then attend to all the other stuff - fret height, nut height, fret level etc. However, if the action of a well-set0-up electric guitar (different for acoustics) has deteriorated, then it is probably the neck relief that has changed. If this the case, then the correct fix is a truss rod adjustment.
Last edited by Tony Done at May 29, 2016,
#4
Well, barre chords destroy everybody's hands, what makes you think you're destined to be special?

With that out of my system, there are a few things you can do.

First, make sure your guitar is setup as "LAPWOB". Second, use lighter strings. (If you're already on .010 to .047 "acoustic extra lights, we in a heap o' trouble boss).

"Grabbing chords in a hurry", is a simple function of practice. To be able to play a chord quickly, requires "trial by ordeal", in the form of an advanced "Alfred's Method Chord Primer", or whatever they're calling those those nowadays..

The same as with every other skill, if you don't regularly use 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, or 13th chords, you lose them.

(I know 6 cowboy chords and I'm content with that, but I don't play out either).

You you the sole musician in this extravaganza? If not, you don't have to play every chord as a barre chord. Let the guy with the trumpet or piano play the 7th, or 3rd or whatever. The entire orchestra makes up the chord, it isn't incumbent on you alone.

The guitar isn't really tuned to accommodate flat keys. Just consider the string names, which are all sharp keys.

Stylistically, it would depend on the song you're playing, but if I saw Ab as a key signature, the capo would come out immediately!

As an example of this, take the time to watch these two video tutorials of Badfinger's,
"Baby Blue". First the electric version, where even the teacher is bitching about the strange barre voices killing his hands:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeB1aEXDM_w

Then the acoustic, or what he lovingly calls, "the campfire version":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX634rg5Ia8

I arranged the song, (virtually the same way), for the acoustic 12 string a couple of decades ago. The capoed version plays very smoothly, with tons of open strings ringing. It's the only way to synthesize the overall feeling of the song, and leave with your tendons intact...

I don't know how familiar you are with setup procedures for the acoustic, but here's a great tutorial on the topic: http://thbecker.net/guitar_playing/guitars_and_setup/setup_page_01.html
#5
Yeah a capo can reduce the number of bar chords and sometimes open chord voicings can be substituted and still sound good. For instance Fmaj7/C bass usually can be used in place of an F with satisfactory results. I recently learned David Bowie's Starman and I love playing it with mostly bar chords but my thumb/hand start killing me about half-way through so I substitute the open chords and it still sounds good.
#6
Quote by hotrodney71
...[ ]....I recently learned David Bowie's Starman and I love playing it with mostly bar chords but my thumb/hand start killing me about half-way through so I substitute the open chords and it still sounds good....[ ]....
You know, Bowie at the time, was playing an acoustic 12 string almost exclusively. I kind of doubt he was using anything much other than open chords anyway.

For barre chords based in the E open shape, you can also use the thumb over the neck grip. That has a different angle of grip, and hence doesn't tire muscles as would repetitively using the same plane of motion with the classic barre chord grip.
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 30, 2016,
#7
Quote by Captaincranky
You know, Bowie at the time, was playing an acoustic 12 string almost exclusively. I kind of doubt he was using anything much other than open chords anyway.

For barre chords based in the E open shape, you can also use the thumb over the neck grip. That has a different angle of grip, and hence doesn't tire muscles as would repetitively using the same plane of motion with the classic barre chord grip.


Wow, I'm a little surprised that Bowie played a 12 string guitar. On the other hand, why should I be? Hell, even Mick Jagger can play guitar and he's certainly not famous for it. What's more....I bet Mick is pretty good (at least by standards of non professional guitarists), just from hanging with Keith Richards for so many years and watching.

Regarding barre chords and using the thumb instead, I see that a lot in videos on youtube. Merle Travis never used "proper barres", but he certainly looped that thumb around the neck (so it was an effective barre, nonetheless). Also with Doc Watson...never saw a barre, per se, but he did that great thing with his thumb as well. Check this out with Merle (and man do I love that Super 400 ).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oIw_ukvtKc

That brings up another issue: Merle Travis was a little guy with not very big looking hands. Playing a big guitar....yet looped that thumb over the neck like it wasn't a big deal. Yet I, who probably have several inches of height and normal sized hands, have a bitch of a time simply fretting the fat E with my thumb.

I got more work to do, for sure.
Last edited by TobusRex at May 30, 2016,
#8
Well, to get that wrap over thumb trick, you have to get your wrist fully behind the neck, perhaps even a bit above the center of the neck. There's a big shift in wrist position from the standard "grand barre", where your wrist is almost directly below the neck, almost a full 90 degrees of "rotation". It only works on the root 6th (E shape), not for the root 5th, (A shape).




Google has literally dozens of pictures of Bowie on stage with a 12 string: https://www.google.com/search?q=david+bowie+12+string+guitar&hl=en&biw=1066&bih=1749&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwiw6OnNsIHNAhUXIlIKHaS1AbUQsAQIGw

I'm pretty sure his most famous track (?) "Space Oddity" his him playing rhythm on a twelver.

Check out this Wiki on his album, "Hunky Dory" : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunky_Dory Interesting stuff. I didn't really get it at the time. it's really pretty mellow as compared to his hard rock "Ziggy Stardust", and his fairly abrasive pop / disco of later years). t I actually may still have a copy on vinyl stashed somewhere in the house.
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 30, 2016,
#10
Well, I know this isn't the same brand, but these Guild jumbo maple 12 strings were all the raqe, and they were, and still are huge, beasts even.

This is the "Westerly" (Chinese) offering. It's pretty cheap @ $630.00 list price: http://guildguitars.com/g/westerly-f-2512e-maple/

They give pretty much full specs, so check out the measurements on the guitar! At 17 1/4" across the lower bout, it's a touch bigger than the EJ-200 or the Gibson SJ-200...

They used to have terribly thick necks on them, and shipped with "12 string medium" sets on them. Those are .012 to .053, the same gauge as 6 string "acoustic lights". I think Leo Kotke recommended tuning them down to C#-c# standard with those strings. I've heard they slimmed down the necks to be more in keeping with other 12 strings of today. That guitar is basically the twin of the MiA model I had custom built for me. Guild was pretty reasonable at the time, with only a 10% premium for the backwards guitar.

Those humps at Ovation wanted 40% more for any left hand build, and the delivery lag was at least twice as long.

My Guild sounded beautiful, but man was it a handful.

FWIW, the outro chords to "Stairway to Heaven" are 3 descending barre chords, Am, G, F, (and maybe a quick hit on the G on the way back up. then "rinse and repeat". The repetitive nature of the riff makes for good practice, no matter if you use a standard barre, a thumb over barre, or even "mix and match" them..

Keep practicing until you can time the squeeze and play, then release and mute/chug until you can strum through the whole thing fluidly. Quick tip, it's not as easy as Jimmy Page made it look..
Last edited by Captaincranky at May 30, 2016,
#11
Most acoustic guitars, even high end ones, have the nut improperly adjusted and the action is too high. Chances are your guitar needs the nut slots filed deeper some minor fret levelling, saddle shortened to lower the action and then finally a truss rod adjustment to accommodate the changes. I would suggest you take it to a luthier for a full setup. Make sure you specify that you want the nut, saddle and frets all checked and adjusted to accommodate the lowest action possible.
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#12
Yeah Bowie liked doing that thumb-over technique instead of bar chords, not sure if he barred the b and high e or just played the b and muted the e(or let the e ring out). Personally, I find the thumb-over much more difficult than a bar(depends on the chord shape also). Bowie was very good rhythm guitarist IMHO.
#13
Quote by hotrodney71
Yeah Bowie liked doing that thumb-over technique instead of bar chords, not sure if he barred the b and high e or just played the b and muted the e(or let the e ring out). Personally, I find the thumb-over much more difficult than a bar(depends on the chord shape also). Bowie was very good rhythm guitarist IMHO.
Actually the thumb over chord is the only fingering useful in "cowboy key of C". If you barre the F, you can't lift any fingers, or you'll get G# on G-3, D# on D-4, and Bb on A-5, all out of key notes. If you use the thumb over version of F, you get to play with notes lifting fingers all over the place. All 6 open string notes are in the key of C major.

The Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want", is a good example of this. Principally the entire song is mostly C to F. Using the thumb over F chord, enables all the extended voicings you'll most likely hear on the record.
#14
Practice should help you there as well. Technique can help also. Whenever you max out your capacity, and push forward more, you get stronger, and next time you will have more strength. I wouldn't bet on it for the near future though. It will take some time to really get a lot of power. But if and when you do, power chords will be easy, and you will be able to do even more difficult things easily as well.
#17
In classical but it work even with the acoustic you have to think at your shoulder, i am not joking i know you don't play with the shoulder but that's a point to use the force together with the hand. Easy to say... i should show you in person this but trust me it works great and help a lot to play long barrè pieces. To make you an example about how this technique work try to play without using the hand muscles and without touching with your thumb, first you will use your pectorals muscles and even this is a way but the shoulder is the goal if you can play feeling your shoulder working with your hand you can play barrè for hours without having problems. 

This technique is exasperated with flamenco, their posture crossing the legs helps your shoulder and the left a lot and that's how they can play a barrè for 10 minutes without having cramps 

Hope this can help
#18
Ummm, y'all? The OP:

got a gig for a local theater production of Man of La Mancha. Rehearsals start next sunday and I'm not prepared.


That "next Sunday " was in 2016. As helpful as you may have tried to be, it's a tad late.
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