#1
Hi all,
Relative newbie here.
I have a physical difficulty with fretting hand. Long story short, severed all tendons to fingers, screwed up surgery and resultant loss of strength and individual finger movement. It basically means I'm restricted more to bar chords and rhythm playing. The problem I can't really resolve well is the requirement to rely on bar chords (I won't bore you with the medical reasons but trust me I am restricted to mostly bar chords) whilst at the same time having a very weak hand. Even after a couple of years I'm restricted to very short practice sessions, more than 20 min and I literally lose all feeling in my fingers. I've been through the light string gauge options but now realise I need to go to a shorter scale (learnt on 25.5).
I actually like the whole Gibson/ Epiphone sound but my big hands (I'm 6' 2") make bar chords up the neck problematic and I have to be able to play them up there really. What would be ideal doesn't seem to be around and I'm hoping someone has a lead. The shorter scale with less frets, meaning more room in the frets for big hands. To me it seems a really obvious missing market point. A shorter scale with room in the frets equivalent to a 25.5 scale. The vast majority of punters (hell most guitar players period) never use the upper most frets anyway (sorry to all you shredding experts but that is the reality). It seems a really obvious answer for big hands to offer the shorter scale with more fret room by dropping 1 or 2 very rarely used top frets and gaining some fret room.
Is there a model or maker I am unaware of that offers a 24 3/4 scale with 21 (actually 20 would be even better) frets?
Cheers,
G
#2
Welcome to the forum.

Less frets doesn't mean more space in individual frets, all you have done is omitted one or more of the highest frets, all the others remain the same. You might think about going the other, using a bari with skinny strings and tuned up to guitar pitch. For example, I have a 30" bari tuned up to open D with 13-56 strings, if I used skinny strings I could go up to E standard and have plenty of working space on the high frets.
#3
Tony Done
Hey Tony,
I guess what I meant was removal of the top couple of frets whilst retaining the same fret-board length and consequently using the space taken up by the removed two frets to be equally added and shared amongst the remaining. This would increase the fret space. I didn't mean just chop off the last couple of frets.
String tension is my biggest issue with this physical encumbrance, going to a Bari would increase that would it not?
The shorter scale means less string tension. I just need more fret space on a shorter scale
#4
OK I've just realised that's impossible (sorry). I was thinking irrationally in strict engineering terms (gaining space) and for a moment didn't consider that can't happen without altering frequencies and tunings at the frets. Guess I need another answer.
#5
Yeah, the fret spacing is entirely dependent of the scale length. The way to get more spacing on the high frets is to use a longer scale . If you get the chance, try a baritone guitar and see how it feels
#6
I used to play on a '61 Fender Duo-Sonic in 3/4 scale and honestly, most of the frets above 12 were so close they were pretty unplayable for large hands. If easing string tension is your goal, why not just tune down a bit. It worked for Jimi, EVH, and SRV so it may work for you.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis
#8
Yeah I've thought about going the lap steel and slide route. It's just not the sort of music I'm really into. I might have to look into tuning down more.
#9
What about playing lefty? Or are both your hands injured?
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#10
Playing "lefty" as you say has come into my mind a number of times. Every time it does however I think of the hours and years it would take to effectively start all over again in reality and become even half proficient in my non natural hand. I am beginning to think that's what I'll have to consign myself to though. It's a very "sobering" thought though.
Everyone is pretty time poor nowadays myself included. Starting all over again!, geeze imagine yourself starting all over again, right from from scratch, plus knowing it will most likely never feel as natural anyway. I don't know if I can do that in reality.
There's no easy solution unfortunately.
#11
Im sure it will feel natural after while. Probably faster than you think. Im thinking it probably took you way longer to reach your current level than it would if you didnt have an injury. If you switched hands, yes, you would start from scratch, but if you think about it, thats not really true. You will still have all the knowledge on how to play, you would just have to retrain your hands. But you will already know all the chord shapes, the intricate picking patterns and all the finer details that go into playing guitar, that a complete begginer must learn by trial and error. Im sure that with a reasonable ammount of practice, you could get up to your level of playing only bar chords in a few months. Ive seen complete beginners do that, and im sure you can do it as well. Also ask yourself, whats better: to risk 6 months or a year to get to your current level and then have almost no obstacles to improve (obviously there will still be some issues since then your picking hand will still be injured), or would you rather continue like this and be forced to play barr chords on really thin strings for your entire life.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#12
All very good points. I think it might be time to invest in a cheap leftie guitar and at least "dabble" around to see how doable it is.
#13
Looking into this a bit more I'm wondering if a fan fret option might help. Never played one or looked into it but I believe they have longer bass string scale lengths requiring less string tension. Theoretically at least it could be possible to design a particular fan layout that retains fret width and reduces tension by fanning and longer string length on the bass strings say. Does that make sense?
#14
longer scale = more tension, not less.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#15
Geeze in my desperation to search for a solution I'm managing to confuse myself. I know longer strings mean more tension, that's what my original post was about, going to shorter scale to lessen tension, how could I go on about longer bass strings and less tension? I don't know how my mind managed that.
It seems converting to left hand is really my only option. I just need to bite the bullet and start the journey.
#16
Okay, back to your original issue, which is weakness in your fretting hand.
Converting to left hand is not your only option.

One, a shorter scale (like 24.75") with light strings and a very low action is your best bet. The lighter the string, the less tension you have to deal with. The lower your action, the less movement you require in moving from string to string and the less strength you need. If you have large hands, you may find it easier to play with a *wider* fretboard (there are quite a few with 1 3/4" nut widths, and a very few with 1 13/16ths" nut width that actually maintain that extra 1/8" of width right down to the bridge). I have XXL hands, so I can relate, though I don't have tendon and surgery issues.

There are multi-scale guitars on the market (fan-fret) and a few manufacturers who've brought the prices out of the custom-built stratosphere into something that normal folks can afford. These have longer bass strings and shorter treble strings, and they actually prove to be *easier* for a lot of folks to play because the frets take on the same angle that your hand and arm do when you swing them from the nut to the upper frets.

Here's one example:
http://www.rondomusic.com/MultiScaleGuitars.html and a typical "fan fret" with just six strings and a 25.5" scale to a 27" scale: http://www.rondomusic.com/Agile_Pendulum_62527_RN_Black_Flame.html



If you string a guitar like this with 9's, and perhaps tune it to Eb rather than a standard E, you should find reduced the reduced string tension that you need. If you have the guitar set up correctly for very low action (you may need to run one of these on a PLEK machine to assure frets level enough to produce that) and play with a light touch, you should have fewer issues. There are also fan fret guitars with shorter scales (and frets that are, obviously, going to be closer together) at both ends, and there are other manufacturers making them.

If I can suggest one more thing aimed at strengthening your left hand, it would be to snag an inexpensive keyboard with weighted keys or borrow someone's piano. A good piano teacher can prescribe exercises designed to strengthen your hands (the only way to increase volume on a normal piano is to play individual notes harder). You'll be amazed at how well these translate to increased strength and speed on a guitar.
Last edited by dspellman at Nov 13, 2016,
#17
Quote by goosecat
Playing "lefty" as you say has come into my mind a number of times. Every time it does however I think of the hours and years it would take to effectively start all over again in reality and become even half proficient in my non natural hand. I am beginning to think that's what I'll have to consign myself to though. It's a very "sobering" thought though.
Everyone is pretty time poor nowadays myself included. Starting all over again!, geeze imagine yourself starting all over again, right from from scratch, plus knowing it will most likely never feel as natural anyway. I don't know if I can do that in reality.
There's no easy solution unfortunately.


If you can currently only manage barre chords, then getting to that level playing left-handed shouldn't take as long. Don't think of getting to how good you used to be as a lefty, but getting better than you are now.

Otherwise, what about open tunings?
Last edited by luke.g.henderso at Nov 15, 2016,
#18
luke.g.henderso

I think that this question of learning something "wrong-handed" is really interesting. Apart from left and right, handedness goes from strong-handed to ambidextrous, and the success of the lefty approach might depend on how strongly right-handed you are. It is a fact that many lefties can learn to play right-handed, and I've read, for example, that lefties are over-represented in orchestra violin, where they have to play right-handed. However, I've never seen any data to show how this relates to the strong handed-to-ambidextrous variation. I think I'm strong-handed, and you might be the same, but it might be easier for someone who isn't so strong-handed.
#19
When I was a teenager, one of my best friends was left-handed, but played guitar right-handed; I often wondered whether it made more sense for the dominant hand to be the fret hand.
#20
Quote by luke.g.henderso
When I was a teenager, one of my best friends was left-handed, but played guitar right-handed; I often wondered whether it made more sense for the dominant hand to be the fret hand.


It's common. Neal Schon (Journey, Santana) is a lefty playing righty, for example.
Most instruments other than guitar are available only one way.
#21
luke.g.henderso

From what I've read, evolution has divided function so that the weak hand grasps and the strong hand manipulates ("you hold it, I'll hit it"). While it might seem odd to us, this seems to be the way it works with stringed instruments - the picking hand is doing more brain work that the fretting hand, even if it doesn't feel that way. I've wondered for a long time whether any traditional string instruments are left-handed by our standards. I don't know of one.
#22
Quote by dspellman
Okay, back to your original issue, which is weakness in your fretting hand.
Converting to left hand is not your only option.

One, a shorter scale (like 24.75") with light strings and a very low action is your best bet. The lighter the string, the less tension you have to deal with. The lower your action, the less movement you require in moving from string to string and the less strength you need. If you have large hands, you may find it easier to play with a *wider* fretboard (there are quite a few with 1 3/4" nut widths, and a very few with 1 13/16ths" nut width that actually maintain that extra 1/8" of width right down to the bridge). I have XXL hands, so I can relate, though I don't have tendon and surgery issues.

There are multi-scale guitars on the market (fan-fret) and a few manufacturers who've brought the prices out of the custom-built stratosphere into something that normal folks can afford. These have longer bass strings and shorter treble strings, and they actually prove to be *easier* for a lot of folks to play because the frets take on the same angle that your hand and arm do when you swing them from the nut to the upper frets.

Here's one example:
http://www.rondomusic.com/MultiScaleGuitars.html and a typical "fan fret" with just six strings and a 25.5" scale to a 27" scale: http://www.rondomusic.com/Agile_Pendulum_62527_RN_Black_Flame.html



If you string a guitar like this with 9's, and perhaps tune it to Eb rather than a standard E, you should find reduced the reduced string tension that you need. If you have the guitar set up correctly for very low action (you may need to run one of these on a PLEK machine to assure frets level enough to produce that) and play with a light touch, you should have fewer issues. There are also fan fret guitars with shorter scales (and frets that are, obviously, going to be closer together) at both ends, and there are other manufacturers making them.

If I can suggest one more thing aimed at strengthening your left hand, it would be to snag an inexpensive keyboard with weighted keys or borrow someone's piano. A good piano teacher can prescribe exercises designed to strengthen your hands (the only way to increase volume on a normal piano is to play individual notes harder). You'll be amazed at how well these translate to increased strength and speed on a guitar.


This idea was just repeated to me in a guitar shop. I was talking about my situation to a staff member who then directs me to another staff member with similar issues working in the shop (though obviously not as severe). Long story short a staff member recommended this exact same approach and I mean exact. Fan fret board, low action, strung with 9's. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, but that is definitely going on my list now.
#23
I have a few things to say about handedness. I am lefthanded, and as far ase lefties go, im pretty strongly inclined to my left hand. But since we are taught to do stuff with the right hand since birth, a lot of us have at least some level of ambidexterity. I do however play guitar the right way, because it just seems more natural to me. Obviously having the stronger and more nimble hand on the fretboard is more natural to me, but all the right handed guitar players are proving me wrong with that hypothesis. So i think that handedness plays little to no effect when learning to play guitar. The movements are so specific that nothing in your life prepares you for it, so whatever hand you start with, you have to learn the movements from scratch. Thats why i think that OP would have little dificulty with learning how to play lefty.
Joža je kul. On ma sirove z dodatki pa hambije.
#24
Not sure how much of a difference it would make, but, in addition to a light string - low tension set up... might jumbo frets help?

As a lefty who plays righty... I would vouch for, essentially, re-learning to play with your other hand. It will take some time to adjust and get used to the feeling either way, might as well give it a try.
Gear: Gibson Les Paul Studio, Gibson SG Special, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Fender Jazzmaster, Gretsch Pro Jet, Carvin C350, Epiphone ES-339. Peavey 6505, Sovtek MIG-100, Vox AC30, Peavey XXX.