Hey everyone,

Firstly, I want to say that I'm not sure if this is the correct area to post this, but I feel like it matches the best. Anyways, I've been playing guitar for like 7-8 years now (both electric and acoustic). When I first started, I took like 4 lessons, and then just started learning things on my own. Although, for a while I've felt like I've been pretty stagnant. So, I started expanding my playing into other genres and learning a lot of the technical stuff that I skipped, as well as some new techniques.

I'm finding two potential problems, that I'm wondering if anyone can offer some advice on. The first has to do with strengthening my fretting hand (as in, the skin). When I first started (up until relatively recently), I took guitar playing as a very casual thing. So, I'd play for a little bit here and a little bit there, sometimes with weeks in between (depending on how busy I was), and sometimes for just a short moment (once again, depending on how busy I was). In my mind, then, it made sense why my hand wasn't very strong. I wasn't playing frequently enough, I thought. Except, within the past 6 months or so (maybe more) I've been making an effort to play a lot more, and for longer periods of time. The issue I'm having is, my hand isn't strengthening. It's not that big of a deal, overall, but it can cause issues when I'm playing (like not being able to hear a note clearly), which is bothering me.

The second issue is barre chords. In terms of technique, I appear to be doing fine. At least, I think, because I'm able to do them from the 4th string downwards. Although, I think my hands are actually too small to do anything involving the 5th or 6th string. A lot of the songs I played before never really needed barre chords, and if they did, there was a good substitute available. However, with the type of music I'm trying to play now, it's hard to ignore it any longer. It's not really an issue of flexibility. After playing guitar for so long (even if it was previously very casual), my hand has gotten used to weird shapes and things like that. It's literally just a problem of reaching, and the fact that the bottom joints on my fingers touch the 1st string whenever I try to do a barre chord with the 5th or 6th strings. I'm not sure if there's a technique around this, if anyone knows of one (i.e I'm still open to the possibility that it's a technique-related issue). Otherwise, I would assume a new guitar would be needed. And if so, what kind would be suitable? A Folk or a Parlour, or something along those lines? I'm using a Jumbo right now. (If we're talking acoustic)

Anyways, I'd like to thank everyone in advance!
New guitarists go through a finger tip soreness period that just needs to be tolerated until the finger tips toughen up, and hand and finger strength and coordination improves, etc. Usually the finger tip soreness fades away after one or two months if one plays almost daily for even just 20 minutes a day... but one has to go through the whole process to get through it. Shorter more frequent playing sessions is probably better than longer more infrequent sessions, and I would not recommend more than 30 minutes of continuous playing in a sitting in the first few months.

Initially new players may develop callused finger tips, but with long term time on the instrument (years) even those go away and the tips just get firmer, more dense, more insensitive to any discomfort, but actually appear to look identical to those of the other hand. Part of this comes from learning that less pressure is needed to play than thought in the beginning and some additional attention to the mechanics (ensuring that the tips finger the notes by placement immediately behind and slightly on the frets, for example).

On the barre chords, two things come to mind right away... how you are orienting your index and third finger.

For bar chords that use the index finger to form the barre, the finger is not laid flat down across the finger board - it is rolled counter clockwise as you look at it so that the part of the finger contacting the finger board is more the side edge of the finger that is closest to the thumb. This does a couple of problem solving things. One is that the strength of the finger to resist lateral defection of its joints is stronger than the other directions, including the usual up and down flexing motions. This means that rolling the index "back" toward the nut from the other fingers put it in a stronger position and also helps lift the other fingers to make their tip contacts more vertical. This also extends the usable length of the index finger slightly beyond its bottom joint from the hand in order to gain a longer effective barre across the finger board when needed.

For similar reasons, barre chords that use the third finger to form the barre benefit by rolling the third finger clockwise toward the bridge. This is using the outer edge of the third finger that is closest to the fourth finger as the barre contact. Both these rolled orientations of the index and third help prevent using undo pressure when a finger might be flat face down across the finger board where there is the possibility of allowing a joint to flex backwards - joints in that orientation are subject to damage with little pressure, so rolling the barre fingers helps keep them curved and resistant to damage.

Hope this helps
Quote by reverb66
I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
diablo9333 Hi, I don't know what exact guitar you have, but when I started learning guitar, I had similar problems. But I had acoustic with high action and hard strings, so for a rather long period of time, I thought that I didn't do any progress, and when my friend lowered the action, I realized that I made a pretty good progress. Maybe you need to check it.

Thanks! Although, my electric guitar has pretty low action, and I can't play barre chords on it either.

I know I mentioned this in my original post, but is it possible that it's just hand size? Like, I find that my hands are too small to even do the techniques. For example, if I try to turn my index finger over a bit (i.e what you're supposed to do when you barre), I can't really do that. Otherwise, I can't really complete the chord with the rest of my hand. There just isn't enough room. The top of my palm also touches the B and E strings, sometimes. Plus, I've begun to notice lately, that when I try to play some Celtic fingerstyle songs, I can't move my hand to where it needs to go. For example, I was watching a video of Tony McManus, where he was showing how to play this particular song. Well..the chord itself was pretty simple. 5th Fret on the low/upper E String and 2nd Fret on the B string. The rest of the strings open. Yet, unless I moved my hand to an unreasonable position (as in, in relation to other chords and notes, I would have to dramatically change my hand position), I couldn't play it.

Are these signs of me not being flexible enough, or signs of having too big of a fretboard?

I'm not a complete beginner (ex. I can play a bunch of Guns N' Roses songs, including the solos). I just skipped barre chords, because the songs I learned had easy ways around them, or never needed them. Although, ever since I expanded my musical tastes into Medieval Folk/Celtic Folk/Fingerstyle, I'm noticing all of these issues. Majority of them involving reaching.
I'm not the most talented, brightest or most capable guy out there, and have broken every finger on both hands, some fingers twice - but can pretty much nail the bar chords now most of the time having precisely followed Justin's instruction here:


Follow his guidelines, and you can do it. If I can do them, anyone can.