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Thread: Barre Chord finger pain

  1. #1

    Default Barre Chord finger pain

    A little background that may or may not be helpful in defining my problem, will put a TL:DR version below

    My Dad had a traveling group for years and along the way they wrote a bunch of songs. Unfortunately, the "joke" was that their official stationary was a napkin. Most jokes have a kernel of truth, this one had the who bowl of buttered popcorn and a soda besides.

    The result was none of the songs got written down. A few were recorded on cds back in the 80s...okay, cassettes...but the masters are lost so now we have a copy of a download of a ripped version of a copy. Shockingly, they are badly degraded.

    Meanwhile, most of them have died. Dad just turned 73 and the ring finger on his fretting hand curls under so badly he essentially cannot play anymore.

    Many people have asked for copies of the music so about 3 ears go I put together a group of people, started working on getting the songs written on sheet music and started studying guitar.

    I also started studying music theory, wanting to learn it right.

    Stop me if you have heard this one before: in summer they would have more time in winter, in winter more time in summer. Upshot is I am going to end up being THE instrumentalist on this.

    So I acquired a bass guitar, mandolin, and piano (and wife got a ukulele she never plays so add that to the list) and started working on them as well.

    It is too much info for a pea brain. Bright side, knowing intervals means I feel like I can pick up any fretted instrument and bang out a tune. Dark side, I sound like someone with at best rudimentary knowledge of an instrument using their knowledge of intervals to bang out a tune...

    anyhow, two of the songwriters worked a ton of the "A" chord in to their work. Trying to bar the 2nd freight, my forefinger starts hurting so much it can put me off even guitar for a day or two.

    that is my warning sign my technique is wrong. I had taken a course from a local recording artist to get acclimated to the instrument and take regular guitar courses, but is there a clear and obvious think that would cause the forefinger to not work barring a mandolin? point of reference, I barre the guitar routinely in E and A form and occasionally D.


    TL:DR my technique on barring the A chord causes finger pain, is there something understandable to help me fix that?

  2. #2
    Registered User KGreene's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    I suppose it could possibly be tendonitis if this has just come about while playing the instrument..??

    Not trying to sound condescending at all, and I'm sure that others will chime in that may have more insight..... But have you tried a capo?
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  3. #3
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Hi darthweasel, thanks for all the background. Sounds like quite a project. Very ambitious to try and learn all those instruments and make a multitrack recording of all those tunes. I wish you well on your endeavor.

    Concerning the specific issue, here's my own opinion: If our bodies were all exactly the same, there *might* be a simple answer to your question. As it is, I doubt there is a simple answer regarding technique that anyone can follow to properly barre the G and D strings to make an A chord. What I do believe is that if something is causing you such pain to do it a certain way, then search other ways of doing it. Thus, if you are laying the fingertip on the side to barre the G and D strings, then stop that and take a different approach. If you are barring all the strings with your index, as you would to make an A7 on guitar, then definitely stop doing that. It's not necessary to barre the A and E strings, so don't waste the effort and the pressure.

    Everyone is made a bit differently. Personally, I make that A chord with mostly the tip of my index finger, rolled over slightly. A lot of people do that, but a lot of other people say they can't because their fingers aren't big enough. So we're back to where we started: There is no one answer for everybody.

    It might help if you can explain, or have someone take a few photos of, exactly what you're doing now to "barre" on the mandolin to make an A chord?

    Finally, there are other ways to play an A chord than the way you're currently doing it - I mean lots of inversions and different places for them all over the neck.
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  5. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Good advice above. I would also suggest:
    • Consider lighter gauge strings
    • Have your mandolin checked out by a competent luthier; maybe your action is too high
    • Consult with a good teacher or even a good player, it is possible that you are pressing down way too much on the strings and my not need to.
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  6. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Quote Originally Posted by darthweasel View Post
    anyhow, two of the songwriters worked a ton of the "A" chord in to their work. Trying to bar the 2nd freight, my forefinger starts hurting so much it can put me off even guitar for a day or two.

    that is my warning sign my technique is wrong. I had taken a course from a local recording artist to get acclimated to the instrument and take regular guitar courses, but is there a clear and obvious think that would cause the forefinger to not work barring a mandolin?
    There is a trick to playing an A chord on mandolin that isn't obvious to guitar players, because mandolin really is a different instrument, not just a little guitar.

    There is an "A modal" chord you can play on mandolin like this: 2200, with just your index fingertip pressing down on the bottom G and D strings (all four) on the second frets, and the A and E strings open.

    If your index fingertip is wide enough (with a bit of callus), it should work. This would never occur to a guitar player because it doesn't work on guitar.

    As a "modal" chord with just tonic and 5th, that 2200 shape can be used for both major and minor A chords in a tune, especially in a mix of other instruments playing the full chords with thirds. I use this single index fingertip "A modal" chord all the time when playing Irish traditional tunes, because it frees up my other fingers, and a "modal" chord works fine in that music. Try it, and see if it works for your project when playing the mandolin parts.

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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    the barre chord tricks for solidbody guitar, only some of which apply to mandolin

    (assuming you're right handed)
    - turn palm of LH away from headstock, use side of index finger closest to thumb, it's bonier
    - use your whole left arm to pull LH into the neck, not just squeezing as hard as you can with left thumb
    - pull right elbow into instrument body to kind of drive the neck forward (this part is not archtop compatible)
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  10. #7
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    You don't have to barre at all,use a 3 note chord and use your 3 fingertips to form it...

  11. #8

    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    appreciate all the feedback I will work on these things.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Quote Originally Posted by KGreene View Post
    I suppose it could possibly be tendonitis if this has just come about while playing the instrument..??

    Not trying to sound condescending at all, and I'm sure that others will chime in that may have more insight..... But have you tried a capo?

    no worries at all man, not condescending in the least. I am well aware of my shortcomings and I think one of the posters may have hit the nail on the head...when I practice, I follow the "play it slowly enough to make no mistakes" but patience is not my strong suit, so then I try to speed it up, I rush to get fingers in place and press too hard. I think the 3 finger chord is the answer

  13. #10
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Quote Originally Posted by darthweasel View Post
    no worries at all man, not condescending in the least. I am well aware of my shortcomings and I think one of the posters may have hit the nail on the head...when I practice, I follow the "play it slowly enough to make no mistakes" but patience is not my strong suit, so then I try to speed it up, I rush to get fingers in place and press too hard. I think the 3 finger chord is the answer
    Now your talkin,,,imo,the 3 finger chord is much faster and more comfortable,it takes a certain amount of time to shift around with barre chords,,,,,I play whole jazz phrases,usually pretty quick,in just 3 note chord melody,and I doubt I can do it that quick if I barred the chords,,,

  14. #11

    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    ah, but you probably have something I will forever lack...talent :-)
    I get by on dogged determination and repetition. I was laughing as last Sunday was visiting Dad, picked up a guitar he had laying around and ran through one of his songs called Straight and Narrow Way. I have probably played that song 500 times in the last month. At first it was literally 1 measure, to the metronome at 25 bm until I had that measure, then add a second, and so forth. Then I went back and did the same thing with the chords and embellishments.

    So I have played in for hour upon hour, hundreds of times.

    He pops off with "I heard stuff on the radio today that didn't sound anywhere near that polished. How are you sounding on Redemption?"

    His opinion of my playing on that one, which I have played 10% as much was...not as high? I mean, being my Dad and a positive person he phrased it so kindly it sounded like a compliment but the difference between a song I have ridden into the ground in practice and one that still has breath is the difference between Brad Laird and a guy playing two sticks underwater.

    He then proceeded, with a completely unusable ring finger on his fretting hand that forces him to alter chords, play a different voicing, etc. to show me more in ten minutes than I learned in a month of working on that song.

    You people with talent like he and you just make me jealous :-)

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  16. #12
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Thank you for your comments,,I'm not sure about the talent,but I know I possess two other qualities: dedication and sheer determination...

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  18. #13
    Stop the chop!
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    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    TS: I see you also play the guitar. One big difference between the two instruments is that on the guitar you're mostly concerned with reaching across a wide fretboard, on the mandolin with reaching along the strings. On the guitar, although I avoid barre chords (in favor of 3 or 4 note chords on the inside strings), I tend to barre with my index finger parallel to the frets, on the mandolin at an angle. On the mando I will never barre across all strings. I use mainly two shapes, the min7 d-f-c-* or the maj7 d-f#-c#-* with my index finger covering only the two top notes, and the dom7 a-e-c#-g with my index finger covering only the two bottom notes.

  19. #14

    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    Part of my initial thought was I saw the barre form was moveable and sadly was trying shortcut. We all know in music shortcuts are not a real thing...it always makes sense to learn correctly. But because I am me I refuse to learn lessons...

  20. #15

    Default Re: Barre Chord finger pain

    The advice given above re: using the tip of your index finger to press down two courses (i.e. 2200 A chord) is the technique to practice to get the feel of fretting with just the index finger. This shape can be moved up and down AND across the fingerboard (0330 E minor) and allows you to add your other fingers to alter the chord (2245 A major, 2235 A minor, 4224 E major, etc.). The benefit of the index finger covering 2 courses is that you are not trying to stuff 2 fingers (index, middle) into such a small space. It is refreshingly liberating!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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