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Thread: Trouble Playing A major

  1. #1

    Default Trouble Playing A major


    I am very new to playing mandolin and I've been trying to learn chords. I cannot get my fingers to make the 2-2-4-5 shape for the A chord. I especially have trouble getting my little index finger to hold down both the G and D strings at the same time. Does anybody have any tips or resources to help? Or should I just play the 3 finger version for now?

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Oct 2015
    Pacific NW, slightly outside BC

    Default Re: Trouble Playing A major

    There's a few things that can make barre chords (the 2-2 is a mini-barre) easier:

    - use the bony side of your index finger closer to the thumb to fret, rather than center finger
    - pull your fretting hand back using your whole arm rather than squeezing with the thumb as hard as you can
    - use your picking hand arm to stabilize the instrument body, with elbow countering the forward movement from the other arm pulling back

    when starting out any fretted instrument you can make it easier:
    - lower string action
    - lighter gauge strings
    - tune down a half step (these all reduce string tension at the expense of tone/sustain)
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  3. #3
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland

    Default Re: Trouble Playing A major

    Have you tried the 2-2-0-0 A chord? You mention three-finger as a possible rather than the four-finger one, but the 2-2-0-0- gives you a chord which can be either major or minor (A-E-a-e), as it does not include the third note of the scale (C# for A major, C for A minor). Those 2-finger shapes are great for traditional music, Celtic stuff, etc.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

  4. #4

    Default Re: Trouble Playing A major

    gtani7 is talking about what I think is one of the biggest secrets of playing a stringed instrument.
    You have to ‘pull’ with left hand fingers on the fretboard AND at the same time pull the instrument with your right forearm (assuming right handed).
    Try fretting a note and playing it without using your left hand thumb at all, dont even let your thumb touch the instrument. Now practise doing this ONLY for an eighth note of time. Your fingers can often produce a lot of power if it’s only for a short time.
    You may also find it easier to play chords further up the neck.

    Also remember that there is a pain barrier to go through, at least for the fleshy part of the fingers

    And check the action of your mando, it maybe that you can reduce the string height. Try to squeeze two dimes held together between the twelfth fret and the fourth string. If they fit, then the strings are too high. If you can’t fit a quarter then the strings are definitely too low. It’s half way between for most people, I like it to be just a little more than a quarter.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Jun 2003
    Northop, North Wales

    Default Re: Trouble Playing A major

    Don't bother with the 5 on the top string: that's an A which you already have with the 2 on the bottom string. So, 2-2-4-x is a complete A major chord played by putting the first finger as a barre on the 2nd fret G and D strings, and the third finger on the fourth fret A string.

    This chord shape can be easily modified into 2-2-4-3 to play an A7 by using the second finger on the 3rd fret top string, or into 2-2-3-x to play an A minor (second finger on the 3rd fret A string). These are my go-to chord shapes for all chords -- as they are closed shapes they can be moved all across the fret board to make any major, minor or seventh chords.


  6. #6
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
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    Default Re: Trouble Playing A major

    Well …… Practice over time will get you there. Barre type chords are difficult at first. You may want to check the action of your instrument also. A slight adjustment my be needed. …. I use my ring and pinky instead of my middle and ring fingers on the E and a string A and C# tones. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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