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Thread: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

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    Default Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    So after too many fights and motorcycle accidents my hands and fingers are a crooked mess. Playing lead guitar is far more difficult than it used to be. Working thru the Mandolin for Guitar Players course on Truefire I just hit a wall with what she calls block chords. They are essentially movable chord shapes using all the strings, and she says they are essential. There's no way my fingers are ever gonna get those down. Been trying for two days.

    So ... are they really essential? I've been doing relatively well while recording for my outlaw country guy. But I'd like to be able to sit in with real bluegrass guys eventually.

    Is the lack of block chords gonna be a showstopper?

    Any of you real mandolin guys play with limited facility? Is it going to be a big deal?

    Wonder if Django played mandolin?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    My fingers are more wrecked than yours. I still play. I had a Django level injury to the left hand, removing the ends of two fingers.

    Learning where the block chords are is a good idea. You can use three finger portions of them effectively, damping out the top or bottom strings as needed. Two finger chords and double stops can be used in some situations. Some of the four finger chords can still be done even with damaged hands. If you have fat fingers it is possible to hold down adjacent string courses with one finger. You can still play leads. I play bluegrass using largely three finger chords and altered four finger chords to chop. There are a couple of basic forms I cannot make but I get by.

    Also as you work with your hands over time you will probably gain more mobility. I have made significant gains and am able to form chords which were impossible ten years ago. You have to think long term though. Two days is nothing. Three or five years may be the time frame to do some of them smoothly.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Plenty of people only use three finger chords for chopping. So definitely not worth quitting over.
    And they’re only essential for bluegrassing.

    Also, most aren’t nearly as bad as the G. Try the A shape for example instead. And for the G shape, try it farther up the fretboard as an A or B where the frets aren’t so far apart.

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    Likes quaint instruments poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    You hit a wall after TWO days?

    Maybe try two months and then decide.

    Another help can be stretching practice for fingers, that can give you much more mobility and range.

    You could try and ask a physiotherapist, they are really good at restoring bodies after neglect or accidents.

    I do finger stretching every morning (on the toilet it's also beneficial giving your bowels some time to wake up )
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    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Three finger chords are your friend. Take your time, you won’t be born full grown.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Your fingers are mangled from bar fights and road rash but you believe in following someone else's rules about chord voicing? Something doesn't add up... You'll find your way through. Happy picking!
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    There are no rules. play for the fun of it and ignore anyone who puts limits on you.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    bad fingers? not-yet-bad fingers? 1 finger chords is the way to go! (what?!? 1 note chords?!? impossible!!!). More common on the celtic and old time side of things, where we want more drones and less chopping. People teach this. Keith Murphy, Wayne Benson. At a bluegrass jam, 1 finger 1 string chop chords work just fine, if your mandolin is beefy enough. watch the voicings and fingerings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnakfPiJ-oE

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    Barn Cat Mandolins Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Seriously, if you've been trying for two days, you haven't even started trying. There are more ways of playing this versatile little instrument than you can imagine. Don't listen to anyone who tells you 'There's only one way to do it'. If you want to play the thing, play the thing.

    Oh, and have fun doing it. If it's not fun, it's not worth doing. Find another way.

    PS. . .You can do this!
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I was being a bit facetious about quitting. I've had physical therapy after the last wreck which broke left shoulder, elbow, radius and ulnar, and last three metacarpals. Did a lot of strengthening and stretching when I picked up lead guitar again last Fall (had been gigging on bass mainly). The pinkey basically no workee for most things. Was mainly curious about four-string chords being mandatory for playing bluegrass jams. I guess I'll find out how "essential" they really are when I start the Bluegrass Mandolin course this weekend.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Hey, I don't claim to know anything about anything, but I bet you have a lot of music in you, yet. Try to find some double stop alternatives and play enough to add to the music but not be overpowering. I love the sound of double stops chording backup and let the other guys do the rest. Double stops sound good by themselves if you are playing alone, too. Play what ever you can. If you know the song or tune and double stop your way through it, it will sound good and add a lot to the music. Keep going, you aint' near done yet!

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Thanks for all the feedback. Since I had the recording equipment out I've recorded the few bluegrass tunes I knew on guitar and the played against that on mandolin to get the feel of chord changes and short single string runs. That's been a big help.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    It’s good to to listen to the advice of many different teachers/players. I would be skeptical of anyone that tells you that you have to do something a certain way all the time. There’s a million ways to skin a cat.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    By the way, though there is no evidence of Django playing mandolin what there is evidence of is Barry Abernathy playing bluegrass banjo at a very high level. Look him up. Look at his left hand. No one who watches him will ever complain about their messed up hands again. He is amazing.

    If Django had chosen to play mandolin he probably would have but ti would have been Django style mandolin and not bluegrass.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    There's more than one way to skin a cat... and anyone who tells you otherwise don't know any ways.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I never use 4 finger chords for chop cords. I always use 3 finger, they work fine, and are moveable. I don't chop much, but use more double stops, but when I do it's 3 finger chords. I prefer the sound too.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I'm making chord charts of all the open-string and three-finger chords I can pull off. I already have at least three for each note and one for minor, 7th, etc.. So, yeah, I don't think it's going to be an issue. Almost finished with the first course.

    I've come a long way from a month ago when I pulled it out to add some mando flourishes to a demo. My upright bass and 6 stringers are getting lonely.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Like previously stated, there are no rules. Don’t put such pressure/limits on yourself, play what you can ad who cares what anyone says - if someone insults you because you physically can’t do something it says more about them than you. I go to BG jams and never play chop chords…I have fun don’t care what anyone thinks.

    There is a rancher in the area that lost his arms as a young boy…he runs the ranch with his children now using his feet for everything…no limits on him so I say just go for whatever you can do and have fun.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    My hands are on the small side. I have played mandolin for 55 years without ever playing a 4 finger chop chord. I don't miss them.

    Although you can be burned at the stake for saying this, my impression from hearing Bill Monroe recordings is that his chop chords were usually rushing the beat. That didn't inspire me to try them.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I've been kinda surprised to find I can find a work-around for almost any chord shape. Even when the guitar is capo'd. It's been a very interesting journey so far. Thanks for the encouragement.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    You can try tuning GDGd with two finger double stops too. And Greek-style sliding up the neck on one or two strings.
    Sounds great on any mando, even a cheap 65 dollar Rogue tuned FCFc.
    Amp it up, if you want!

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    So here is a philosophy of mine. In the kinds of music I play there is usually a guitar, and that guitar is usually expected to be the chord instrument. In some cases, like bluegrass, the mandolin chords are more important as rhythm than as establishing the key.

    What I mean is, I can usually be assured that any notes in the chord that are missing from my rendition of the chord are more than likely being played by the guitar(s). I am not responsible for every note in the chord.

    Three finger chords are great because they are moveable not only up and down, but across the neck as well. And sometimes (shudder) I only do the double stop, two notes to establish enough of the chord to show that I know what key we are in.

    Yea it is cheating in a way. But only if you thought the mandolin was the chord instrument. Which if there is a guitar, is likely not really the case.

    Well I don't know if this helps at all, or just reveals me to be a hack player. I'll let y'all decide.
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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I used to chop all the time, aggressively. Over the past few years I've gotten away from that, for a few reasons:
    1) Bobby Osborne
    2) bluegrass bands without a mandolin that maintain rhythm just fine
    3) chopping sometimes grates on my ears and seems to enforce a rhythmic sameness that I don't care for
    4) a realization that I don't have to be playing all the time

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    I have two songs on the practice file with mandolin accompaniment and listening back it sounds pretty decent. Actually adds to the songs. Work-arounds for some of the chord shapes doesn't appear to detract from the track. I am, of course still sloppy at only a couple months on mandolin. But it's getting better every week. I am starting to work on solos and fills and having a blast with it. No where near good enough yet to put a solo on a track, yet. But I'm working on that aspect, too. Started the second Truefire mandolin course yesterday. I am definitely learning to love the instrument.

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    Default Re: Wrecked fingers can't make 'block chords', time to quit?

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakum View Post
    So after too many fights and motorcycle accidents my hands and fingers are a crooked mess. Playing lead guitar is far more difficult than it used to be. Working thru the Mandolin for Guitar Players course on Truefire I just hit a wall with what she calls block chords. They are essentially movable chord shapes using all the strings, and she says they are essential. There's no way my fingers are ever gonna get those down. Been trying for two days.

    So ... are they really essential? I've been doing relatively well while recording for my outlaw country guy. But I'd like to be able to sit in with real bluegrass guys eventually.

    Is the lack of block chords gonna be a showstopper?

    Any of you real mandolin guys play with limited facility? Is it going to be a big deal?

    Wonder if Django played mandolin?
    One option is using a tuning that lends itself more to natural finger positions. There are a couple of recent threads in this forum section that discuss using open C-tunings or alternate tunings on mandolin that you might want to look at.

    While trying not to derail this thread any further, I'll mention that using alternate tunings may solve some problems, but it does require the ability to learn to play mandolin independent of just about any mandolin books or teachers, because with very few exceptions these deal with standard 5ths tuning. Learning alternate tunings on any instrument requires someone who is strongly autodidactic, so it should be considered very carefully before choosing this direction.
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