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Thread: Trouble with open chords and open E string

  1. #1
    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Howdy folks,

    I haven't been here in a while, but I've been picking up the mandolin more as of late. I'm not doing it enough, I'll admit that.

    But I seem to be running into a wall right now. I never noticed any problems with this before and I don't know why that is.

    I'm having trouble with open chords such as an Em (0220) or C (0230).

    With both of these chords I can't find the right position to have that open E string (one of them, the one closest to the edge of the neck). The fleshy bit of my finger that supports the neck keeps muting it somehow.

    I can do it if I use my middle and ring finger, so that the knuckle of my index finger is supporting the neck. I can then pull it back off the neck a bit so it can't mute anything, but that leaves me with one less finger to play (embellish, etc.) with.

    I have my A-style KM-550 on a strap (the other end is around the neck extension), and all I'm trying to do with the left hand is support it while I'm playing, not actually holding it as I've learned it's wrong on both the mandolin and guitar.

    Do you have a way out for me? I'm just not seeing it right now.

    Thanks!

    CZ

  2. #2
    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Try rotating your left hand slightly counterclockwise so that more of your fingers are above the fretboard. Combine this with dropping your fingers more 'straight down' on the strings so that you are fingering the courses with the tips of your fingers and not the ball of the fingers.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Hard to visualize from your description but I think Ed is right.

    Pictures?
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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    CZ, Can you post a photo of your left hand?

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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    For those that aren't familiar with the KM-550, it's very similar to the popular KM-505.


    Here's a recent tutorial I did, maybe that helps?





    Pictures below...

    The gap I try to maintain between neck and hand, holding a G chord:


    G chord (no problems here):


    C chord, the way it doesn't give me problems:


    Another angle:


    Em (the only way I can do 0220, single finger doesn't cut it here:


    C chord, this one does give me problems - the last E string gets muted by the index finger that supports the neck:


    Another angle:

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    You shouldn't be supporting the instrument with your left hand. The strap should do that. Look at this video:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6qdkkgBQjuc

    Also look at the videos of the left hand. These are good ergonomics as taught me by a great performing arts doctor.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqBZy...6&feature=plcp
    Last edited by Pete Martin; Oct-28-2012 at 1:49pm.
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    Registered User Ragazza's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Looked at your photos, is your wrist jutting outward? Keep it straight when you turn your hand and fingers toward the fingerboard. Looks like you are supporting the neck BELOW the undex finger proximal joint, if so it should rest just ABOVE this knuckle. Keep a lookout for these two items and correct immediately. Good luck P.S. Too much pressure on your fingertips, apply just enough to hear your notes

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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Pete pegged it. THe strap supports the mandolin. Not your hand. THe other thing you may want to take a look at is where on your body your mandolin is sitting. Too low and or too far to the right or whatever . Take a look at some videos on Utube, Mike Marshall or Chris THiele maybe. We all have different bodies and we all have to position our mandolins accordingly. Luck... R/
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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Holding your mandolin so the neck is at an approximate 45 degrees will help you to keep your wrist straight.

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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    Pete pegged it. THe strap supports the mandolin. Not your hand. THe other thing you may want to take a look at is where on your body your mandolin is sitting. Too low and or too far to the right or whatever . Take a look at some videos on Utube, Mike Marshall or Chris THiele maybe. We all have different bodies and we all have to position our mandolins accordingly. Luck... R/
    Exactly, your fretting hand should never be a support for the neck. The instrument is supported by the right arm, leg, body, strap, or some combination: dependes on whether you are standing sitting etc. Take a look at how Chris Thile etc plays while sitting. http://www.mandolincafe.com/news/pub...s_001493.shtml
    The instrument is completely supported on his leg freeing the freting hand completely. Look also at how a violinist plays, the thumb on the neck is simply a guide and a counter to the finger pressure on the strings, not a support for the neck. Same should be true for the mandolin.
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    What CptE said: " Look also at how a violinist plays, the thumb on the neck is simply a guide and a counter to the finger pressure on the strings, not a support for the neck. Same should be true for the mandolin." This is the best advice out there...this and practice, practice and more practice...but practice holding it right. Like my sweetie says, practicing wrong all day is going to make me very good at doing it wrong...

  13. #12

    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    I agree that you shouldn't be supporting the mandolin with your left hand. But, FWIW, I always play C and Em (and G, for that matter) with my middle and ring fingers rather than my index and middle fingers. I find it makes chord changes (particularly to F [1332]) much simpler.

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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Then I guess I've been thinking about it too much like a guitar. But the difference with it is that I can easily support a guitar on my leg and hold it in place with my right arm, so my left hand doesn't have to do anything. Since a mandolin is such a small instrument I couldn't do it any other way than to support it a bit with the left hand.

    So should there be a gap between the index finger and the side of the neck? I couldn't really tell.

    About my wrist, it's not bending outward. Okay, maybe, by 5° or something like that. It's not much, at least.

    About the joint, I tried doing that, but it gives me even less length of finger to bend with.

    I do wish I had an F-style mandolin now, those seem to be a lot easier to play sitting down. Even without a strap.

    Thanks for checking, everybody.

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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    I've gotten so far as adjusting my strap so my mandolin sits in a better position and not supporting the neck with my left hand.

    There doesn't seem to be a place where I can put my index finger so it doesn't touch the E string that's closest to the edge of the fretboard.

    That, and I'm now totally lost on where the counter-pressure should come from when fretting the strings.

    I can't believe this is giving me so much trouble.

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    Registered User bluenote23's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    I am just a beginner here so I hope I am not giving you bad advice. Hopefully others will double check what I am telling you.

    Unlike the guitar, where you use your thumb for support at the back of the neck, on the mandolin, the neck rests more in the palm of your hand and your thumb spends a lot of time just pointing out into space. A lot like when you play an open C on the guitar.

    So the neck rests in the crook between your thumb and index finger. The counterpressure is in that crook and on your palm.

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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    I thought there was supposed to be a gap right there? Kinda like a violin player does? Or is that gap supposed to be somewhere else? :P

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    There is supposed to be a gap in the crook between your thumb and index finger. I just picked up my mando and played the C chord you are trying to make. The neck touchs my thumb and the bone where my index finger joins my hand. This leaves a large gap in the crook. In your photos it looks like you are pressing the strings with more of the pad of your fingers than I do. When I make this C chord the 2nd string is within 1/8" - 5/32" from my closely trimmed nail. This allows the 1st strings to be unmuted.

  19. #18
    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    I'm starting to think that somehow my fingers are too short in order to be able to have enough length to bend along to not make the proximal whatsitcalled touch the outside E string.

    The other E-string (closest to the A course) rings out without a problem.

    Maybe I should just use fingers 2 and 3 instead of 1 and 2? That makes the neck (behind the nut, actually) rest on the proximal joint of my index finger. So the index finger can't possibly mute anything in this fingering.

    Edit: I've found a way now. The second finger joint has to be almost parallel to the strings when looking straight at the neck.

    Last edited by Cue Zephyr; Jan-12-2013 at 12:43pm.

  20. #19
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Just a high-level observation:

    In the various photos, look carefully the angle of the fingers between the 1st & 2nd joints.

    A) In the photo labeled "G chord (no problems here)", that stretch of finger is angled mostly along the length of the fretboard and of the strings.
    B) In all other photos, that upper stretch of finger is angled mostly across the fretboard and along the length of the frets.

    Also:
    A) In the G-chord photo, the fingertips are pressing at about a 45 to 60 degree angle to the surface of the fretboard; that looks reasonable.
    B) In the other photos, the fingertips are pressing at about 90 degrees to the fretboard or even more; it looks uncomfortable!

    The "g-chord" photo looks a bit like fiddler's hand and like, yes, a proper mandolinist. The other photos look like a guitarist trying to play mandolin... but that's where most of us started, so it can't be insurmountable.

    Keep in mind that guitarists normally assign one fret per finger, and tend to reach across the fretboard. Mandolinists (and fiddlers if they had 'em) assign TWO frets per finger, and need to reach along the length of the fretboard. If you can angle your wrist to accomplish that, as in the G chord above, the gap will probably take care of itself.

    But maybe a wider nut and/or radiused fingerboard is also needed? Radius does provide more separation between pairs of strings compared to the same width of a flat board.
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    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Thanks for your assessment. I can angle my fingers that way for the G-chord, because I don't need a lot of reach crossing the strings, because they are closesd to the palm of my hand. With the C-chord, I have to angle them more along the frets in order to not mute anything and use my fingertips sufficiently. Otherwise, I simply cannot reach a C-chord, the fleshy part of my index finger closest to the first knuckle will mute the outer E string.

    I'm aware of the two fingers per fret 'rule', I think that's one of the first things I've been told after I stepped into the shop an sat down to try out a few instruments.

    I think the nut is the standard 27mm or so, and the fretboard is indeed radiused. What seems to be more of a problem though, is the proximity of the outside E-string to the end of the fretboard.

    Starting to think more and more that either 1) I'm just not made for this instrument or 2) that outer E string is indeed way too close to the edge of the fretboard.

    Heck, let's post another picture:
    Last edited by Cue Zephyr; Jan-12-2013 at 8:53pm.

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    Registered User bluenote23's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Again, I am just a beginner and maybe I am playing wrong but there is no gap (usually) between the crook of my thumb and index and the neck. The counterpressure comes from my hand, not my thumb. Of course, as you play different chords, your hand moves and this position changes somewhat. So if I play an open C, then the neck is resting pretty well flat on the crook of my thumb and index but if I play a K style A (5-7-11-9) then the neck is resting a little more on my thumb.

    Remember that the mandolin is not a guitar. You've got a big head start on playing, being a guitar player, but it's still a new instrument and it's going to take a little while for your hands to become acquainted with the instrument. Also, the callouses you form, especially on the index finger, are not going to be in exactly the same place as on a guitar so it ought to hurt!

    Remember how long it took you to get anything out of a guitar when you first started. Your progress should be quicker on the mandolin but don't get discouraged when no miracles occur.

    Added: So I've been watching my hands as I play and when I play melodies or scales, my position changes a bit and the joint of my thumb is supporting the neck a little more than when I play open chords.

    But these motions are pretty unconscious. At one point I became aware that I wasn't playing the guitar and certain things were just different (like not playing barre chords or using one finger to play two courses of strings). Then my hands just took over and I didn't think about hand position anymore.
    Last edited by bluenote23; Jan-13-2013 at 10:42am.

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    Registered User samlyman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Cue:

    Here are a few options...

    You just not strum the open e string. You could also consider playing a variation on C and Em...

    C
    5
    2
    X
    X


    Em
    4
    2
    X
    X


    Just play the bass notes and see what you think...

    Sam

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    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Put your fingertips on the C chord notes and then just move the rest of your left hand until your index finger is no longer touching the edge of the mandolin neck. At that point, you'll see that your left wrist is actually slightly flexed. You should be able to do this with the left wrist sufficiently away from the mandolin that your left index finger can be nowhere near the edge of the mando. This extreme position will probably not be necessary once you get it worked out, but it demonstrates how your left index finger should be working with the distal finger joint nearly straight if need be.
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    You shouldn't be supporting the instrument with your left hand. The strap should do that. Look at this video:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6qdkkgBQjuc

    Also look at the videos of the left hand. These are good ergonomics as taught me by a great performing arts doctor.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqBZy...6&feature=plcp
    Pete thanks so much for that. I haven't been using a strap but just tried it and now I can see how much energy my right hand (lefty) was using to prop up the mandolin.

  26. #25
    Taylor Swift lover/fan Cue Zephyr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with open chords and open E string

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Put your fingertips on the C chord notes and then just move the rest of your left hand until your index finger is no longer touching the edge of the mandolin neck. At that point, you'll see that your left wrist is actually slightly flexed. You should be able to do this with the left wrist sufficiently away from the mandolin that your left index finger can be nowhere near the edge of the mando. This extreme position will probably not be necessary once you get it worked out, but it demonstrates how your left index finger should be working with the distal finger joint nearly straight if need be.
    I tried. All I could find is that the high E does ring out if I just rest the index finger at the 2nd fret of the D string. Once I start applying the slightest bit of pressure, it mutes. I guess the skin on my finger just gives a little which makes it mute the string.

    The only possible way still, seems to be having the fingers almost parallel to the frets.

    The counter-pressure should be between the proximal joint of the index finger and the thumb, right?

    I can't believe I can make everything else work, except for this.

    I appreciate everybody's help but there's got to be something fundamentally wrong somewhere.

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