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Thread: Hand span

  1. #1
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    Hand span

    I seem to struggle playing some of Ted Greens chords particularly when the span five frets, such as a G, D, A on E A and D ( G add9 I think).

    I am most comfortable playing a tele so I am stuck with 25.5 scale.

    This stretch seems very uncomfortable. Will stretches like this get easier with practice? Is there a safe way to improve?

  2. #2
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    Everyone's hands are different, so some chords may be harder or impossible for some players to hit. I think the chord you're describing, though, should become fairly playable with a little practice. A couple of thought

    - left arm/hand position is important, if you've got you thumb wrapped around the neck, it's much harder to stretch out the fingers than if you have your thumb pad touching near the middle of the neck

    - you may find slightly dipping your left shoulder will make the stretch easier as well

    - you can also practice the chord higher up the neck, eg, C, G, D on the 8th fret, or even higher. Find a root that is comfortable, get that down, and then start working your way towards the lower registers

    pain/tension is bad, if it hurts don't do it. don't do it for too long at one stretch either
    Last edited by enablement; 11-07-2013 at 10:42 AM. Reason: typos!

  3. #3
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    Holding the neck up at an angle and getting your thumb lower on the back of the neck is essential.

    Also, if a chord is too much of a stretch for you, try it higher on the fretboard and gradually see if you can move it back down. Don't make chords that really mess with your hands, respect your limitations and flexibility increases over time.
    Kiefer.Wolfowitz likes this.

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    Sorry, made my response before enablement's came through

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    That's great guys. Thanks for the advice

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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    Holding the neck up at an angle and getting your thumb lower on the back of the neck is essential.

    Also, if a chord is too much of a stretch for you, try it higher on the fretboard and gradually see if you can move it back down. Don't make chords that really mess with your hands, respect your limitations and flexibility increases over time.
    I'm thinking to the "John Stowell position"... he himself explaied that one of the reasons of playing with an almost vertical neck position is because the reachable finger stretch gets wider.
    Cello players can confirm, and to the extreme, the same technique can be applied to guitar too...


  7. #7
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    you're welcome. not that chord names necessarily mean anything in a vacuum (that could be a Gadd9 depending on what chord preceeds/follows it), but I would call that chord a Dsus4, as it has the root, 5th, 4th and no 3rd. D, G, A.

    For extra stretching practice, try resolving it down to the 1st inversion D major by lowering your index finger a 1/2 step (F#, A, D) and then to G 1st inversion (B, D, G) (all on E, A, D strings)

    will

  8. #8
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    Practice 20+ minutes every day on chords you're finding difficult. Start up high on the neck and gradually over time move down to the lower frets as you're able.

    Check out vids of Jimmy Bruno and Brent Mason. Great players with small hands and they manage to play all the chords.

  9. #9
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    If I take the cellist thing any further then I'm going to need a bow. I'm a glutton for punishment because I've developed a love affair with teles too so I'm stuck with 25.5
    Last edited by Chimera1to1; 11-17-2013 at 09:54 AM.

  10. #10
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    one big reason to play a short scale guitar (25 or 24.75)

    Wes played a 25.5 L5 and did not have long fingers. he also used easy to grab chord grips most of the time. he sounded just fine.

    sometimes it's a choice to go nuts with those challenging grips, not a requirement. if you feel compelled to make it a habit, I'd say go with a shorter scale for sure.

    the other advice listed here is good too (although the Paul Galbraith position is not necessary)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chimera1to1 View Post
    I seem to struggle playing some of Ted Greens chords particularly when the span five frets, such as a G, D, A on E A and D ( G add9 I think).

    I am most comfortable playing a tele so I am stuck with 25.5 scale.

    This stretch seems very uncomfortable. Will stretches like this get easier with practice? Is there a safe way to improve?
    I remember playing that very stretch. At first I could not do it at all, cleanly. They I needed time to set it up, and eventually it fell into place. I like this add9 chord for chord melodies:

    G(add9) 357433

    That took a while to barre cleanly (on a Tele). I'm still working on the F(add9): 135211.

    We need to remember there's always going to be someone with bigger, stretchier hands, and we'll always hit a limit. For the original chord (357xxx) you could always play the A on the G string: 35x2xx. It's jazz, we can always cheat!

    EDIT: As an exercise, work on the Message In a Bottle riff:

    Last edited by BigDaddyLoveHandles; 11-17-2013 at 04:10 PM.

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    I love Ted Greene's playing, but a lot of those shapes in the Chord Chemistry book had me scratching my head a bit in terms of actual physical execution. What's more, when I see Ted play on youtube, he doesn't look like he's playing massively stretched out voicings like Stowell or Holdsworth - Anyone who's familiar with Ted's material care to comment on this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3625 View Post
    I love Ted Greene's playing, but a lot of those shapes in the Chord Chemistry book had me scratching my head a bit in terms of actual physical execution. What's more, when I see Ted play on youtube, he doesn't look like he's playing massively stretched out voicings like Stowell or Holdsworth - Anyone who's familiar with Ted's material care to comment on this?
    Ted's stuff reminds me of Chet Atkins' with the strong counter melody going on in the bass. Also, the Bach voice leading being present in the inner voices. The harmony isn't typically 'closed' like Johnny Smith as his trademark. Just my over all impression. IMO

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exJV8IpL7os









    Sometimes a shorter string scale guitar can get cramped way up the neck especially with jumbo frets. My fingers are fat at the ends. Can't even attempt the chords Ted's doing way up on th 20th fret with a 24.75 measure. There's not enough room up there.
    Last edited by ChuckCorbisiero; 11-29-2013 at 11:58 PM.

  14. #14
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    keep pratise you will find good solution

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    I know it was said earlier, but it can never be said enough: If it's uncomfortable, don't do it! SO MANY guitarists have this "Proof is in the pain" ethic, and believe me I've seen good guitarists sidelined, some for years, some worse, in the belief that that was necessary.
    When you get into practicing, there's a rush that comes, and the tendency is to block out pain or see it as a sign that you're working hard enough to get somewhere. I know a really good teacher who tells his students to stop at the first sign of pain and over practicing; going for stretches they aren't warmed up for or unable to make. His rule: If you miss a lesson due to a foolish unnecessary practice related injury, your grade will suffer too. Still, somebody always pushes it too far.
    That being said, there are voicings I work with regularly that I never would have been able to make when I began. Use your time well and it will be your ally.
    David
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  16. #16
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    I agree with David and also wanted to add that stretching that my understanding is that stretching the pinky far apart from the ring finger can aggravate the ulnar nerve. I try to refinger some chords to avoid big stretches between those two fingers.

    Similarly, you might see a chord somebody else plays and feel compelled to finger it that way, but everybody is different.

    For example, this chord: X B F# C# X A# it's a little tight for me that low on the fretboard, but for my hands playing it like this: B F# X C# X A# (and barreing) is much more comfortable.

    Oh, and I can't believe I didn't write this before: for the love of god, keep your wrist straight. No pronation, supination, or extension!
    GuyBoden likes this.

  17. #17
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    I feel there are far better ways to spend practice time than stretching to reach uncomfortable chords - safer ones too. If it's mildly awkward at first (after you are a decent player) then maybe work to make it feel better, but if it's quite a stretch just drop out some notes! If you are going to stretch, I say no more than a few minutes a day and with a loooooong term view. And most definitely with a straight wrist as much as possible. That is essential.

  18. #18
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    In recent months, I've started playing with a wrist support with an aluminum insert, this keeps my wrist straight and doesn't allow those foolish, uncomfortable stretches that make my tendons inflamed.


    I know, it's only a Hobby, but I like it, like it, yes, I do.
    A FEW OF MY RECORDINGS CAN BE HEARD HERE ON YOUTUBE

  19. #19
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    for what it's worth, I've been advised by docs and physical therapists to NOT ever play in a splint or brace.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    for what it's worth, I've been advised by docs and physical therapists to NOT ever play in a splint or brace.
    Did they specify "NOT ever play in a splint or brace" with an injury.

    I ask because I only use the wrist support to avoid an injury, I never play with an injury.

    Thanks
    Guy
    I know, it's only a Hobby, but I like it, like it, yes, I do.
    A FEW OF MY RECORDINGS CAN BE HEARD HERE ON YOUTUBE

  21. #21
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    I don't recall that qualification. A lot of medical advice gets passed around on non-medical boards by non-medical people so I don't want to do a disservice by continuing that tradition.

    I'll just relay what my (now distant) memory tells me about the warning: if you play in a brace without training yourself to not move that joint, you are exerting effort and using that muscle often up against the 'wall' of the brace which can cause problems, kind of like a straightjacket for your hand. Since I'm not a doctor I can't give a much better answer than that, but it might be something worth researching if this is a common practice for you.

    I'll also say that as a person who has spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing his playing position and that of others, it is very much possible to train yourself to never or rarely bend at the wrist joint, even during stretched chord voicings. Playing with a straight wrist is something I take very seriously.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    I don't recall that qualification. A lot of medical advice gets passed around on non-medical boards by non-medical people so I don't want to do a disservice by continuing that tradition.

    I'll just relay what my (now distant) memory tells me about the warning: if you play in a brace without training yourself to not move that joint, you are exerting effort and using that muscle often up against the 'wall' of the brace which can cause problems, kind of like a straightjacket for your hand. Since I'm not a doctor I can't give a much better answer than that, but it might be something worth researching if this is a common practice for you.

    I'll also say that as a person who has spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing his playing position and that of others, it is very much possible to train yourself to never or rarely bend at the wrist joint, even during stretched chord voicings. Playing with a straight wrist is something I take very seriously.

    Many thanks for your reply, I believe that keeping a straight wrist is the key to avoiding tendonitis injuries.
    I know, it's only a Hobby, but I like it, like it, yes, I do.
    A FEW OF MY RECORDINGS CAN BE HEARD HERE ON YOUTUBE

  23. #23
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    What I do is transpose the chord so that I can play it much further up the fingerboard using the same fingering. That allows me to get comfortable with a much hotter stretch while I get used to the basic hand position. Once I'm comfortable with it, I start to move it down one fret at a time, getting comfortable in each position before I move it any further.
    a little experiment in guerrilla marketing ....
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    And you name the price (even $0.00)
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    .... for the love of god, keep your wrist straight. No pronation, supination, or extension!

    I struggle with this all the time. HOW does one keep the wrist straight at all times? Shift the position of the guitar? What should the position be? Is there one ideal position? Or different for different areas of the neck / chord grips? Raise the neck ?

    It sounds so elementary - like its Lesson 1 Day 1. Clearly it is not.
    "...even I know that you can't buy 'chops' at the music store..."

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzDreams View Post
    I struggle with this all the time. HOW does one keep the wrist straight at all times? Shift the position of the guitar? What should the position be? Is there one ideal position? Or different for different areas of the neck / chord grips? Raise the neck ?

    It sounds so elementary - like its Lesson 1 Day 1. Clearly it is not.
    Jazz dreams - it can be tough and it takes a lot of body awareness, which most people don't have. A mirror is a huge help, or just leaving your computer's camera on if you're practicing at the computer also works well.

    It's hard to describe via text - when I work on this stuff with students I will even move their guitars and move their hands/shoulders to get them in a good position.

    The best I can say is:

    have the neck angled up as classical guitarists do

    shoulders low and back

    make the "bend" come as much from the fingers and the knuckle as possible, as opposed to the wrist.

    For certain more difficult cases (like a stretched voicing) dropping the left shoulder even lower can help.

    I believe there's a lot more to it. This may be overkill, but if you wanted to post a quick clip or photo of you playing I and others could make suggestions about your position.

    There is nothing that I can't play with a straight wrist as long as I am willing to angle the neck very high or compromise my left shoulder temporarily (for a stretch.)

  26. #26
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    The title of this thread makes me think of those 80's Guitar Player magazine covers where some spandex wearing rocker with feathered hair would pose holding a 10 fret stretch on the fingerboard.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuyBoden View Post
    Many thanks for your reply, I believe that keeping a straight wrist is the key to avoiding tendonitis injuries.
    I can only speak for my self and my own experience, but I follow a very different path. I keep my wrist loose but bent at almost all times. I've been playing that way since about 1973 when I changed my hand position to move my thumb to the back of the neck. I play a lot and I a have pretty good reach. I have never had any issues with wrist or hand injuries or tendonitis. Just my experience, others' may vary.
    a little experiment in guerrilla marketing ....
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com ...
    And you name the price (even $0.00)
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  28. #28
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    Yeah, I definitely do not think that any one variable will lead to these pain issues, because for every "bad habit" (and of course there is debate over what is a bad habit or not) there will likely be many guitarists who have that habit but have no issues with pain while playing. Of course, that doesn't prove that something like playing with a bent wrist is fine and safe, but I don't think that's what you were saying.

    Some of my students at time complain of pain in the back of their left hand - those that do it's pretty much always because their wrist is bent and when I fix that they do not have the pain. In fact, as I become more strict about the wrist with my students over the years, I've heard the back-of-hand pain complaint less and less.

    But, to Jim - great that you've been able to avoid any issues! Many are not as lucky.

  29. #29
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    Newbie!

    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    The best I can say is:

    have the neck angled up as classical guitarists do

    shoulders low and back

    make the "bend" come as much from the fingers and the knuckle as possible, as opposed to the wrist.

    Thank you - that alone makes sense to me. Not that it will be easy to get used to.

    We've all heard "But - I have (... small hands, short stubby fingers, ... not like so-and-so... ) etc" . (Pick one)
    I find it difficult to get a good vertical to the fretboard "play on the tips of the fingers" position particularly on the lower strings where I have to reach "across the fingerboard" and I think I compensate by bending the wrist... but focusing on making the arch with the hand and fingers ( and a straight wrist position) coupled with the position of the neck makes a ton of sense. (To me anyway.)

    Ever notice in video of Joe Pass playing, how high he positions the neck ? It always looked a little odd to me. But it might help a bit if I experiment with positioning the instrument in that way.
    "...even I know that you can't buy 'chops' at the music store..."

  30. #30
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    JazzDreams, I think the default rock/folk way of positioning the guitar may be comfortable but is not ergonomic or efficient for playing difficult passages that involve the pinky finger of the left hand. Playing with a foot stool is ok but those that play with a foot stool over years and years often develop back problems, and a foot stool just isn't comfortable with a lot of guitars that have very different dimensions than your standard classical guitar.

    I'm hoping that devices like the neckup and ergoplay, as well as "ergonomic" shaped guitars become more of the standard but I'm not holding my breathe.

    Point is, I think it takes some creativity and experimentation to find good positions.

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