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  1. #1

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    Hi
    I am trying to play my jazz arrangements now on my classical. However I find my left hand just doesn’t have the stamina to hold down those bar chords for any length of time. This is super frustrating as I really prefer the sound of the classical. I don’t really want to lower the action as it will effect the tone. I was hoping that I could get some advice on this in this section of the forum.
    Thanks for any help.

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I am not sure there is any solution to this other than building up the strength by doing it (obviously you stop and rest if there is any pain in your hands). I have the same problem if I don’t play my classical guitar for a week or so, but the strength soon comes back.

    Do you play any classical guitar pieces or studies? I should think regularly playing some pieces with barres (most pieces probably have them!) should help.

    The only tip I’ve seen online is to use the strength of your arm to pull the barre towards you (as it were). However I tried this and found it a bit awkward, and in any case I didn’t really need it.

    I use normal tension strings (not high tension), possibly that helps too.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    I am not sure there is any solution to this other than building up the strength by doing it (obviously you stop and rest if there is any pain in your hands). I have the same problem if I don’t play my classical guitar for a week or so, but the strength soon comes back.

    Do you play any classical guitar pieces or studies? I should think regularly playing some pieces with barres (most pieces probably have them!) should help.

    The only tip I’ve seen online is to use the strength of your arm to pull the barre towards you (as it were). However I tried this and found it a bit awkward, and in any case I didn’t really need it.

    I use normal tension strings (not high tension), possibly that helps too.

    All of the above makes sense. I do use high tension strings so I could go down a grade. I am no expert but I have worked on classical pieces in the past. I think that the composers and arrangers try to keep barres to a minimum and use friendly keys for open strings. As we know most jazz stuff is in non guitar friendly flat keys. However I have massive respect for the classical guys. I know I will never have their ability. I notice some of the classical people now have surprisingly low action. I might try that but there’s definitely a price to pay regarding tone.

  5. #4

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    You can put some of your arrangements into ‘guitar friendly’ keys and get the benefit of some open strings, no harm in doing that. I’ve seen some arrangements of Round Midnight in Em rather than Ebm for example. (I think Baden Powell played it like that too.)

    Also worth googling classical guitar barre exercises or similar, you will probably find lots of suggestions, e.g. I found this:

    Barre Exercise for Classical Guitar with Matthew McAllister | This is Classical Guitar

  6. #5

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    Lower action does not necessarily mean loss of tone, nor will a lighter string set. In classical guitar, the tone is made with the right hand, mostly. A lower action will cause a problem if you're trying to fill a concert hall without any amplification, you really have to dig in. But for your purposes, you could go to a lighter set and lower action and use a mic or a pickup like the Kremona to have a good volume level. I have done many classical guitar concerts and studied with the some of the top players, and I would recommend very highly the Frederic Hand instructional video available on youtube, he has great recommendations for both hands. Also, as mentioned above, there is no good reason to play in flat keys unless you plan to play with a group led by a horn player. Utilizing open strings is very effective on the classical guitar, not so much on the jazz archtop. Just choose a key where the melody sings well. You'll need fewer barres and get some nice overtones going.

  7. #6

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    Some good advice. Thanks.
    Can’t say I am very excited about re learning all of my arrangements in different keys! I’ve never done a solo gig always with a horn and band. I believe Martin Taylor plays some of his stuff in sharp keys.
    Oh well, another huge challenge to consider.
    What strings would you go for? Thanks

  8. #7

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    The ultimate solution for me was to get a hybrid classical, one with a narrower fingerboard, for jazz and Brazilian music. But even in straight classical guitars there are a lot of variations in sizes, you can look for one your hands like.


    Regarding technique, strength helps, but developing an effortless technique is needed as well. You don't really have to put that much effort if you work at developing a light touch. Also the right hand plays a role, by making things easier as it becomes better at generating tone. Lastly, the quality of the guitar player a decisive role, especially when you still are developing as a player, as it can make our break your technique. On good classicals, touch the guitar and the sound jumps out. On bad ones..

    On classicals, it is very easy to mess with the action. I just keep two bridge bones, one lower and one higher. They are very easy to change if there's no piezo underneath.

  9. #8

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    I have tried various nylon guitars with various necks and pietzo type pickups. But I always go back to my Spanish classical. I have a love hate relationship with transducer pickups. I usually hate them.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by md54
    What strings would you go for? Thanks
    I use D’Addario normal tension.

    By the way, if you like jazz on the classical guitar, check out Eric Hill, he has got some good recordings here:

    Eric Hill

  11. #10

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    I recommend the D'Addario normal tension coated strong (EXP?), they sound and feel great, and the basses last as long as the trebles. The Kremona pickup is a transducer, but sits on top of the bridge under the string windings, so no drilling, easy to move from one guitar to another, inexpensive, and with a good multiprocessor or preamp, sounds very good. I use one for classical ensemble work, jazz group work and solo amplified work in restaurants, etc., really works well.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz
    I recommend the D'Addario normal tension coated strong (EXP?), they sound and feel great, and the basses last as long as the trebles. The Kremona pickup is a transducer, but sits on top of the bridge under the string windings, so no drilling, easy to move from one guitar to another, inexpensive, and with a good multiprocessor or preamp, sounds very good. I use one for classical ensemble work, jazz group work and solo amplified work in restaurants, etc., really works well.
    Thats really interesting because I have never used a pre amp or processor. I used a Godin nylon direct into an AER. Never liked the sound. I assumed that the Godin on board preamp would be as good as it gets so didn’t pursue it. Could you explain the preamp processor thing to me? I don’t get it. Thanks

  13. #12

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    Agree with grahambop - maybe you just need to build strength.

    You don't say whether you've taken lessons - perhaps a teacher could evaluate your left-hand technique and improve it. Proper classical technique in the left hand produces strength and agility that is useful for playing any style. However, you may sometimes need to stray from proper thumb-directly-on-the-center-of-the-neck LH position to make certain jazz chords easier to play.

    TBH, I almost never use full barre chords as a jazz player. Could you ditch the barre chords for voicings that are more idiomatic to jazz guitar?

    HTH

    SJ

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine
    Agree with grahambop - maybe you just need to build strength.

    You don't say whether you've taken lessons - perhaps a teacher could evaluate your left-hand technique and improve it. Proper classical technique in the left hand produces strength and agility that is useful for playing any style. However, you may sometimes need to stray from proper thumb-directly-on-the-center-of-the-neck LH position to make certain jazz chords easier to play.

    TBH, I almost never use full barre chords as a jazz player. Could you ditch the barre chords for voicings that are more idiomatic to jazz guitar?

    HTH

    SJ
    Over the years I have had short bursts of lessons with classical players. I am dyslexic and have always struggled with written music although now I’m 65 I recon I have a grip on it!! I can interpret most stuff now. I have quite a good technique and good hands except for skinny fingers and not a lot of power. I do exercises to use minimal effort on the fretboard etc.
    As mentioned above I avoid full barre whenever possible. However I still get hand ache and loss of strength after a few minutes sometimes. I would love to do some solo work and I have been asked to do so but fear of my hands failing puts me off.
    Very much appreciate the advice given, thanks. I feel very close to achieving my lifelong ambition to be a soloist but I suspect it’s not going to happen now. Martin Taylor can rest easy!! Haha

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by md54
    Hi
    I am trying to play my jazz arrangements now on my classical. However I find my left hand just doesn’t have the stamina to hold down those bar chords for any length of time. This is super frustrating as I really prefer the sound of the classical. I don’t really want to lower the action as it will effect the tone. I was hoping that I could get some advice on this in this section of the forum.
    Thanks for any help.
    Do you play with a straight wrist? If not, I recommend doing so.

    Also, do you let the weight of your arm help press the strings? This is something I picked up from Jamey Andreas' classic book (https://www.amazon.ca/Principles-Cor.../dp/0967122325) a long time ago. It's about using transferring the "hanging" weight of your arm into the strings, by using your thumb to clamp on the back of the neck. When I learn a new weird chord shape I'll spend some time fingering the chord then releasing my thumb grip so that my arm just drops due to gravity, then re-gripping the chord a 4th or 5th away, then repeating, etc, as a way to practice this. Give it a try.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by md54
    I would love to do some solo work and I have been asked to do so but fear of my hands failing puts me off.
    I'd say "go for it!" If you need an extra break now and then, just take one. Perhaps consider prioritizing easier-to-play pieces over physically demanding ones. The perspective gained in live performance would probably offer interesting insights and motivations to inform your off-stage practice time. And it would probably be fun if you enjoy performing :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny
    Do you play with a straight wrist? If not, I recommend doing so.

    Also, do you let the weight of your arm help press the strings? This is something I picked up from Jamey Andreas' classic book (Amazon.ca Something Went Wrong / Quelque chose s'est mal passe) a long time ago. It's about using transferring the "hanging" weight of your arm into the strings, by using your thumb to clamp on the back of the neck. When I learn a new weird chord shape I'll spend some time fingering the chord then releasing my thumb grip so that my arm just drops due to gravity, then re-gripping the chord a 4th or 5th away, then repeating, etc, as a way to practice this. Give it a try.
    Interesting - I use legit classical LH technique as my default when some twisty chord grip does not require otherwise. As a result, my thumb is on the center of the back of the neck most of the time, which gives ideal leverage for fingering, and my arm hangs straight down, completely relaxed. I don't make any conscious effort to channel the weight of my arm into the strings, but I'm curious to see what that feels like.

    @OP, do the LH problems show up with any guitar or just your beloved Spanish classic?

    Anecdotally, I once played an archtop I was thinking about buying and after 45 minutes my LH hurt like hell. At the time, I was playing 3-4 hours a day routinely and had lots of strength and stamina, but that axe was... well, not for me. I didn't find anything objectively wrong with the action or the setup, but it wasn't friendly. Turned down that purchase and bought another one like it about a month later, and I can play 0.14- .067 LaBella tapes for hours on that archtop with no problem. TBH, never ran into this LH pain with any other guitar than the one I turned down.

    Last update to this reply, promise: Have you seen a doctor about this? Could it be the beginning of tendinitis, carpal tunnel or some other repetitive stress injury?
    Last edited by starjasmine; 06-27-2020 at 07:49 PM.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine

    ....

    Interesting - I use legit classical LH technique as my default when some twisty chord grip does not require otherwise. As a result, my thumb is on the center of the back of the neck most of the time, which gives ideal leverage for fingering, and my arm hangs straight down, completely relaxed. I don't make any conscious effort to channel the weight of my arm into the strings, but I'm curious to see what that feels like.
    It sounds to me like you're already doing it. I don't think about it either except when doing my "get tricky new chord shape under my fingers" exercise I described above, which is probably only a total of 30 minutes every few months. If one's arm is relaxed and the thumb is behind the neck in the middle, that's it. I guess a detail is that the thumb should be extended back (like a "thumb's up") not crooked forward. The thumb pressure comes from the big thumb joint (ie the hand) not the little thumb joint. I'm sure you're already doing this starjasmine but I mention it for the OP's potential benefit.

  18. #17

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    I have noticed that if I lay on my back while playing (yes, at home alone, not on stage!) that my fretting hand gets exhausted after a little while. I presume this is from reduced blood circulation because of relative elevation.

    Just wondering if an adjustment to classical playing position might make a difference - the classical form seems to elevate and point the neck a bit more upward than when playing non-classical guitars, no?

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    I have noticed that if I lay on my back while playing (yes, at home alone, not on stage!) that my fretting hand gets exhausted after a little while. I presume this is from reduced blood circulation because of relative elevation.
    Or maybe because your elbow and shoulder get pushed slightly out of the position they'd be in if you were standing? See 2:18 to end. (Unfortunately JGF seems not to honor the marker.)




    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    Just wondering if an adjustment to classical playing position might make a difference - the classical form seems to elevate and point the neck a bit more upward than when playing non-classical guitars, no?
    Ah, good point. I'm playing electric with a strap, so the position of the neck is less angled than the classic position. I've played classic with the little footstool, though, and I don't think the change in neck angle makes much difference for me.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by md54
    Thats really interesting because I have never used a pre amp or processor. I used a Godin nylon direct into an AER. Never liked the sound. I assumed that the Godin on board preamp would be as good as it gets so didn’t pursue it. Could you explain the preamp processor thing to me? I don’t get it. Thanks
    There are several, but for nylon, the Zoom A3 is the best I've found; it's unique in that it has both 1/4" and XLR inputs, so a mic can be used along with a transducer, which really is the best of both worlds for playing anything but solo concerts. The cheapest multiprocessor I've found that works well with nylon strung guitars is the Digitech RP-55, which needs some tweaking to get what you're after, but does a great job, especially if, like me, you might be looking for some processed, electric-guitar sounds like chorus or overdrive.

  21. #20

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    A friend also had such a problem in the beginning. He did nothing special to make the pain go away, continued playing and massage the muscle. Somehow, the problem went away.

  22. #21

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    Gym.
    But ordinary exercises wont do much good. Twisting motions (arms and wrists) with resistance will help a lot. Like, do your biceps but hold the dumbells from one side, not the center.


    If not a gym-person, there are many tips to make holding the barre-chords with less effort. I lack the english and time right now to describe those - more or less all of them would be how to avoid relying on the pinching with thumb&fingers @100%.
    Basically.. trust the gravity and some easy physics

  23. #22

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    Jazz on a classical.

    Long scale length is one challenge, and wider string spacing,

    BUT

    don’t forget radius.

    There is only one way to fix that - get a guitar made by a luthier that adjusts for that.

    i should have never posted this, it’s going to start driving you crazy.

  24. #23

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    A Classical guitar and an electric guitar are two completely different instruments. Both have differing requirements and technique. Without getting into a doctoral dissertation, if you want to play Jazz on a CG, study with a CG teacher and learn the proper technique. Otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels. Good luck! Play live . . . Marinero

  25. #24

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    My 2 cents: Strength isn’t the right word. You don’t need strength to play guitar. Ultimately you want to get to the point of effortless playing. Proper technique, repetition, and muscle and musical memory will get you there.

  26. #25

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    Good left hand positioning is tremendously helpful. Stay close to the frets, keep your wrist straight and don’t push down too hard.

  27. #26

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    I have a rather stiff acoustic guitar that I bought only to play simple chords, nothing else. After adding some of those exercises in the gym that I talked earlier, I don't avoid playing anything that I'd normally play on my comfy electric anymore.
    But you really have to check this out for yourself. A few weeks exercises will increase the strenght by 50% easily. Do the right ones that actually would help and.. yeah - it's too easy to not to try.

  28. #27

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    Dont play barre chords if you can avoid them, a fairly common theme I have seen in CG master classes involves the teacher reworking a fingering to eliminate a barre. You dont need barres for most 3-note voicings, playing a natural 5th is definitely not worth the effort of a barre chord

    if you do barre, use the weight if you arm to help - this involves correct LH position - wrist straight, guitar slightly tilted back etc.

    Also don't use high tension strings

  29. #28

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    I find that when playing jazz standards I rarely play a full bar chord and hold it for any length of time. A few weeks ago I pulled out a flat top and I was quite surprised at quickly my left hand got fatigued when playing simple strumming styles where you hold a chord down for a few bars at at time and then do the same for the following chords.

  30. #29

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    I think emanresu is on to something; the muscles to do this are not on your fingers remember. Using the arm is important; so you can thinking about strengthening the arm.

    I find it takes me a bit of getting used to on the nylon string. But I do get used to it.

    Again technique is important. Lessons from a classical player might not be a bad idea.

  31. #30

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    Alternatively, if you don’t need to project acoustically, get a lighter setup with lower tension strings.

  32. #31

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    Classical guitar is my main instrument and I sometimes play jazz on it. I suppose my only advice might be to analyse how much strength you actually need to hold a barre on your classical. It might be less than you think. Also, ensure you have warmed up a little before you try any difficult barre positions. That’s my twopence worth!

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    I think emanresu is on to something; the muscles to do this are not on your fingers remember. Using the arm is important; so you can thinking about strengthening the arm.

    I find it takes me a bit of getting used to on the nylon string. But I do get used to it.

    Again technique is important. Lessons from a classical player might not be a bad idea.
    With some training, you should get more muscles than you'd ever need. Just have to be smart there.
    It's no secret, anyone who goes to the gym the first time will see great gains in strength, not muscle mass, but strength increase in those first weeks. 50% is there to pick up with ease. The rest is way harder. But the first gain in strength is so easy yet so... noticeable

  34. #33

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    It’s a bit like playing an instrument I guess

  35. #34

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    Yes of course it’s strength, albeit not brute strength. It’s small muscles and bones - but strength most assuredly.

    Just as one example, have you ever seen the difference in the size of Pat Metheny’s left forearm vs. right? I had been a semi fan for 30 years and saw a picture of him playing and noticed it and thought - huh, well yeah that makes sense. It does for me too. Mostly because of those damn chords.

  36. #35

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    Though I'm very late to this thread, I'll simply say to anyone still listening and having this problem..Do the following :
    1) Get: Aaron Shearer's "Slurs Ornaments and Reach Developement Exercises" book.. Do as much of it you can.
    2) Get: a hand grip exerciser; the rare metal rack kind and/or the small curlicue kind and work those.
    3) Get: "Segovia 20 F.Sor etudes" <(title may vary)..and master, aside from as many as possible, #16 in G and #19 in Bb...
    4) Get: "25 Melodious Studies" by Carcassi.... Master as many as poss....
    If you are sticking to jazz on the classical guitar (as I mostly do for jazz but play classical), You still need to play jazz type chords and way way less barre chord types...Therefore:
    5) Get: (Old 60s) "Mickey Baker's Jazz Guitar" (title may vary)....Was a Yellow and black cover then..Pub.?........

    These 5 things will get you there... M