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View Full Version : Barred strings impossiblity. Me or the Uke ?



monkeyboyo
01-06-2017, 02:49 AM
Weeks of practice, experimenting etc hasn't led to any more likelihood of clean sound eg for partly barred B.
Microadjusting fingers, uke, elbow, shoulder, pressure occasionally achieves a clear sound, but it is more luck than having established the subtle nuances for me.

Are some ukes more difficult than others ?(mine is an Ohana Tenor) Are some people's unique finger/hand combination just unhelpful?
eg reaching 3rd & 4th string simply levers up the first finger for me.

Croaky Keith
01-06-2017, 02:58 AM
That is one of the tricky ones, my way is to lay my hand over a bit, & at the same time use almost the side of my index finger to create the bar.

Unfortunately, it is just down to practicing. ;)

monkeyboyo
01-06-2017, 03:04 AM
Thanks for your reply uke1950 :)
Practice is what I've done, and also with the method you describe.
Next step is to try other ukes to see if this changes anything

JJFN
01-06-2017, 04:25 AM
Don't try barring up at the B & Bb areas. Slide up to the 5th fret, a barred D chord and practice there. You will find that barring requires less pressure the further up the neck. There are several good you tube's on barring a ukulele. But in the end it all comes down to practice. Hang in there, we all went through this problem and don't be discouraged. With good smart practice you will master the barre chord. Good Luck and Enjoy

JJFN
01-06-2017, 04:28 AM
Don't try barring up at the B & Bb areas. Slide up to the 5th fret, a barred C chord and practice there. You will find that barring requires less pressure the further up the neck. There are several good you tube's on barring a ukulele. But in the end it all comes down to practice. Hang in there, we all went through this problem and don't be discouraged. With good smart practice you will master the barre chord. Good Luck and Enjoy

I forgot to mention that Ukulele Mike has a great tutorial on barre chords on you tube.

monkeyboyo
01-06-2017, 06:01 AM
Thanks JJFN for the encouragement and advice. Much appreciated.
All the sources I watched seemed relaxed and instantaneously accurate. Tough to know how much
practice required for improvement. Will take a look at Ukulele Mike. Thanks again !

kohanmike
01-06-2017, 06:43 AM
When I started playing guitar about 50 years ago, I had a terrible time with barre chords. It took me a long time to finally get good at it, lots and lots of practice. When I took up the ukulele over three years ago, I found barre chords easy because of two less strings. I make sure my non-barre fingers are arched enough not to touch other strings.

monkeyboyo
01-06-2017, 06:50 AM
Even on 'easier' frets, same issue of fingers seeming too short to fully arch middle & ring fingers.
The strain of arching them causes tiny 'lift' of index finger. Pads of those middle & ring fingers then impinge on nearby strings.
As a climber, I'm used to discomfort, pain and contorting my hands, but not even that enables a clean sound.
I'm presuming a perpetual problem for many in that case

Mivo
01-06-2017, 07:08 AM
It might be a bit of both. Arching the fingertips, finger strength, and greater finger independence require practice, a lot of it, and this is a hard chord. It could be that the action (string height) is too high, requiring you to press too hard, which gives you less flexibility and makes it more likely that you'll mute other strings. Do you have the means to measure the space between the underside of the A string and the top of the 1st and 12th fret? (the top of the metal divider, not the fretboard).

The B chord is one of those chords that seemed impossible to me, especially cleanly switching to it, but at some point it sort of just fell into place.

Might be a good idea to spend a few weeks doing these exercises here (just a few minutes every day):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pse641zHpP8

part 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBitddC6uw0), part 3 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0iYXmDiZJE)

Ziret
01-06-2017, 07:10 AM
Great advice from everyone. Also, as your hands get stronger, it will get much easier. All that being true, no one has addressed that it most certainly is easier on some ukes than others, especially when you're learning it. So your idea of testing your friends' instruments is a good one. Once you can do it, though, you can do it on any piece o' junk out there. Still, some will be easier, as indeed some play easier in general.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
01-06-2017, 07:22 AM
if it hasn't been mentioned yet, please make sure your thumb
is pressing on the middle of the back of the neck, between frets 2 and 3.
it might help :)

if you're holding the neck in the web of your hand, between thumb and index
finger, that might make it difficult to reach the 3rd and 4th strings.

keep uke'in',

DownUpDave
01-06-2017, 08:18 AM
I have had the action lowered (nut slots filed deeper so strings are closer to the frets) on a few ukes. It made a world of difference, even though I could already barr. The higher the strings are above the frets the more force required to barr. Definitely try your friends ukes to see if there is a difference. As other have said barr chords require lots of practice, they are difficult. Try using a full barr for the B chord.......that is the only way I can play it.

monkeyboyo
01-06-2017, 08:42 AM
Thank you all for the really helpful, considered responses. Much appreciated.
Need some time to digest, experiment & practice a lot more it seems
Trying out different brands and sizes of uke are my next port of call. to eliminate any difficulties with my
particular uke. Haven't got the means to measure space between string/fret right now, but will get it done
Cheers

Choirguy
01-06-2017, 09:27 AM
As a warm-up, I am having my students barre up and down the neck from the 5th fret (taken from Ukulele Mike's video). Since the barre seems to be such a barrier (see what I did there) for so many players, I am getting my students to do it from early on, not as a chord, but as an exercise.

When it gets added as a D7 or Bm (or even Bb) in the future, the experience will be quite different for them.

robinboyd
01-06-2017, 10:01 AM
You said it was the partial barre that is giving you trouble. Have you tried it with a full barre? I still can't do the partial barre. My fingers just won't work that way.

Gary52
01-06-2017, 11:00 AM
There are a few "tricks" to try that may improve barring (at least for a full barre). Some are explained in this video:
http://www.playukulelebyear.com/3-questions-interview/3-questions-interviewdave-egan-ergonomics/
In addition, you can try putting the tip of your finger past the edge of the fretboard on the the G string side and hooking it on the edge to provide a fulcrum; think of your finger as a lever. Another method is to press on the lower bout with your elbow to lever the neck outward against your finger. A strap is helpful in that it allows you to focus your fretting hand on making the barre, not holding up the neck. All of these methods are intended to increase finger pressure on the strings without putting excessive pressure on the thumb.

Django
01-06-2017, 11:02 AM
I have to agree with Uncle Rod. Keeping the thumb behind the neck is generally the best way to bar a chord. The other, less intuitive thing is not to press down to hard. Nylon strings only require a light touch. Also, if your setup is not good, it will make things worse. Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

Choirguy
01-06-2017, 11:24 AM
What we say is that practice makes permanent. That's a sobering thought.

SailingUke
01-06-2017, 11:44 AM
Make sure your thumb is on the back of the neck, not in the valley of your thumb and index finger.
Place your thumb slightly closer to the nut from your barring index finger. Also make sure your uke setup is ok, even out of the box an Ohana should be ok.

zztush
01-06-2017, 12:05 PM
Hi, monkeyboyo! The most important thing is making banana with your index finger shown below.

https://s12.postimg.org/sqnwpyse5/combine_images.png (https://postimg.org/image/7trolaud5/)how to take a screen shot (https://postimage.org/app.php)

I taught it to my friend and have a thread about it. Happy-Birthday-the-first-song-for-my-friend (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?124162-Happy-Birthday-the-first-song-for-my-friend)

Read that thread and do not hesitate to ask me any questions in this thread or in my thread! Good luck!

delmar500
01-07-2017, 04:44 AM
String tension may also be contributing to the difficulty you are experiencing. Try tuning down to F#B D#G# or F Bb(A#) D G, these lowered tunings are quite commonly used on the Tenor scale length.
Can I assume you use the same chord shapes with this tuning?

delmar500
01-07-2017, 12:13 PM
Just use the same shapes if you are playing solo. If you are playing with others that are tuned higher, you can always use a capo.Thanks so much! I think I'm beginning to get this stuff figured out.

stevepetergal
01-07-2017, 02:52 PM
WEEKS!!!
Keep practicing. You've barely begun. Be patient and know it takes a lot of time.

Choirguy
01-07-2017, 05:25 PM
I agree with the last statement. The problem is that we live in an instant world. Fast food, drive up coffee, instant credit.

All of us (not just kids) are used to instant gratification.

There is a word going around in education (quickly losing traction, as people don't want to think about it) called "grit." Ultimately, that means sticking it through something when it isn't easy.

I find myself in agreement with Barry Maz (gotaukulele) a lot, particularly with his rant about people thinking the ukulele is easy. Compared to a guitar with six strings (often metal), ukulele can be easier to get started with--but mastery of the instrument can take a lifetime. I would imagine that even the best player in the world (probably Jake Shimibukuro) would tell you that there are things he is still working on.

Again, this is why I have my kids starting with barre chords very early--so that when we actually need a chord, we can work with it. In my experience, this generation of kids is more likely to give up when they cannot immediately need a goal, so I need to encourage them as much as possible.

To the original post author, I was just thinking about another thread where the problem was a bad ukulele set-up. I can't see back through the entire thread while writing, but since the barre chords are difficult, it might be good to make sure that the setup of the ukulele isn't the problem (strings being too high to successfully barre chords).

monkeyboyo
01-08-2017, 03:12 AM
ZZTush Thanks so much for going to the trouble to post the pics. :) Really helpful.
My Tenor having action lowered by Scayles Edinburgh, and I acquired a Soprano, which
seems slightly easier for barring right now
Tried lots of Uke's yesterday, and I am definitely the 'issue'.
The necessary independent finger contortion & micro-placement seem a world away
Will report back in 5 years ;)

Amazed at the huge, helpful contributions & discussion here, so thanks very much to all

Rllink
01-08-2017, 04:26 AM
I agree with the last statement. The problem is that we live in an instant world. Fast food, drive up coffee, instant credit.

All of us (not just kids) are used to instant gratification.

There is a word going around in education (quickly losing traction, as people don't want to think about it) called "grit." Ultimately, that means sticking it through something when it isn't easy.

I find myself in agreement with Barry Maz (gotaukulele) a lot, particularly with his rant about people thinking the ukulele is easy. Compared to a guitar with six strings (often metal), ukulele can be easier to get started with--but mastery of the instrument can take a lifetime. I would imagine that even the best player in the world (probably Jake Shimibukuro) would tell you that there are things he is still working on.

Again, this is why I have my kids starting with barre chords very early--so that when we actually need a chord, we can work with it. In my experience, this generation of kids is more likely to give up when they cannot immediately need a goal, so I need to encourage them as much as possible.

To the original post author, I was just thinking about another thread where the problem was a bad ukulele set-up. I can't see back through the entire thread while writing, but since the barre chords are difficult, it might be good to make sure that the setup of the ukulele isn't the problem (strings being too high to successfully barre chords).
"Easy" is a deceptive word. You use the same four fingers on both. So I would not be so quick to make the comparison that a ukulele is easier. But when you get past mechanics, the ukulele becomes pretty complicated compared to guitar. The ukulele takes a little more creativity and a sense of sound to play well. I mean, when it comes to simplicity, with the guitar it doesn't take much imagination to just go up and down a linear scale that essentially goes without end in both directions. A ukulele on the other hand requires a little more creativity to make those four strings work together to get the same sounds, especially when you are playing re-entrant tuning. Not an easy task. Honestly, I've often times thought that it would just be easier to get a big old guitar and play it, than to try to trick all that sound out of a re-entrant tuned ukulele, but where is the challenge in that? But anyway, playing the ukulele is not easy.

Okay, bar chords. I bar the whole fret when I'm doing the B chords. I just find it easier and also it makes it simpler to go into a B7 and a B minor that way as well.

zztush
01-08-2017, 07:16 PM
Hi, Choirguy!


I find myself in agreement with Barry Maz (gotaukulele) a lot, particularly with his rant about people thinking the ukulele is easy. Compared to a guitar with six strings (often metal), ukulele can be easier to get started with--but mastery of the instrument can take a lifetime. I would imagine that even the best player in the world (probably Jake Shimibukuro) would tell you that there are things he is still working on.

Don't believe such rant. It is just a rant. He just confuses the difficulty of music and ukulele. Ukulele is music instrument. Music is difficult. Because it expresses our emotion but we can not see it. Ukulele is easy, much easier than other music instruments as people mentioned and people know that music is difficult.

In this thread, we are talking about Bb. It is difficult. The regular GCEA tuning is called perfect 4th tuning. It has prefect 4th intervals between 1-2, 3-4 strings. It has 3rd interval between 2-3 strings (See the red E in the figure below). If we have perfect 4th intervals between all of the strings (See "not" in the figure below), Bb shape becomes very difficult (See D'). The standard tuning makes Bb easier. Very clever tuning. I think this tuning makes ukulele easier too. Ukulele is easy but music is difficult.

https://s28.postimg.org/t0ui6i43h/combine_images.png (https://postimg.org/image/o26zrz0ah/)images upload (https://postimage.org/)

Ukulele is C instrument which can play C, F and G easily. If we say that ukulele is difficult instrument, we have no easy instruments. We should not confuse the difficulty of music and ukulele.

monkeyboyo
01-09-2017, 03:25 AM
Can't 'make banana' shape with index finger or in fact any :(
Straight regardless of pressure, so I presume we all have unique dexterity, and I'm at the not-dexterous end.
Perhaps there are specific exercises to help, although not keen on taking any joint beyond it's natural range

Mivo
01-09-2017, 03:36 AM
"Easy" is a deceptive word. You use the same four fingers on both. So I would not be so quick to make the comparison that a ukulele is easier.

I have had my steel string acoustic guitar for a few weeks now, and I feel that the ukulele is much easier to learn. It's not even close. But it's not chiefly the number of strings that make the ukulele easier to progress with. The tension of steel strings on a typically 25.4" scale is much higher, and even when the instrument is set up well with low action, you need much more finger strength to cleanly fret and especially barre. People complain about sore fingers on low tension nylon/fc strings, but steel strings are ten times worse. The string spacing is typically also more narrow on acoustic guitars, and it's easy to mute strings accidentally, and on classical guitars you have a massively wide fretbroad, making it harder again. Frets are huge on even a shorter scale guitar (like mine with 24") and you have to stretch more for basic chords. Then, and that's where six strings make things harder, various of the basic first position chords require the player to only play some of the strings (e.g. 5 strings for the C chord and 4 strings for the D chord -- two of the chords taught right at the start). Hitting only some of the strings when strumming is tough when you're just starting out and barely manage consistent up and down strums.

I agree that when you're an advanced player, the differences in difficulty diminish. An expert player is an expert player, regardless of the instrument. But I feel that the beginner to intermediate journey is easier on the ukulele. It's a more approachable, more accessible instrument that lets you have fun much sooner and with far fewer technical hurdles to overcome. You can play three-chord songs on a guitar too, but those three chords are harder to make and harder to strum. Plus, guitars are unwieldy. Mine's a little smaller than a typical folk guitar (not by much), and it's still a monster compared to my ukes. I can grab a uke, take it anywhere and sit down anywhere and just noddle. With a guitar? It doesn't lend itself quite as well to spontaneously having fun and making music.

No doubt in my mind that someone coming from guitar to ukulele has an easier time than someone learning ukulele first and then guitar. Just practicing guitar for a few weeks daily has really improved my ukulele playing. Trying to learn barre chords on six steel strings greatly benefits one's ability to bar four nylon/fc strings. It made me appreciate the accessibility and friendliness of ukuleles even more. I can play a Bb chord on the ukulele without trouble, and can switch to it smoothly, but the very same shape on the acoustic guitar gives me a hard time. I still can't play it cleanly.

zztush
01-09-2017, 04:02 AM
Can't 'make banana' shape with index finger or in fact any :(


Yes, it is difficult. But you can do it. You need to make a lever. Thumb is fulcrum, elbow is effort and fingers are load. This lever expands your fingers and make banana. It is not only the fretboard work, my friend needs good right hand support of the ukulele too.

Me and my friend has had two hour sessions twice a week last three months. He practice a lot besides our sessions too. It is not easy for him too.

WCBarnes
01-09-2017, 07:53 AM
One of the biggest lessons I learned regarding Barring chords came from a teaching session with Craig Chee. He had the advantage of being able to demonstrate it as he explained, but I will give it a shot...

Use your right forearm (assuming you are fretting with your left hand) to clamp your ukulele (below the bridge) to your body. Kind of like you are giving your ukulele a hug with your forearm. As you do this you will notice that the neck of your ukulele pushes away from your body. Use this pressure to push against your finger(s) to assist in your barre.

This was a huge help when it came to fatigue in my fretting hand. Utilizing this method, I have been able to barre chords without any effort/strain on my thumb. In fact, I can remove my thumb from the back entirely and still get a clean barre. I am still working on the technique and how to transition it from my practice sessions to playing in a song more smoothly. I am getting better, but more importantly, my barres sound much better and with less strain on my hands. Feel free to ask me a question if what I typed didn't make sense.

ukatee
01-09-2017, 10:33 AM
I found this short video by Phil Doleman helpful: Two Minute Tips: #13 The Bb Chord (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQUhYiYaW5s).

I also followed a recommendation somewhere to spend a minute each day on simple barres, just the first finger, starting at the 7th fret and moving up the neck to the second. Do this a couple of times, and don't worry if it is not perfect. To start with you can use your second finger on top of the first as reinforcement - this helps a lot. After a week or two you will have developed a bit of strength (or maybe it is just the knack) and you can include the first fret which is the hardest. Don't overdo it or you'll end up with hand or thumb strain. This certainly worked for me, and I now quite comfortable with barre chords and don't need a great deal of pressure..

Maybe you need to check your hand position? I push my wrist out slightly, bringing my fingers a little more over the fingerboard. We are all different, though. I generally use a half barre on Bb but definitely no banana shape! Judging by zztush's white finger tips he is using pressure than I do, too.

zztush
01-09-2017, 12:10 PM
Hi, monkeyboyo!

Make a banana on your desk first. Just be careful the direction of the power (red arrow). After you've got used to it on your desk, go back to your fretboard.

https://s23.postimg.org/cp1l68z0r/100_2609.jpg (https://postimg.org/image/zdqs5tgef/)upload a gif (https://postimage.org/)

Croaky Keith
01-09-2017, 11:54 PM
Basically, that looks like you should press with the root of your finger/hand, rather than the finger tip.

Mivo
01-10-2017, 09:29 AM
Basically, that looks like you should press with the root of your finger/hand, rather than the finger tip.

This has only recently started to dawn on me, but I think the key is to use the large muscle groups in the arm as a source of strength when fretting, instead of trying to do it (just) with the hand. A good way to experience and practice this is by making bar chords (and other difficult chords) with only the fingers, without the thumb playing a major role. Try it without the thumb touching the neck at all, though it should be behind the neck. Squeezing the neck between fingers and thumb is the intuitive approach, but I'm not sure it's the best way, especially with speed in mind. It's easier when the strength/force comes from the muscles in the arm. (If you do it right, you'll feel the muscles in the arm instead of experiencing strain in the wrist.)

jollyboy
01-10-2017, 09:55 AM
This has only recently started to dawn on me, but I think the key is to use the large muscle groups in the arm as a source of strength when fretting, instead of trying to do it (just) with the hand. A good way to experience and practice this is by making bar chords (and other difficult chords) with only the fingers, without the thumb playing a major role. Try it without the thumb touching the neck at all, though it should be behind the neck. Squeezing the neck between fingers and thumb is the intuitive approach, but I'm not sure it's the best way, especially with speed in mind. It's easier when the strength/force comes from the muscles in the arm. (If you do it right, you'll feel the muscles in the arm instead of experiencing strain in the wrist.)

Your main 'finger muscles' are actually in your forearm :) One tip that I have found helpful with barring is to apply some downforce - i.e. pull down toward the ground with the arm. Let gravity take some of the strain :)

Mivo
01-10-2017, 10:56 AM
Your main 'finger muscles' are actually in your forearm :) One tip that I have found helpful with barring is to apply some downforce - i.e. pull down toward the ground with the arm. Let gravity take some of the strain :)

Yep, exactly -- your description is better than mine. :) The difference is noticeable in how it feels (arm vs. wrist) and there is no squeezing, with the thumb playing a much more passive role.

Time_Mage_Prime
10-18-2018, 11:18 AM
New here; good advice, and thanks for that.

I've never had trouble with B chords, but I'll tell you: Fm6 is the most difficult thing I've ever come across. If anyone has any tricks for pulling off that abomination, please, please let me know! Difficulty stems from the same problem -- effectively barring the top fret, while still reaching the 2nd fret on the C and 3rd on the A.

Boomershakalaka
12-10-2018, 09:06 AM
I found double-wrapping your index finger with a couple condoms helps greatly. Seems like pink ones work best. NO!!! I jest. But seriously, I've found barre chords and the act of switching to/from them is one of the most challenging things so far in my uke journey. But SO worth it once you get comfortable and wonder why it was so hard to begin with. LOL

Good luck!

captain-janeway
12-11-2018, 08:10 AM
Don't know if OP is still around, but it's been a couple of years. How's it going now?