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Faffed around for years then did it properly

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Good evening all,


Bought an Aria Strat-a-like at Uni 30 years ago, dabbled but never really had lessons or took it seriously. Then the inevitable, graduated got a job and life passed me by. Fast forward to

last year, thought ‘sod this’ you love music so why not get off yer arse, you can afford lessons and the gear so I did! Am fortunate to have good job so went mad and bought a few guitars (Les Paul Custom 25/50 78 anniversary, Tele MIJ reissue, G&L legacy, Ibanez RG6CMLTD, Gretsch and a Guild CE240 (not all at once mind) and has 16 lessons with fella called Gizz Butt of Prodigy fame and really started to get the buzz but wasn’t till I moved to a new teacher called John (whose been musically trained, his enthusiasm is infectious and is a great teacher) that the penny started to drop. Love playing, only been 18 months but it’s a wonderful stress relieving hobby and the wonders of backing tracks on YouTube and learning scales and suddenly ‘yeah!’ I can play a few bits. But you then listen to  people like John Sykes, Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny, Gilmour, Buckethead, SRV, Prince, Hendricks and then realise they’re at the top of a massive mountain and have been climbing for years and I’ve only taken 4 steps....metaphorically speaking. Don’t play with anyone which I think would be fun so is purely a solo affair in my music room. Struggling with barre chords and sore fingers but getting there slowly......am pleased to finally be in the club but wished I’d started 30 years when I had the chance..........

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"Struggling with barre chords and sore fingers but getting there slowly.. "



Welcome to the forum. 


There are several approaches to mastering barre chords which range from the bulling your way through it style to the give yourself time to learn the proper techniques and even a few who will suggest there are alternatives to most barre chords.  I tend to favor the two latter styles.  


First, while some instructors and books will teach you a "small barre F", I prefer to use the thumb over the neck F major you find many blues players using; https://www.google.com/search?q=guitar+thumb+over+the+neck+F+Major&rlz=1CAACAY_enUS754US756&oq=guitar+thumb+over+the+neck+F+Major&aqs=chrome..69i57.24660j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


It is a common form in Travis Style Picking; https://www.google.com/search?q=travis+picking&rlz=1CAACAY_enUS754US756&oq=travis+picking&aqs=chrome..69i57.3212j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


The advantage of this chord form is the freedom of your fretting hand fingers to add stylistic notes to the chord shape.  Certainly, fretting with your thumb over the neck is not a style which comes easily for most players and your success can depend on your guitar's neck profile and the size and dexterity of your hands.  Practice is once again the key.  Also, knowing when the low F is, and is not, required in your playing will help.    


Merle Travis had rather large  "coal miner's" hands; 



You can also see Hendrix and Richie Havens using this chord form.


If you want to learn the full barre form, buy a capo. 


Once you eliminate the break angle of the strings over the nut, you will find playing full barres is a much easier task.  Just grab a full F shape barre at the fifth fret right now and you'll notice the reduction in string tension which goes with moving further away from the nut. 


Place the capo on the second fret (so your fret markers still line up) and begin playing your barre up the neck several frets.  Let's say you begin your barre at your new fifth fret (actually the seventh), you would play a 4/4 strum for two measures and then drop back down the neck (toward the capo) one fret.  Play the same 4/4 strum for two measures and then drop back another fret.  Lift your fingers only high enough to move without excessive string noise and then plant them firmly once you've completed the move.  Continue the pattern of strumming and moving until you are at your new first fret and then slide the form all the way back down to the fifth fret and start over.  


Practice playing and moving your barre until grabbing it at various positions on the neck becomes second nature.  If you want to play with another instrument with a capo on your guitar, try tuning your guitar down and allow the capo to raise your guitar's tuning back up.  With the capo at the second fret, your new tuning would be down one full step.  If you place the capo at the first fret, your tuning is down 1/2 step.  If you're using very light gauge strings, you may find tuning down becomes a bit sloppy so use your own judgement.    


Eventually, you should be able to remove the capo completely and have the ability to play a full barre F Major chord shape. Remember, it is not hand strength that will gain you this.  It is proper finger and hand position along with developing the correct leverage point with your thumb on the back of the neck that makes the full barre successful.  


Good luck.   

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