I don't know if there is a special word for this playing style - I do it like this: I take a barre and I play all single notes along - if I need a chord I just keep the barre and press all needed fingers down on the fretboard and I strum along.

If I play a solo I get off the barre and I play with my index-, middle- and ringfinger. Arp's does not sound very clean with this finger technique so I thought I switch to the barre again - but after a while my finger and hands start to hurt and I do stop playing because of the pain.

So my question: Is this style of playing a guitar a good way? What can I improve to have less pain and more endurance?


5 Answers 5


If your fretting hand is hurting every time you play you may need to adjust your technique a little. It sounds like you may be over doing the barre. Barre chords are great as is playing melody over chords such as classics like little wing etc. But possibly not all the time. Also if you're barring for single note lines you could end up with a lot of unwanted background noise.

I would work on your fretting hand technique a little. Your thumb ideally needs to be about two thirds up the back of the neck and between the first and second fingers. Don't squeeze to hard, just enough to fret the notes and try and use your fingertips to fret the notes. Over squeezing will slow you down and inhibit finger movement. It may feel a bit weird to play like this at first but you get used to it. Avoid any tight angles in your fretting hand, wrist, and elbow and keep your shoulder relaxed.

As for endurance. I’ve been playing for 30 years and after a long night's teaching barre chords can still ache. Sorry for that.


I would tend to use a barre only when playing the chord. Sometimes it can add speed when you know you will need to play a solo that uses the barre, but the reason you are ending up sore is that you are working your wrist/fingers/thumb to exhaustion. In time they will get stronger, but I would say it sounds like you are overusing the barre.

Try using it less - only when you need to - and see how you feel.


You should not have to exert that much squeezing force with your fingers and thumb to close the frets. The problem may be that you are relying too much on the strength of your fingers rather than using gravity to your advantage with the weight of your arm.


If you play the same barre, you could just use a capo...


I don't think you should work on holding a barre chord for a long period of time. You want your left hand to be mobile and flexible, not clamped down all the time.

I recommend you try to figure out why your single lines do not "sound very clean". There could be any number of reasons why they don't. It could be that you aren't doing any muting which can be an issue especially with an electric guitar. It could also be, as others have mentioned, an issue with the fretting hand. Or it could be that your guitar is not set up well and that everything is just too hard. (This can be addressed by getting a good set up done by a guitar tech.)

There is a style of "playing off the chord" which sounds and works great, but even then it is often done from partial barre or even non-bar chords, incorporating double-stops, etc. It's dynamic and changing. It's less fatiguing than clamping your hand down on barre chords all night long.

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