I'm trying to play this song and the capo on 9th, 8th, 6th fret is killing me. I have to press so hard in irder to get clean good sound.

Of course I'm not an advanced guitar player, but it seems to be too hard. Does doing the manual capo become easier with time (as same happens with individual left hand fingers pressing individual notes) or does it have any special technique?


3 Answers 3


What you're referring to is the technique for playing barre chords. It is often one of the hardest techniques for anyone who is relatively new to playing guitar, but don't give up, as it doesn't necessarily take long to improve on. The problem is just that it's hard to mask and you end up getting frustrated as the sound it can produce when learning isn't particularly pleasing.

One important part of the technique is to make sure you're using the bony part of your finger rather than the fleshy part. This should produce a more consistent sound and will make it easier as you practice more.

In my personal experience however, the setup of your guitar can be the single biggest obstacle to learning the technique. If your guitar's action is too high you will find that you're having to put a lot of effort into getting the strings to press against the fret. You will know if your guitar's action is too high if the strings are not a consistent height above the fret board, particularly as you go further down. On cheaper guitars that haven't had any professional set up done on them, the action will often be far too high, and acoustic guitars are often the worst for this. Whist you can adjust your action relatively easily (electric guitars in particular), any guitar store will do this for you typically at a low cost. There are also some other adjustments that a technician might make (such as adjusting the truss rod), so it is often better to get a professional to do a full setup for your guitar. Also discuss with them whether you may benefit from a lighter gauge of strings. All of these things combined can make the learning experience far less painful.

  • You could benefit by paying a repair technician for a setup on your guitar. This is what we call it when several different adjustments are made to multiple parts of the guitar to adjust the action and intonation to make the guitar easier to play all the way up and down the neck.
    – user1044
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 12:30
  • 1
    Before you pay for the setup, ask the repair technician if you might find it easier to play by switching to a lighter gauge of strings. Then get the full setup using whatever gauge of strings you select.
    – user1044
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 12:32
  • @WheatWilliams Agreed on both counts. Have added a note about the full setup. Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 12:48

What you are calling "manual capo" is actually called "barré" in case you want to look for more info.

Does doing the manual capo become easier with time (as same happens with individual left hand fingers pressing individual notes) or does it have any special technique?

can clearly be answered with "yes". Or rather, both. One part of the "technique" is actually selective application of force: you only need to press down fully on strings that are not covered by other fingers. So for experienced players, the "simplest" barré covering all six strings with one finger may well actually be the most taxing and you might see the middle finger aiding with pressing down the index finger. Depending on position, the middle finger might provide index finger help even while having its own task on the next fret by locking both together sideways.

Now you also state that barré on the higher strings is particularly strenuous for you. That may well be the sign of a cheap or badly adjusted guitar with too much string clearance. Obviously, the further you have to move the strings towards the fretboard, the more force will be required.

Try checking out an expensive guitar in a music store or from another player: that will give you a better idea just how much strength should be required from a good player in the long run.


The above answers pretty much nailed it, but I'd like to offer an additional tip that might be useful for getting the barres right: try moving your index finger a bit to find the position where you need to use the least force to get all strings ringing. I had plenty of difficulty with barres at first because of my skeleton-like bony fingers, and eventually I just wiggled the index around until I found the perfect position.

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