Can Your Fretting Hand Be Too Strong?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by TheNewSteveH, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I agree that taller frets will yield a more pronounced problem with regard to intonation. However, I advocate dealing with small problems of intonation. Very small errors can rob a chord on a single guitar or the entire harmonic structure of a group. Harmonic overtones disappear...the magic is gone.
    So, ime, one has to pay close attention to intonation even with lower frets. By the time one's fingers are contacting the fretboard because of extremely low frets or----if one would want to fully appreciate the pressure aspect---the fingers are stopping the string/s on a fretless instrument's fingerboard and therefore in these two situations intonation can and had been made of no concern; one is left with the questions...."Why am I trying to murder this neck? Why do my fingers and hand ache? Why is my arm numb? How did I get carpal tunnel syndrome?"

    Imho, there is only one proper way to fret a fretted instrument as I stated above...ymmv.
    Here is a simple experiment that I use to try to get guitar students...and aren't we all??....to understand what goes on. Tune the Low E string so that when fretted with correct technique as described above at the third fret that G is in tune with the open G string...really in tune at the 3rd fret. (This eliminates whatever basic intonation problems the guitar may have. I don't see too many guitars that are well set-up, but I make sure to get a fretted G even with a guitar that is set up but maybe the strings are old and don't quite intonate as they did when they were new.) So, we have a light touch on the 3rd fret E string and have a G that is in tune with the open G string. Go ahead now and either press down hard and/or bend that string----in other words, apply excessive force. IF you are using an electronic tuner you will see the note go sharp. Your ear will hear the note go sharp...and I prefer NOT to use electronic devices when I am trying to instruct my ear on this exercise. Release the note...rub out the pain. Move the fretting finger away from the fret..once again just touching and 'killing' the string///pick constantly while gradually increasing the fretting force until the note sounds out----it will not truly ring because the position kills the tone. Your ear will notice and an electronic tuner will show that the fretted "G" is now not a G but is sharp in addition to being dull and dying quickly. There is discomfort in the fingertip, and the hand and arm muscles are not as relaxed as they could be.
    I hear only bad things when I hear incorrect fretting technique.
     
  2. Valvey

    Valvey Tele-Holic

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    That's probably true. I have an H1 tele with gigantic frets. You'd think these would be the first to wear out first but they're in better shape than the frets on my other teles
     
  3. fatcat

    fatcat Friend of Leo's

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    Yes;

    When i was first starting out; I was talking to a tech about the notes going sharp whenever I tried to fret certain chords. He said; "ease up on that death grip."
     
  4. jonrpick

    jonrpick Friend of Leo's

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    I was in a band with a guy that could NOT play in tune. He went from a cheap LP copy to a Yamaha, to a really nice G&L Legacy. He ended up blocking the trem on the G&L, installed locking tuners, graphite nut and getting the saddles worked on. You could tune his guitar perfectly, test it to verify it, hand it to him, and it was out of tune.

    He used .010-.046 strings. Nothing helped. Musically, especially on guitar, he was the weak link in the band (Classic Rock covers).

    A few years in, we were at a gig... we wrapped early and people were calling for more. The PA was still live, so he grabbed his 1962 Gibson J45 and started doing some Crosby, Stills and Nash tunes, just him solo. Sounded amazing. One of my other band mates commented, "Heh... give him an acoustic and suddenly he sounds like a musician!"

    It took a few years for me to put 2 and 2 together. Here's what I realized:

    1) He'd played acoustic guitar for 30+ years, with much heavier strings than the 10's he was using on his electrics.
    2) He'd never played electric guitar until 1993... this was like 1996.
    3) His hands were very strong. See #1.
    4) He was using so much pressure to fret that he was screwing up the intonation of the guitar.

    He didn't play lead, just rhythm. If I had a Delorean capable of hitting 88mph, I'd go back to 1993 and string his guitar with 12's and a wound 3rd. I'll bet he would've sounded great.

    ......

    A quick word on heavy strings and how they affect tone: I don't personally believe it's the string as much as how someone acts toward the strings. Heavy strings allow a bit of mental laziness... You don't have to focus on a light touch to sound good. In my mind, that's the main reason some people sound better with heavy strings--they can flail away. I used to use .011-.056. Now I use .008-.042, and I'm thinking of going lighter now that I've managed to adapt my slide playing to my light strings and low action.

    And my tone is better than ever!

    ;)
     
  5. Misty Mountain

    Misty Mountain Tele-Meister

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    I seem to have intonation problems when I am first working out a tune. I tend to grip harder when I am first learning it and ease up as I get more comfortable. Also, when I am nervous I tend to grip harder. So lots of practice helps me ease up on my grip and realizing that nobody cares if I am any good on guitar so I should just relax and have fun also helps.
     
  6. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Being strong and squeezing too hard are 2 different things.

    A weakling can still put a death grip on the guitar neck. The strongest of men can cradle a baby bird in their palm without fear of crushing it.
     
  7. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    ^^^^^^ discomfort in the fingers, hands and arms are the physical signs of incorrect fretting technique. The musical quality of the note is the aural indicator of whether one is using correct fretting technique.
    Making music is all about control of the physical aspects of the instrument in order to achieve truly musical results, Ime.
     
  8. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire

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    My friend, you are on a collision course with tendonitis. Hammer grip is the primary cause, and it is NOT your friend.

    Trust me on this. Severe tendonitis, at its worst, will end your guitar playing days forever. I ended up in a cast for 6 months while the band I had just recorded a CD with, broke up due to inability to play gigs or promote. I couldnt play at all, doctors orders.

    In the end I had to get rid of all my guitars (except one, a wedding gift from my wife, a 1957 junior, but I dont really play it much anymore, I just cant bear to part with it) because the doctor ordered me to play bigger necks with HUGE frets and lighter strings.

    This forced me to grip the strings lighter because too hard would make every note sharp. This was over a period of recovery time utilizing a technique called "work hardening".

    Now I can play, altho not nearly as well as I used to, and I cannot play every night, or for the hours and hours I used to do either. But I'm happy I can still play.

    Ease up on that grip my friend or you are asking for trouble.
     
  9. DannyJustQuit

    DannyJustQuit Tele-Meister

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    This SCREAMS member signature!!!
     
  10. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I insist, you can get off the elevator first.
     
  11. TheNewSteveH

    TheNewSteveH Tele-Holic

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    Things are going well. I am making an effort to play lightly every day. As an exercise, sometimes I pick hard while fretting lightly, so the hands realize they don't have to work equally hard.

    It seems like I speed up involuntarily every time I cut back on the fretting pressure. I think the death grip was causing speed problems. When it's gone, the hand wants to take off.
     
    songtalk likes this.
  12. sacizob

    sacizob Friend of Leo's

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    I agree with 68tele. Jumbo frets
     
  13. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    New Steve, congrats on making a change. And...yes....a relaxed fretting hand can yield more speed.
     
  14. TheNewSteveH

    TheNewSteveH Tele-Holic

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    The fret suggestion has been taken to heart. I have two instruments that I think qualify. One is a Gibson Blueshawk, which must be the most underrated guitar in history. The other is an American Special Telecaster. The frets are really tall on these guitars.

    I have to fiddle with the setup on the Blueshawk; the action is a little high, and I'm wondering if it needs a fret job to get it lower. I put a Stetsbar vibrato on the Telecaster, and I have not been able to get really satisfactory results with it. It seems determined to produce weird ghostly tones all the time.

    I'm still weirded out by what happened to my left hand. Tonight I tested it against my right. I squooshed a soda can as far as I could with my right hand, and then I moved it to my left, and it just kept compacting like a Yugo in a car crusher.
     
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  15. surfoverb

    surfoverb Doctor of Teleocity

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    light touch is always better.

    ways to avoid death grip is to always play plugged into an amp,
    practice fretting with a tuner, and learn how to use light strings.
    If you cant use light strings its because you cant fret properly-not because the strings are too light-theres no such thing!
     
  16. Vladimir

    Vladimir Friend of Leo's

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    I get the same feeling after playing a lot of acoustic and jazz with 12's, but I see it as a kind of "chorus" effect, without the pedal.;)
     
  17. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire

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    Huge frets, light strings. That will force you to ease up that grip. Worked for me but took a good deal of time to get used to it.

    I was hurt and started back with 8s.

    Now I use 9s on teles and 9.5s on my les paul. All of them have railroad tracks for frets. Other players tend to hate these guitars which is great for me, nobody ever asks to borrow one!

    If you really want to go down that road, get a guitar with scalloped frets, like a Blackmore strat.
     
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