Fretting chords pro vs beginner

Guitar Tricks Forum > Technique and Style > Fretting chords pro vs beginner

Erik Nettekoven

Full Access

Joined: 02/01/21

Posts: 8

Hi,

So I've been practising guitar a little over month now and I am in a bit of a mixed place. Like two voices in my head arguing with each other: Voice A "Look what you have achieved and learned, you didn't know all this 2 months ago!" vs Voice D: "It doesn't look like you are improving, you have been struggling with chord changes over a month already, you can't do this". Sometimes A wins the battle and sometimes D wins the battle, altough I do keep on practicing every day.

Another thing is that this internal battle sends me to the internet and get lost in watching al kinds of youtube videos related to guitar. (10 things you must do, 5 things you must not do, and some more in depth videos etc etc). What I do try to look at in the video's is how the Pro's do it and there is something that boggles my mind. All the Pro's, guitar teachers from either GuitarTricks or the one from JustinGuitar included, don't seem to do what they tell you to do. Something like "Do as I say, don't do as I do" sort of thing.

Take fretting chords for example. All the teachers tell you to put your finger tips on the string in the fret so it is almost in a 90 degree angle, so no other strings are touched to prevent accidental muting or buzzing of the string(s) below. And I have to say I really do need to do that, else the string below will buzz or get muted.

Now if I look at how the pro does it, it almost seems like their fingers are flat on the fretboard (or at least very far from close to 90 degrees angle, they are almost parallel) while playing the chords, perfectly (!). Or to put it in others words, they seem to have bend their fingers way less than I do, to get perfect chords. To add to that, it also seems like they barely touch the strings and still get perfect sounding notes/chords. I've tried that, but then the string will definitely be muted.

Am I seeing things? Am I doing things wrong? Is there a secret the pro's aren't sharing (yet)? Or is there something wrong with my guitar? Is the action height too much/high? I just can't wrap my head around how they do it.

#1

Hi,

So I've been practising guitar a little over month now and I am in a bit of a mixed place. Like two voices in my head arguing with each other: Voice A "Look what you have achieved and learned, you didn't know all this 2 months ago!" vs Voice D: "It doesn't look like you are improving, you have been struggling with chord changes over a month already, you can't do this". Sometimes A wins the battle and sometimes D wins the battle, altough I do keep on practicing every day.

Another thing is that this internal battle sends me to the internet and get lost in watching al kinds of youtube videos related to guitar. (10 things you must do, 5 things you must not do, and some more in depth videos etc etc). What I do try to look at in the video's is how the Pro's do it and there is something that boggles my mind. All the Pro's, guitar teachers from either GuitarTricks or the one from JustinGuitar included, don't seem to do what they tell you to do. Something like "Do as I say, don't do as I do" sort of thing.

Take fretting chords for example. All the teachers tell you to put your finger tips on the string in the fret so it is almost in a 90 degree angle, so no other strings are touched to prevent accidental muting or buzzing of the string(s) below. And I have to say I really do need to do that, else the string below will buzz or get muted.

Now if I look at how the pro does it, it almost seems like their fingers are flat on the fretboard (or at least very far from close to 90 degrees angle, they are almost parallel) while playing the chords, perfectly (!). Or to put it in others words, they seem to have bend their fingers way less than I do, to get perfect chords. To add to that, it also seems like they barely touch the strings and still get perfect sounding notes/chords. I've tried that, but then the string will definitely be muted.

Am I seeing things? Am I doing things wrong? Is there a secret the pro's aren't sharing (yet)? Or is there something wrong with my guitar? Is the action height too much/high? I just can't wrap my head around how they do it.

JeffS65

Full Access

Joined: 10/07/08

Posts: 1545

Originally Posted by: Erik

So I've been practising guitar a little over month now and I am in a bit of a mixed place. Like two voices in my head arguing with each other: Voice A "Look what you have achieved and learned, you didn't know all this 2 months ago!" vs Voice D: "It doesn't look like you are improving, you have been struggling with chord changes over a month already, you can't do this". Sometimes A wins the battle and sometimes D wins the battle, altough I do keep on practicing every day.

Obviously, listen to voice A. It's the voice that's closer to the truth at this point than voice D. Without even hearing you play, when you're a beginner, you make quantum leaps in skill as compared to where you started from. What seem like small gains are actually huge.

You can get all self-critical when you're trying to play the solo from 'song X' three years down the road and you can't quite nail that weird ascending run and so on and so on.

By this I mean, once you've gain enough skill, you'll know better how to be self-critical when you need it. For now, keep building. It does not happen in and orderly, linear fashion so don't sweat it. Understand that learning guitar is most often in fits and spirts and not worry too much. Just keep building.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Another thing is that this internal battle sends me to the internet and get lost in watching al kinds of youtube videos related to guitar. (10 things you must do, 5 things you must not do, and some more in depth videos etc etc). What I do try to look at in the video's is how the Pro's do it and there is something that boggles my mind.

Though Youtube stuff can be useful, it's an opinion. Often it can be a well founded opinion, but still an opinion. Also, thesse Youtube folks need to make videos to make their living so you'll see things that appear to be the 'law of playing guitar' when it is effectively just good tips for playing. You and your hands are different than anyone else's and take a tip for what it is, a tip.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Take fretting chords for example. All the teachers tell you to put your finger tips on the string in the fret so it is almost in a 90 degree angle, so no other strings are touched to prevent accidental muting or buzzing of the string(s) below...Now if I look at how the pro does it, it almost seems like their fingers are flat on the fretboard (or at least very far from close to 90 degrees angle, they are almost parallel) while playing the chords, perfectly (!).

Note what I said above that hands are different and really, watch Jimmy Page; he breaks half the 'rules' that a classical guitar teacher would tell you are bad rules to break.

Ultimately, your hands are going to tell you what does and does not work. There's no way that my hands could acheive the '90 degree' thing. My hands are just not of the size where that's practical. I mean, I've got average sized hands but if I tried goin' 90, it would never happen. I've been playing since 1982 and it's never once been an issue.

The key here is not to dismiss such 'rules' in as much as digest them, see how they apply to you but also learn how your personal physiology best suits you for how to play guitar.

The most important thing you should understand about your journey playing guitar; learn how to adapt. Ultimately that's what learning guitar requires.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Is there a secret the pro's aren't sharing (yet)? Or is there something wrong with my guitar? Is the action height too much/high? I just can't wrap my head around how they do it.

This only adds to the above but, sure, a nice playing guitar will do much to aid in your playing growth. I was lucky (though I worked hard for it), that my first guitar was a late 1960's Les Paul. It was a dream to play and made it easy to want to play it. While not everyone these days can actually do that, it's also easy to get a great playing guitar at very affordable prices. Having no idea what you have ot how well it is set up, but it's worth considering that you want to have the most playable guitar you can afford and be sure that a pro guitar tech has set it up to maximize playability.

As a conclusion, you are most likely at that point where most people give up playing. You are the the 'Frustration Crossroads'. That is to say that, there is a point where you kinda get it about how to play a little bit but your hands and skill are still that of someone that's only been playing for two months.

This is where the guitars tests your willingness to play. This is where you have to spend time working on just one chord to see how your hands mechanically can best 'grip' that chord. It's like that thing where you hear people say, 'you have to put in that hard work'. Many give up because they simply want guitar playing to only be fun. It is fun and awesome. It's also not always that easy.

Embrace the journey of learning challenges and realize that if you play for the rest of your life, you'll look forward to that small challenge even when you can play amazing things. It's what keeps playing interesting and fun.

Good luck!

#2

Originally Posted by: Erik

So I've been practising guitar a little over month now and I am in a bit of a mixed place. Like two voices in my head arguing with each other: Voice A "Look what you have achieved and learned, you didn't know all this 2 months ago!" vs Voice D: "It doesn't look like you are improving, you have been struggling with chord changes over a month already, you can't do this". Sometimes A wins the battle and sometimes D wins the battle, altough I do keep on practicing every day.

Obviously, listen to voice A. It's the voice that's closer to the truth at this point than voice D. Without even hearing you play, when you're a beginner, you make quantum leaps in skill as compared to where you started from. What seem like small gains are actually huge.

You can get all self-critical when you're trying to play the solo from 'song X' three years down the road and you can't quite nail that weird ascending run and so on and so on.

By this I mean, once you've gain enough skill, you'll know better how to be self-critical when you need it. For now, keep building. It does not happen in and orderly, linear fashion so don't sweat it. Understand that learning guitar is most often in fits and spirts and not worry too much. Just keep building.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Another thing is that this internal battle sends me to the internet and get lost in watching al kinds of youtube videos related to guitar. (10 things you must do, 5 things you must not do, and some more in depth videos etc etc). What I do try to look at in the video's is how the Pro's do it and there is something that boggles my mind.

Though Youtube stuff can be useful, it's an opinion. Often it can be a well founded opinion, but still an opinion. Also, thesse Youtube folks need to make videos to make their living so you'll see things that appear to be the 'law of playing guitar' when it is effectively just good tips for playing. You and your hands are different than anyone else's and take a tip for what it is, a tip.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Take fretting chords for example. All the teachers tell you to put your finger tips on the string in the fret so it is almost in a 90 degree angle, so no other strings are touched to prevent accidental muting or buzzing of the string(s) below...Now if I look at how the pro does it, it almost seems like their fingers are flat on the fretboard (or at least very far from close to 90 degrees angle, they are almost parallel) while playing the chords, perfectly (!).

Note what I said above that hands are different and really, watch Jimmy Page; he breaks half the 'rules' that a classical guitar teacher would tell you are bad rules to break.

Ultimately, your hands are going to tell you what does and does not work. There's no way that my hands could acheive the '90 degree' thing. My hands are just not of the size where that's practical. I mean, I've got average sized hands but if I tried goin' 90, it would never happen. I've been playing since 1982 and it's never once been an issue.

The key here is not to dismiss such 'rules' in as much as digest them, see how they apply to you but also learn how your personal physiology best suits you for how to play guitar.

The most important thing you should understand about your journey playing guitar; learn how to adapt. Ultimately that's what learning guitar requires.

Originally Posted by: Erik

Is there a secret the pro's aren't sharing (yet)? Or is there something wrong with my guitar? Is the action height too much/high? I just can't wrap my head around how they do it.

This only adds to the above but, sure, a nice playing guitar will do much to aid in your playing growth. I was lucky (though I worked hard for it), that my first guitar was a late 1960's Les Paul. It was a dream to play and made it easy to want to play it. While not everyone these days can actually do that, it's also easy to get a great playing guitar at very affordable prices. Having no idea what you have ot how well it is set up, but it's worth considering that you want to have the most playable guitar you can afford and be sure that a pro guitar tech has set it up to maximize playability.

As a conclusion, you are most likely at that point where most people give up playing. You are the the 'Frustration Crossroads'. That is to say that, there is a point where you kinda get it about how to play a little bit but your hands and skill are still that of someone that's only been playing for two months.

This is where the guitars tests your willingness to play. This is where you have to spend time working on just one chord to see how your hands mechanically can best 'grip' that chord. It's like that thing where you hear people say, 'you have to put in that hard work'. Many give up because they simply want guitar playing to only be fun. It is fun and awesome. It's also not always that easy.

Embrace the journey of learning challenges and realize that if you play for the rest of your life, you'll look forward to that small challenge even when you can play amazing things. It's what keeps playing interesting and fun.

Good luck!

Erik Nettekoven

Full Access

Joined: 02/01/21

Posts: 8

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your elaborate reply! The internal struggle is real sometimes, but I like the sound of the guitar too much to not pick it up and practice. I will definitely keep going, but it is nice to hear some supportive comments like yours.

Currently I have been practicing with a 20 year old Valencia VAL-100, the first thing I did was replace the strings (as they were also 20 years old and quite dirty/dusty/worn and I cleaned up the fretboard). I have measured the action height on the 12th fret for the low E-string (6) and the high E-string (1) and these are the results (metric):

- Low E: 4.1 mm

- High E: 3.7 mm

As a birthday gift I got a "Fender CD-60SCE Blk WN" but that is due to arrive next week. Can't wait to practice on that one.

I also notice that I cramp up a lot with my fretting hand when try to play along with ease songs, cramp in the sense that I almost push the strings through the guitar neck (or my finger). Do you have any pointers on how to losen up a bit?

#3

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your elaborate reply! The internal struggle is real sometimes, but I like the sound of the guitar too much to not pick it up and practice. I will definitely keep going, but it is nice to hear some supportive comments like yours.

Currently I have been practicing with a 20 year old Valencia VAL-100, the first thing I did was replace the strings (as they were also 20 years old and quite dirty/dusty/worn and I cleaned up the fretboard). I have measured the action height on the 12th fret for the low E-string (6) and the high E-string (1) and these are the results (metric):

- Low E: 4.1 mm

- High E: 3.7 mm

As a birthday gift I got a "Fender CD-60SCE Blk WN" but that is due to arrive next week. Can't wait to practice on that one.

I also notice that I cramp up a lot with my fretting hand when try to play along with ease songs, cramp in the sense that I almost push the strings through the guitar neck (or my finger). Do you have any pointers on how to losen up a bit?

henry11galvin

Registered User

Joined: 07/19/21

Posts: 1

The important thing is to be patient!

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#4

The important thing is to be patient!

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DraconusJLM

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Joined: 06/21/21

Posts: 186

It sounds like you're applying far too much pressure with your fretting hand, although much of that could be from the string height. Try to relax more.

How you position your fingers when fretting will vary: sometimes you need the '90 degree angle' so that you don't accidentally mute the strings on either side, other times you may deliberately want to mute them, but that all comes with practice and experience.

Pros make playing guitar look easy, but they've spent thousands of hours getting there.

Shoot the inner critic and just have fun learning... (I'm at a point where I can pretty much play what I like on an acoustic, but make loads of unwanted noise when playing electric. I'm not worried about it, though, because I know I'll get better with patience)

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

#5

It sounds like you're applying far too much pressure with your fretting hand, although much of that could be from the string height. Try to relax more.

How you position your fingers when fretting will vary: sometimes you need the '90 degree angle' so that you don't accidentally mute the strings on either side, other times you may deliberately want to mute them, but that all comes with practice and experience.

Pros make playing guitar look easy, but they've spent thousands of hours getting there.

Shoot the inner critic and just have fun learning... (I'm at a point where I can pretty much play what I like on an acoustic, but make loads of unwanted noise when playing electric. I'm not worried about it, though, because I know I'll get better with patience)

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....