fingerpicking fret hand, ouch


SusanMW
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Joined: 07/05/20
Posts: 222

The Christmas spirit got to me and I felt like dabbling in fingerpicking again (holiday style). I started to learn fingerpicking a few months ago after jumping ahead in some lessons and diving into some books. But some wise folks on here suggested I stick to the basics before moving onto fingerpicking. I"m so glad I did because I couldnt even cleanly switch chords back then and I have improved so much. So I'm able to do some fingerpicking much better but I'm having problems making a death grip with my fret hand and causing a lot of tenseness and pain. I think it's because I'm so focused on doing the correct moves with my right hand that I'm inadvertantly putting way too much pressure on my fret hand when I switch chords. I was also doing so many things at once that I'm not used to. After I could play the instrumental, I added vocals, but then it was alot of work to do everything else at the same time like keep rhythm, not stumble over words, etc. (Next time I won't add vocals for awhile longer.)

How can I improve this? I practiced for too long yesterday and am still icing my fret wrist and hand. But I did pretty well otherwise....I was able to play Lisa's instrumental fingerpicking of What Child is This. But I definitely need to correct that death grip for future sessons...Any help or tips is much appreciated.


“Often, what seems like an impossible climb is just a staircase without the steps drawn in.” Robert Brault, American Operatic Tenor

# 1
faith83
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Joined: 04/23/20
Posts: 414

I posted the exact same thing a few weeks ago and people gave me some good advice. You might want to look up that thread. I think it has the word "Fingerpicking" in the title.

I could play for hours without any kind of pain or fatigue as long as I was strumming, and then as soon as I started working on fingerpicking, ouchie ouchie, after just a few minutes, my fret fingertips, wrist, everything hurt like I was a raw beginner again. It was suggested to me (and the people on that thread will say it better than I'm paraphrasing) that I was tensing up without realizing it because I was learning a new skill, and that, in my experience, was indeed the case.

In other words, practice will fix it. In the meantime, a Musician's Practice Glove comes in handy in times like that.


"You can get what you want or you can just get old." Billy Joel

# 2
SusanMW
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Joined: 07/05/20
Posts: 222

Thanks Faith, I forgot about your thread...I think I do remember reading that and will definitely look it up. Today I even have the right hand pain too. I've never heard of a musician's glove but will look that up, too.


“Often, what seems like an impossible climb is just a staircase without the steps drawn in.” Robert Brault, American Operatic Tenor

# 3
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 7,920
Originally Posted by: SusanMWSo I'm able to do some fingerpicking much better but I'm having problems making a death grip with my fret hand and causing a lot of tenseness and pain. I think it's because I'm so focused on doing the correct moves with my right hand that I'm inadvertantly putting way too much pressure on my fret hand when I switch chords.

You've correctly identified the problem. The solution is to explicitly remind yourself to relax the tension in your fretting hand. Typically you have to focus on it & remind yourself more in the beginning stages. Then the more you do it, the more it will gradually become automated or second nature.

This is good general practice anyway because the overall goal in any playing is to only use as much pressure as necessary to get the job done. Any more is wasted effort that only hinders your playing.

Another approach that can help is to just do the fingerpicking pattern without fretting any notes. You can drill that & totally focus on your picking hand. Eventually you want to get your fretting hand into the process as soon as possible, of course. But it can help to isolate tasks for a while.

Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 4
SusanMW
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Joined: 07/05/20
Posts: 222

That helps a lot, Christopher...thank you! I have a google doc I started last week with all your great tips for me! Don't want to forget anything! :D


“Often, what seems like an impossible climb is just a staircase without the steps drawn in.” Robert Brault, American Operatic Tenor

# 5
sabrinagilbe
Registered User
Joined: 12/22/20
Posts: 1

1. Keep your nails at a consistent length.[br]A constant annoyance for guitar teachers (myself included) is when fingerstyle students come to lessons each week and their fingernails are all different lengths and at different lengths to the previous week.

2. Highlight those bass notes

The bass notes are very important in fingerstyle guitar. Often the bass notes are ringing throughout while the treble strings (strings 1,2,3) are being picked multiple times.

3. Prioritise the melody notes[br]There are two main schools of fingerstyle guitar. One is the traditional singer-songwriter school, which is where a singer will play guitar and fingerpick notes from within the chord. Your traditional guitarists such as James Taylor and Paul Simon do this a lot.

4. Do not lose the groove[br]It`s really easy when fingerpicking to get lost in all the fancy melody notes and interesting harmony lines that can be created. So much so that the guitarist can forget all about the all-important groove.

5. Work on the picking hand’s muscle memory[br]Lots of guitar teachers and guitarists talk about muscle memory, but they only talk about it in regards to their fretting hand. It is very rare that someone will talk about muscle memory in relation to the picking hand.

krogerfeed


# 6
SusanMW
Registered User
Joined: 07/05/20
Posts: 222

Thank you for those tips!


“Often, what seems like an impossible climb is just a staircase without the steps drawn in.” Robert Brault, American Operatic Tenor

# 7
SusanMW
Registered User
Joined: 07/05/20
Posts: 222

I knew I wouldn't be able to play my guitar for a few days because of the pain, but I thought my ukuele would be ok. But again, I overdid it just a bit and am still having a lot of wrist/hand/finger ice pick pain. Icing again tonight on and off. I did have carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist in 2008 and that one still gives me problems with swelling. However, it's definitely the left, fretting hand that has the more severe pain.

I am going to completely take a break from playing for at least the rest of the week, both instruments. Santa has been bringing me lots of good lesson and music theory books so it's a good time to dive into those....


“Often, what seems like an impossible climb is just a staircase without the steps drawn in.” Robert Brault, American Operatic Tenor

# 8