Back to Basics: The G Chord, and chords in general.

After the past few days, I decided this evening to leave the electric alone, sit down in front of the TV with the acoustic, and really bring things back to the bare bones, without all the pretty bells and Rocksmith whistles, without worrying about timing, or keeping up, and just really breaking it all down, analzying things, and so, I sat down with my nemesis: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. lol.

Or, to be more specific, the chords and chord changes of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.

I sat down and decided: okay. Let’s stop and really look at what my hand and arm is doing when I’m forming chords. Let’s look at what my thumb is doing. What my wrist is doing. What (if anything) my arm and shoulder are doing.

I’m having trouble with chords, and I’m having trouble with my electric guitar, so I have to think those two things are probably not entirely separate.  And, while I do still think the behemoth is not the best guitar for me, that eventually I’m going to want to get something a little more comfortable overall, for which fancy straps are not something I need to really think about all that much, I also know that most of the fault has to be with me, with something I’m doing wrong that’s throwing everything out of whack and just making the situation that much worse.  After all, while the average guitar may not be double digits in weight, it’s not as if guitars don’t exist over 9 lbs. They do, and people play them without going through the ritual of whining I’ve been doing about the weight of the thing for longer than I care to think about or admit to.

So, that’s where I decided to start today, just really getting a good look at how I’m forming chords, how I’m getting from one to the next.  And, yes, there are a few problems, a few things I absolutely need to break myself out of before I can progress.  E, Am, and D all look pretty alright.  I’m hitting them solidly most of the time.

C, we all know by now is problem. Part of that is just thinking brain vs acting brain.  I’m still thinking it out one finger at a time. Slowly. How to place them.  The only way to get around that is to switch into and out of C. A lot. Over and over again. Maybe I’ll work on that tomorrow during a Sunday afternoon movie. 2 hours of chord switching helped the ukelele, so working through it on the guitar can only improve matters.  There is a thumb positioning issue with C.

Well, it’s not entirely an issue, in and of itself.  The position of the thumb doesn’t impede the movement of the fingers.  But, what it does do is encourage me to point my elbow slightly out.  By shifting the thumb closer to a horizontal position than a vertical on the neck, it tilts my elbow back in, lowers my shoulder to a more neutral state, and I think in the long run seems like it’s probably going to be more ergonomically sound when playing standing.

Then, there’s G.  I didn’t get why G was considered a ‘stretchy’ chord (a word used in the Justin Guitar lesson I learned it from). It seemed the horizontal stretch of C was way harder, and G was nothing.  I haven’t entirely changed my opinion, C’s stretch is harder than G’s for me.  BUT, I have some seriously bad wrist/arm positioning going on in G, probably to make that finger stretch easier.

G bad
Egads! Look at that wrist bend! Look at that twisted forearm. …look at that truly horrific selfie angle, but please ignore my sweats…and my horrible ‘how do I contort to even take this picture?’ pose. 😀

Yeah, that’s pretty bad. The wrist is bent dramatically, which twists up the whole arm and causes the shoulder to dip. Then, when it’s time to move to the next chord, the whole arm moves back to a more neutral position, and then into whatever contorted position is “required” (note the quotes) for the next chord.  No wonder my switches are slower than a tortoise if I have to move not my fingers, but my entire arm, to make them.

Some fiddling later, this is what G looks like:

G better
Definitely better. Probably not perfect yet, but the wrist is in a neutral position, the arm is in a neutral position. I have no idea why my thumb is crowding the low E, but , that’s what photos are for.

Now, that HAS to be causing some pain and discomfort.  That’s a massive difference.  So I’m going to get back to basics with guitar for a bit, and really sit and work on carefully forming chords, switching between them without contorting my arm to do so, before I try picking up the electric again.  Given how much motion I can now see the whole arm of my fretting hand is going through to make chord changes, it’s got to be at least a part of the reason for my discomfort with the guitar, and probably a rather large part.

Until Next Time, paying attention to the small details.

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