Power Chord Pain

Spent my 15 minutes with Yousician again last night. I’ve reached a point now where I’m struggling with both the lead and rhythm paths. On lead, as I’ve mention previously, I’m struggling just making the switches between notes. On rhythm, I’ve reached the power chords lesson (which the video refers to as “moveable power chords”). Ugh.

I knew from rocksmith that power chords were a problem, and they haven’t gotten any easier. Part of it is that I’m not flexible enough to execute them easily yet. Part is that my pinky isn’t strong enough to fret quickly without the string buzzing. Part is just being slow switching between frets. Those things, I can accept and deal with. What I’m having trouble accepting as part of the learning curve is the wrist pain.

The voices on the internet seem to all imply with guitar that all pain is good pain, which seems like a really flawed logic. I took karate when I was younger (for 10 years, actually, but it’s been a good long while since that’s been part of my life), and one of the first things you really pick up is to listen to your body. You learn fast in martial arts, or any fitness activity, that there is good pain, and there is bad pain, and how to tell the difference. If it’s good pain, keep going. If it’s bad pain, stop. Sometimes the pain is muscles building. Sometimes it’s joints or tendons being put under more strain than they’re able to withstand. The prior you can work through, the latter you’ll regret working through.

With my background, I should be able to tell the difference, but in this case, I can’t. That really worries me. So I pause, I check my wrist for weird angles (none, though I find the only way to execute power chords at all is with a low thumb that points toward the headstock. I can’t seem to make the stretch with a more vertical thumb.)

Since the problem is, so far, only happening on power chords, I’m inclined to think it’s bad pain, but everything looks as it should, and with the short guitar lesson time, I haven’t noticed any lingering effects. The internet is full of muscle-brains who like to say ‘it’s supposed to hurt’, but not how much, where, or to what extent/in what way. If my fingers were tired and sore, I wouldn’t be concerned, because it makes sense, but once you screw up a joint, there’s really no going back. It means I really don’t know how I should be attacking the power chord issue at this point. Clearly, I can’t spend all of my lesson time on it, because it’s uncomfortable, but I also need to work on them enough to overcome this. I haven’t come up with an answer to the problem yet.

I want to talk a little about the Yousician Power Chord lesson, too. It has some strengths, but also some really annoying weaknesses.


The lesson mentions a few things that I have not seen brought up in other power chord lessons that are really relevant.

  1. You might need a low thumb position to make the stretch. – This is notable, because no other power chord lesson I’ve watched has mentioned the thumb at all, even the ones that talk about the wrist. The thumb affects the angle of the wrist, so this makes a difference.
  2. Use your finger pad more than the tip, unlike other chords (which yousician refers to as cowboy chords). – I have never read that anywhere. I’ve read about muting strings with the tip of your finger, which of course is the same concept, but this is the first time I’ve heard any instructor straight-forwardly say that your angle of approach is different with power chords. Since you’re not using other strings, muting them with your fingers makes sense, and eases the strain of the stretch. It’s logical. It occurred to me before now, but it’s also the first time I’ve seen an instructor actually say it, and explain it in a clear and succinct manner.


It doesn’t actually teach you specific power chords or their names before expecting you to play them. Instead, it jumps you right into a practice track with A5, E5, and the power chords B5 and C#5, without actually first showing you where those chords are. It only blips the chord on the screen for about half a second, and only if you miss it. The only way around this is to select practice mode and slow it waaaaayyy down. Then the chord diagram stays up long enough to read.

One could argue that that’s how you should work through these songs anyway, but Yousician assumes you are either a speed reader, or doing this anyway, which is not cool, and if I was using the paid version, this would piss me off. ‘Here, you’ve never seen this chord before, but you know it already, I’m sure.’ No. I don’t. Teach it to me, you ninny.

I know the power chord is the same shape no matter where you put it, but I still have to have some basic clue regarding where on the fretboard I need to be to play it, so this is a real pain in the butt. I did eventually learn the chords, but it took practice mode at under 30% speed to do it. And, I did get through the song in play mode before the night was over. It doesn’t change the fact that this lesson is poorly structured.

Until Next Time, have more questions than answers on this one.

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