My handy-dandy Ukulele Handbook has begun the barre chord lesson with what it calls week five. Since it’s already taught the C major chord family, it next starts introducing the G family. It says that we have already learned 4 of the chords in this grouping by learning the C family first (G, Am, C, and Em), which leaves only D7 and Bm to complete the grouping for G. Both of these are barre chords. I knew that I would have to face these eventually, and I knew when I did, it was going to be rough. So, I am glad that I’m coming across them in the uke first, because it means it’s going to be a bit less traumatic when I get to it on the guitar (nowhere even remotely near there yet in guitar-land).

There is definitely a necessity for a bit of muscle building here. Just a few minutes trying to do barre chords means putting the ukulele down for a while, which means I think it’s probably going to be for the best if I designate time to work on them toward the end of my practice time, or my hand will be too tired to do much else.

My first practical issue is this:

When I press my finger down to barre the strings, the 2nd string doesn’t ring clear when the others do. I notice this seems to be because the joint of my first knuckle lays directly over that string, so effectively is giving that string just a fraction more space when barred than the other three. The solution, then would be to slide my finger up or down just a bit, so that I don’t have a joint directly over any of the strings. Up seems to work a little bit better, since moving down seems to encourage that knuckle to bend. Moving up, on the other hand, puts the second knuckle at the edge of the fretboard, which seems to be a preventative against the finger bending.

This is where the limited flexibility of my other fingers becomes really obvious, but there’s not much I can do about that. With time and continued practice, flexibility should, theoretically improve.

The Handbook gives a decent enough write-up of what barre chords are, but I was getting them mutey and gross sounding enough that I felt like it was worthwhile to youtube a barre chord lesson. And, there’s Ukulele Mike again, turning up at the top of the search function. That suits me just fine; his lessons tend to be solid and easy to understand.

…and it always helps to see someone actually performing the technique. He really goes over some of the places where a barre chord is most likely to go wrong, so it’s a pretty solid lesson and one I will likely revisit a few times as I work on this.

I expect I’ll be on the week 5 lessons longer than I’ve spent on previous weeks, because until I get those barre chords consistently solid, there’s really nowhere to go from there. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t still be working on chords and progressions that don’t require barre chords. I absolutely will be. But, I don’t think I’ll be moving forward in the handbook’s lessons until I’ve spent enough time with barre chords to really get a solid grasp on them (no pun intended).

For now, I’ll be putting the instruments away for a little while. The barre chords really got my whole hand and wrist a bit sore, and I need to rest it for a bit. I’ll have to grudgingly put it all away for now, and get back to it again later this evening.

Until Next time, barre chords hurt! But, I’ll get better.