Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Discussion of history's greatest guitar player.

Re: Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Postby ceciltguitar » Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:53 pm

Doug, Maybe you already know this, but just in case, here goes:

1) Choice of guitar matters!! If you have small hands, have you considered either using a short scale guitar or using a capo bar a lot? I don't know how tall Chet was, but I noticed that Chet, Segovia, Parkening, Paco de Lucia, John Williams are all tall. I am 5' 6", that works out to be about 89% of someone who is 6'3". So if I capo on the 3rd fret I am dealing with finger / hand stretches similar to what these guys use. I can't believe how much easier a lot of tunes are when I capo on the 3rd fret! (Fortunately I play a Parker Spanish Fly, so I still have LOTS of accessible frets when I capo on the 3rd fret. Shoot, I can even capo on the 12th fret). Plus, by capoing on the 3rd fret I force myself to mentally transpose (and therefore struggle to learn) all those keys like Bb, Eb, F. I use that capo bar on every fret from 1 to 10 and occasionally on the 12th fret, and I like how it changes the sound of the guitar, changes how I use my hands. I know, there are tons of youtubes of really short little girls with tiny hands that are 50 years younger than me playing with monster finger stretches at lightning speed. So what? I need to do what works best and is most fun for me.

Other guitar parameters make a big difference too! Neck thickness matters a lot to many players, some preferring thicker necks, others preferring thinner necks. For me, the thicker the neck, the sooner my hand tires and hurts. Flat fretboard or radiused fretboard. In short, find the guitar parameters that are the best for you. Experimentation sometimes yields surprising discoveries.

Be a guitar PLAYER, not a guitar monster or a guitar workhorse. After you "work" on those tough tunes, relax and really ENJOY playing something simple and beautiful!

2) Physically take care of your hands!

Constantly strive to play with LESS muscular effort. Here's something that has helped me use less muscular effort and also helps my hands to know where they are at and get to where they are going easier, I don't know if it will help you: I usually try to keep 1 finger from each hand anchored somewhere, usually on a string (right and left hand) or on the body of the guitar (right hand). Keeping 1 finger anchored makes all other finger movements relative to an anchored point of reference.

Take smart breaks. When your hands tell you to stop, then stop. Most of the time when you feel like stopping, stop. I play at my best (I'm not that good, mind you) when I am having fun playing, when I want to play. I find that my hands work the best if I usually play an hour or less and then don't play for a few hours. Yeah, I would love to play 4 - 8 hours a day. I used to play 8 - 12 hours a day at times when I was young. I don't have the option to play whenever I want to now, and since I am 60, I don't know how much my hands will take. Ideally I could play 4 - 6 hours a day SOME days, with those 4 - 6 hours starting at 6 AM and not ending until midnight. In other words, lots of down time in between sets.

Here is a big one for the days that you play a LOT and experience muscular pain or fatigue: DON'T play the next day! I notice that I accomplish a lot more when my hands are well rested.

Then there is posture............find the posture or postures that work for you: Sitting down, standing up, which leg to hold the guitar on, use of guitar supports and / or guitar straps (have you tried the slider strap? I love it - but only with certain guitars)

Well, I hope that helps you achieve your goal. Use any of it that might be useful to YOU, and discard the rest.

Best regards,
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Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:31 pm

Re: Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Postby Doug Working » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:33 pm


Thank-you for all the wonderful advice!

You mentioned capos. I had a Schub capo for decades, but it wore out. I really liked it. I was hard pressed to get rid of it.

Well, last week, I took the plunge and bought a new capo. It cost almost 70 bucks, which is a lot for me, but I wanted this one really bad, and I'm very happy with it. It's called a "Thalia" capo, and you can slide it up and down the neck INSTANTLY! Pure genius! When not in use, it clamps on the nut. Then in a flash, it's on whatever fret you want it. No fuss, no mess, no bother.

So I've been playing higher up the neck since I got it, and I really enjoy the change in sound of the guitar. Playing higher like that gives a sweet and unique charm to many tunes.

My guitar is a Chet nylon string electric with a classical fingerboard. I really love the guitar, but I often dream of having others for variety. I really, really like the one Craig Dobbins plays on his Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs CD.

I dream of getting my hands on one. And of course, there are several other Chet models that would put me in heaven.

But money is an object for me, right now. That Thalia capo was a huge plunge!

Doug Working
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon May 19, 2014 9:38 pm

Re: Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Postby Doug Working » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:45 pm

I had a revelation. It hit me like a proverbial bolt from the blue! I was in Kroger the other day, and when I saw the automatic blood pressure kiosk, BANG! It came to me! I had recently used it before I started having this debilitating pain in my arm, and it was VERY tight. Abnormally so!

And all the pain is in the spot where the cuff was! My left bicep! And it moves to the elbow, making it impossible to play

So I looked it up, and sure enough, these things can indeed cause debilitating injury called "crushing syndrome", and that is exactly what happened! That blasted thing CRUSHED my arm! I thought it was because I had been practicing too hard, but it was that wretched blood pressure cuff! The article says it injures the radial nerve in the arm! Holy crap! I've been had! Weeks later, and I still can't play for more than a minute or two, then I have to put the guitar down due to the pain. My skill level is draining like water swirling down the bathtub drain.

If this doesn't heal, if this is truly a permanent injury, my guitar playing days are over. Down the toilet.

I am NOT. cappy hamper.
Doug Working
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon May 19, 2014 9:38 pm

Re: Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Postby rhirvine » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:16 pm

Sorry to hear about your injury Doug. I hadn't heard of that before. Hopefully with time and prayer your arm will get better.

Sincerely, Rich Irvine
Posts: 280
Joined: Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:46 am

Re: Sore Hands From Trying To Play Like Chet?

Postby Doug Working » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:44 pm

Thanks Rich. I hadn't heard of it, either. And I never worried about or checked my bp before. This was the first time, and on a self service kiosk, and it literally squeezed me like a python. Like I said, it didn't "click" with me until I was in Kroger and glimpsed the kiosk. That's when the "aha!"moment hit me like a bolt of lightening.

I am PRAYING with all my heart that it's not permanent and will heal, but if it IS healing then it is healing slooooooooooooooooooooooowly.

In the meantime my playing skill is descending into the land of crap
Doug Working
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon May 19, 2014 9:38 pm


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