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Thread: Vice grip fingers

  1. #1
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    Default Vice grip fingers

    On my first post re: SS Stewart taropatch I got great information from dedicated and knowledgeable players. Iím very greatful to you all. Now here isClick image for larger version. 

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ID:	195842 my next topic for consideration. While you are all accomplished players, Iím feeling my way along the mandolin fretboard journey. My first mandolin was a vintage flat back which I rebuilt but found the scale smaller than the mandolin I have now. I found my fingers cramped but the tone was great. Unfortunately, now I wish I hadnít sold it. I now have a electric mandolin which is an entry level player. Iím making out ok with chords and playing along with tunes but bar chords are more of a challenge. You need vise grip fingers when barring first fret, so Iíve dropped tuning a half step like I do with my guitars. So since I donít play in a band am I ok to take an easier way around the challenge? Is there different string gauges available? I know more practice will make it easier. Iíve been a bass and guitar guy since the 60ís and now my arm gets numb and fingers lock up after a short practice. I would like to become proficient enough to play some of the great tunes.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    There are light gauge strings available.

    https://www.amazon.com/DAddario-EJ62...26509165&psc=1

    There are even extra light gauge strings available.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Have you had the string height set up at the nut foremost but also at the 12.. fret?

    PS: My mandolinetto with Aquila nylon strings is very soft on the hand.
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Just for the record, many of us here aren't "accomplished players." We have folks at all levels from absolute beginners to outstanding professionals. Your question may well be on the minds of others. Welcome to the Cafe.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    You mention your arm getting numb and fingers locking up - have you had any lessons with an experienced mandolin instructor? Less than ideal technique can lead to issues with the hands and arms and having someone run an experienced eye over what you're doing can be really helpful. Nowadays location needn't limit ability to connect with a good mandolin instructor what with the advent of Zoom and Skype lessons.
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Thank you all. String height is good. Iíll mic my strings and check gauge then google gauges available. On my guitars I like 10-50. This will give me some hope for better playing. They almost feel like guitars with 11-52 or 54ís. Thx again

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    I came from the acoustic guitar ( bluegrass ...slightly higher action than normal) to the mandolin and it took me quite a while to learn to play with a lighter grip. And it took a conscious effort to practice playing this way. If your arm goes numb and your fingers lock that's a real indicator your grip is way too heavy. It could also lead to carpal tunnel and that's a real serious problem. So as they say ... Lighten up a little!
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Itís actually my strumming arm. I believe itís caused by my arm over the edge of the guitar body which affected the nerves. Basically bc I play sitting down . A great many years caused my problem. Casual playing style every day made it my problem. My fingers will spasm even when Iím not playing. I will persevere. On that note I micís the strings (10-15-25-43) Iíll go and see what is lighter if any. Thx

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Pardon my stupidity! I should have micís 8 strings not just 4.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Just out of curiousity, other than REALLY enjoying playing in Bb, why would you spend any significant amount of time playing first fret barre chords. First fret fretting sucks on the mando

    I had a Rono 5-string electric for years. Barely touched it. Action at the first fret was cheese grater painful. Finally got around to selling it last year and took it to Mike Rychlik, one of the best mando set-up guys in the DC area. I actually wantd him to check the PUP switch but I also mentioned that if he could do anything about the action I'd be happy to pay for it, especially since there was no adjustable truss rod. When I got it back, it played like butter! Moral of the story, ALWAYS get a good luthier to take a look at your set up.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Ok. Under proper lighting for my trifocals they micíd. 10-14-24-40. So I see that I can get a 9-34 set of extra lights to try out. I might snip the 40 and use the 34. Trial and error. Also I built basses and guitars as well as set ups and repairs for years. I even rebuilt an old flat back. But since Iím actually owning one to play there are many things to get used to. Like my taropatch, Iím asking as many questions as I can to learn from those who have gone before me. About barre chords, some shapes are challenging.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Iíd really like to be proficient at playing ďCrossing Muddy WatersĒ by John Hiatt!

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  17. #13
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by GalexC View Post
    ... You need vise grip fingers when barring first fret ...
    Just because the action "looks okay", in your guitar-based experience, doesn't mean that it IS okay. Most of us started on guitar, and the tolerances for "okay" on mandolin are much tighter than you might expect. If string clearance over the first fret looks similar to your guitar, then it's way too high for mandolin.

    You should expect that all entry-level instruments have the nut slots set too high, avoiding the hour or so of hand craftsmanship that's needed. Even some higher-level instruments are set high, in expectation that the action will be customized to the final buyer. (I also suspect that fact #2 is a convenient excuse for fact #1!)

    For reference: String clearance over the first fret should be similar to clearance over the 2nd fret when fretting at the first. It doesn't take much extra height to require vice-grip pressure!

    Frets.com is a handy referece on all such topics:
    http://frets.com/FretsPages/Musician...nutaction.html
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Press down a set of strings on the third fret, if you can easily see clearance at the first fret the nut is way too high. Do this for each pair.
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by GalexC View Post
    I’d really like to be proficient at playing “Crossing Muddy Waters” by John Hiatt!
    Great song by Mr. Hiatt as is his whole catalog. The group I play with on Saturday afternoons does this song in key of G. The fingering is easy enough but right hand picking took me a bit of practice to get it sounding right.

    "Under proper lighting for my trifocals they mic’d. 10-14-24-40. So I see that I can get a 9-34 set of extra lights to try out."

    The 40 gauge may be too heavy for G strings on electric mando, especially for double course strings. I picked up some Ernie Ball electric strings that have 36 of 37 gauge A strings and use those for the G string course on my cheapie Morgan Monroe electric tele-mando. That and some attention to the nut slots made a big difference for me.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    I can't stress enough how important relaxing while playing is, sounds obvious but I find I had to be cautious of "rigidness" in both left and right hand. I have learned to relax a lot more and my playing has improved because of that (IMHO).
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  22. #17

    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by GalexC View Post
    On my first post re: SS Stewart taropatch I got great information from dedicated and knowledgeable players. Iím very greatful to you all. Now here isClick image for larger version. 

Name:	62751ACE-7A1A-4FA7-9E4C-D50AF1840AF0.jpg 
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ID:	195842 my next topic for consideration. While you are all accomplished players, Iím feeling my way along the mandolin fretboard journey. My first mandolin was a vintage flat back which I rebuilt but found the scale smaller than the mandolin I have now. I found my fingers cramped but the tone was great. Unfortunately, now I wish I hadnít sold it. I now have a electric mandolin which is an entry level player. Iím making out ok with chords and playing along with tunes but bar chords are more of a challenge. You need vise grip fingers when barring first fret, so Iíve dropped tuning a half step like I do with my guitars. So since I donít play in a band am I ok to take an easier way around the challenge? Is there different string gauges available? I know more practice will make it easier. Iíve been a bass and guitar guy since the 60ís and now my arm gets numb and fingers lock up after a short practice. I would like to become proficient enough to play some of the great tunes.
    Mandolin tolerances are much tighter than guitar due to the doubled strings at high tension. Ideal first fret clearance on the E strings is 5-6 thousandths, roughly two thicknesses of typing paper, or 1/2 the height of a guitar high E string. I suspect the nut slots are high on your mandolin, they generally are on lower budget instruments because it's time consuming to get right, and they want to avoid buzzes at all costs. Take a close look at first fret clearances and if they're significantly above 0.005" E string and 0.012" G string, get a set up done by a tech who knows mandolins.

  23. #18
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Out of curiosity, what's an example of a bar chord on a mandolin? I usually just do separate fingertips on each string that needs one, or at most one fingertip for two strings (like for an A chord).
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    Question Re: Vice grip fingers

    movable "barre" chord examples . re assigning fingers like open string chords .. 2245, 2455, 4224 , 4223, 2235, 2355, 2243, 545x..

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    There are a lot of barre chords in the mandolin encyclopedia. Iíll probably not use 20% of those shown (2660) Iíll be more selective in the future. Also Iíll check my string height.

  26. #21
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    movable "barre" chord examples . re assigning fingers like open string chords .. 2245, 2455, 4224 , 4223, 2235, 2355, 2243, 545x..

    Ah, I wasn't counting examples like this as barre chords, I guess... Does any chord where you play more than one string with a single finger count as a barre chord? I've associated them with sort of laying your finger flat across multiple strings on a guitar, which is something I never do on mandolin. But I'm not a guitarist, so maybe that's just a false association.
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Should have known. My mistake. I apologize. Factory set up not right. Mandolins werenít in my world until I bought one. I always reset factory guitars. Iím ok getting it right now. I have all the dimensions nut and bridge. Just need strings. At least I donít need to do fret ends. Thanks everyone. Once itís done Iíll be a happier player.

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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    In my experience (nearly 50 years of playing mandolin) set-up is far more important than worrying about string gauge. If it’s too hard to play with mediums, going down to lights will make little difference. If you were to go the other way, e.g. light to medium, you may well increase relief on the neck and the mandolin, without a truss rod tweak, will feel harder to play.

  29. #24
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by GalexC View Post
    On my first post re: SS Stewart taropatch I got great information from dedicated and knowledgeable players. I’m very greatful to you all...
    Also received a fair amount of bushwa* from me...


    *bushwa: rubbishy nonsense, baloney, bull

    Seriously, though: bet that 99% of your problem is factory non-set-up, which is eminently curable. More tension on mandolin strings than guitar, and that li'l bitty neck with the taut, doubled strings can be a major challenge. I almost never do true "barre" chords, but a well-set-up mandolin should offer no bar to barre
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    Default Re: Vice grip fingers

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    bushwa: rubbishy nonsense, baloney, bull
    Always great to learn useful new terminology

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