Author Topic: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell  (Read 8164 times)

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Offline PattheBunny

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So Joni Mitchell had polio as a child and her fingers weren't very strong.   This is one of the reasons she has so many open tunings.  She found a way to play what she wanted to in a way that she could physically manage.   I now have arthritis, complete with floating little pieces of bone, in the index and middle fingers of my left hand.   

 I will have to figure most of it out myself, but I can see that I'm on the road of finding a tuning where I can play songs without it being hard on my fingers.  Which isn't as easy as it seems (and it don't seem easy to me) if you are covering a song because inversions aren't always going to sound right and movement from chord to chord might not be as easy.   

It might be an interesting, although advanced lesson, for Justin to find a song and then have people come up with alternate tuning ways to play it. 

Anyone on this path?

Pat
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Offline stitch101

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2015, 05:49:41 pm »
Why don't you post a song you would like to play or already play but are finding it difficult to
finger the chord and we'll (the good people here) try and come up with alternate tunings or
easier chord voicing.

Would be a good challenge for all of us.

As for open tunings ones like Open D, C, G and E are easy for strumming all the major chords can
be played with one finger barring all the strings.




Offline PattheBunny

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2015, 05:03:05 am »
Barre chords are really hard for me, although I can do them.  I've tried for a long time and I will keep working them but the bend in my bad finger isn't helping.

Here's a song I'm learning, and this is a cover because the guitar is easier to hear than on the original.    It's a  Rufus Wainwright song.  And it is monster hard to sing, rangy and with building dynamics.   Rufus is an amazing vocalist.   This guy is very, very good.   

Chords are D, Dmaj 7, G/D, Em, A, F#m and G.   The F#minor is just not happening.  And I can't find a way around it because it seems to need F# in the base.  This is probably a bad example, but it's on my mind.



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Offline close2u

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2015, 07:16:54 am »
Sorry to hear of your problems Pat.
I haven't explored too many open tunings, and none in depth.
So can't offer too much help here I'm afraid.
I know you can / will find a way.
I know that pretty much all of Blood On The Tracks was played in open E.
Worth a look.
:)

Offline stitch101

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2015, 07:35:01 am »
Pat if the F#m is the only  chord you're having trouble with just play it as a power chord.
If you're wanting to do this song in an open tuning. Open D would be a good chose.


Offline PattheBunny

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2015, 08:03:35 am »
Pat if the F#m is the only  chord you're having trouble with just play it as a power chord.
If you're wanting to do this song in an open tuning. Open D would be a good chose.

Duh.  I don't know why I didn't think of a power chord.  Thanks, Stitch.  I'm going to play with an open D tuning just for fun.
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Offline Rodrigo

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2015, 09:21:48 am »
we all he our limitations Patt, its great to hear that you  are trying to overcome yours, but make sure you don't put yourself in a position where you actually worsen your situation by forcing your fingers, which can lead to more problems in the future. Now, what kind of guitar are you playing, acoustic or electric ? What string gauges are you using? I would recommend that you take your guitar to a professional to have it set up with low gauge strings and the lowest action achievable to make sure the burden on your fingers is the lowest possible. Also are your problems only on your left hand or they extend to the right hand also ?

Offline PattheBunny

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2015, 11:50:25 am »
Thanks so much for your advice, Rodrigo, I talked to my luthier the other day about the whole thing.  One of the women who works there has arthritis in her fingers so she's been there.  I have a very good relationship with my guitar shop.   

I was playing D'Addario lights (11 gauge) on my acoustic and electric and liked the sound, but I have Martin Eric Claptons on now, (12), and am about to try a flexible core string like Martin Retro or probably their SP Flexible Core.  I have a kind of crooked index and middle finger on my left hand but I'm still pretty strong, I just don't want to damage it any more if I can help it.  Right hand is okay. But I'm just starting to learn some fingerstyle so I am cautiously optimistic.     I'm not playing the electric too much right now but the setup on it is pretty low.   I actually need a fret dressing on my Martin but it can wait, it only buzzes if I play past the seventh fret which I'm not doing much of just yet.   

I was playing a medium gauge string but when I read that BB King told Keith Richard that he was working too hard; to lighten his string gauge (was it Keith?  It was definitely BB) I went back to lights.
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Offline Joerfe

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2015, 02:14:06 pm »
was it Keith?  It was definitely BB

Actually it was BB King and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) who is now playing 7 gauge (I think it is) which are extremely thin, but I heard an interview with his guitar tech that he (Billy) rarely breaks strings.
/Jesper

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Offline Joerfe

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2015, 07:37:42 pm »
@Pat. Here is a great jam over the ZZ Top song La Grange. Towards the end Billy Gibbons tells the story.

Edit: forgot the darn link: http://youtu.be/3MbaGJN2ioQ

\m/ rock on \m/
end Jesper
/Jesper

Sigma SOMR28H, Fender Classic '50s Tele, Tokai Les Paul Reborn 2010, Gibson Les Paul Standard Faded TB 'Slash specs'.
Boss GT-1000, Line6 Powercab 100

Offline Cataract

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Re: Alternate tunings to get around a weak finger -- a la Joni Mitchell
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2015, 12:57:03 am »
Hey Pat! I dont know if my idea is valid, but what about playing some open tuning with slide using your first finger? I really hope you will find a solution! Best of luck!

 

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