Playing fatigue. This one is for true guitar geeks only (of which I proudly count myself as one). Re: nut width. Time was when virtually all American high quality guitars, ones by Martin, Gibson and Guild anyway, came with a nut that measured 1 11/16s inch. I've made no secret in this space of my love for Martins and almost every one I've owned has had this nut size. I am cursed with fairly short but thankfully, narrow fingers and the 1 11/16ths seemed just about perfect.
Then about 20 years ago quite a few of the boutique makers began offering guitars with 1 3/4" nuts. The logic was that the extra 1/16" made finger style playing easier because there was more separation between the strings. The big makers noticed, especially Taylor, and began offering many or in the case of Taylor, most of their guitars with the wider nut.
Jeez, I thought. Maybe I'm missing something here. So I began buying and playing guitars with 1 3/4" nuts. Now, you wouldn't think such a tiny increment would make a difference but it does. For me anyway, those wider nuts lead to a marked increase in left hand fatigue, especially if I'm playing songs with a lot of bar chords. Thankfully, Taylors also feature amazingly low action and relatively thin necks so playing that brand isn't quite as tough for me as others but the fatigue factor is definitely there. I've been battling it with the gorgeous and incredible sounding Taylor 810 that I recently acquired and you can see in the for-sale section of this site. I absolutely LOVE that guitar - it sounds better than any I've ever heard with the K&K pick-up I had Bay Fretted install - and I'm determined to use it next weekend at my Daily Brew gig.
Now add another relatively recent (albeit, old) design feature that is popular: the V-shaped neck. I once owned a custom Boyce guitar with a V-neck and although I kept if for quite a few years that V made bar chords just miserable. The fact that the guitar I am totally lusting after - the Martin Jorma Kaukonen model - has both a 1 3/4" nut and a soft V neck shape has kept me from going further in debt!
Now here's what's interesting. I'm beginning to see a lot of backlash in the discussions on the guitar forums to the 1 3/4" nuts, even by guys who claim to be primarily finger style players. Hmmm.... could it be that Martin, Gibson and Guild had it right in the first place?!?
Another observation. Regarding the playing of bar chords. I have a couple students right now who are struggling with playing them. I totally sympathize and offer as many tips and all the encouragement I can but their frustration is obvious. Unfortunately, you cannot "teach" someone to play bar chords. All you can do is make sure their hand is positioned correctly. Then it's just a matter of time. I've known some pretty damn good players over the years who avoid them all together but this is a mistake. Bar chords open up the whole neck to the guitarist. But the reality is - ALL GUITARISTS HATE BAR CHORDS!!! I don't care how long someone's been playing. One of my tasks as a teacher is to convince budding players of their worth, and lemme tell ya, it ain't easy! If you count yourself among the many who avoid bar chords, dive in, try to conquer at least a few of them and your playing will improve. Just accept the fact that they will always be miserable!
More random stuff tomorrow.
Peace & good music,