I have played guitar for 10-12 years before taking up the Mando and finding banjo Ben. I have small hands and have tried and tried to play this chord clean but I am starting to think it might be impossible for a small handed person, but then I keep hearing Ben say he has seen eight graders play it without to much trouble. I’m 60 years old for kripe sake I should be able to play it. Does anyone have any advice other than again and again and again because again that’s not working. Thanks very much! Mick
I am primarily a guitar player too (small side of average sized hands) and I am going through the basic mando rhythm videos. I played a little mando years ago, but I just started into the video series a few days ago. One thing to note about how Ben and some others play the closed G, is the angle they are holding the neck. It’s almost like holding a golf club. The neck runs about parallel to the base of the thumb, the thumb is laying next to the neck, and the base of the pinky is almost touching the other side of the neck. If my hand is more open, it’s just about impossible for me to make the chord.
One other thing I noted about making it clean is that you can “cheat” your fingers in a given direction to keep them from muting adjacent strings. For example, on the E string, my finger cheats to the outside of the neck to prevent it from muting the A string. In this particular chord, all of my fingers can cheat away from the middle of the neck and towards the outside.
It’s certainly a tough chord. When practicing chops with it, I can only go for a fairly short time (10-15 minutes) before I start getting cramps. I figure my hand will eventually get stronger and I will in time get a more efficient position, but until then I am just trying to do it a little bit each day.
Best of luck with it. If you find any tips that make it easier, please pass them along. I am not suggesting you give up, but if all else fails, you could always play a G chop in the C shape further up the neck.
I akin to learning G chop to learning the F chord or bar chords when I was learning guitar.
That said besides working through it, I have noticed that when I don’t play guitar for a while but play mandolin ( or vice versa) and I pick up the guitar again I notice my calluses are not quite there even though mandolin playing should be keeping them up ( and some would argue make them stronger) The reason is my guitar calluses are more in the center/fingertip side of the finger, but my mandolin calluses are center/fingernail side. Now this is very subtle and they really over lap or are the same but the long winded point is that the pressure on the string is being driven by a slightly forward part of the finger. I think this is because on chop chords and scales the small fret board means your hand has to curl or get slightly more on top of it to avoid the muting. Hope this helps.
As mreisz said, it might be a question of hand position. You don’t hold the mandolin the same way as a guitar. I never use the tip of my thumb to support the neck. The neck rests in the crook between my thumb and index finger. Part of the counterpressure is on the joint of my thumb. It’s almost like you’re grabbing the neck with your hand.
Hope this makes some sense.
Here is a cheat for people with small hands (Not sure if anyone mentioned this above or not? I read the posts quickly so if so I apologize). But people with small hands often times use the flat note. Meaning; instead of trying to get your pinky way up to the 7th fret(I think it’s the 7th, I am not by a mandolin so this is in my head, sorry), just put your pinky on the 6th instead, and play the flat D. Other words, try dropping your Pinky finger a half note. It may not be a perfect Gchop but sounds just the same anyways. Well, I shouldn’t say it sounds exactly the same but close enough to where people wont argue.
eventually your pinky will get up there. That is always a hard pattern and I admit I fight with it too. I am guessing its the pinky your having trouble with? that is usually the most stubborn and problematic finger, and the one that poses the most problem to the G Chop. Fact, mine still refuses to listen to me after all these years.
Thanks for all of the good advice. Sometimes it’s the little tips and tricks that make the differance. All have seemed to helpa little, going in the right direction. I like the tip on playing the pinky down a half. That is fairly easy for me to play even if it sounds weird I can see that in time reaching for that next fret would just be a natural progression. Thanks to all for your input. Mick
Hey !!! I’ve got the Little “Raccon” Hands myself. My Ultimate cure for struggling with the “Big G” was having a mandolin made with a Small neck. Prior to this one of the things I did was use the G Chord located by fretting the 4th fret on the G string, then fretting the 5th fret on the D and A strings mute the E string by laying your 2nd finger across it as you fret the D and A, This produces a Good “G” chop but not Quit the good full sound you get from the 4 finger. The big key for that chord as everyone else said however is pratice!!!
— Begin quote from “Kagey”
My Ultimate cure for struggling with the “Big G” was having a mandolin made with a Small neck.
— End quote
Smaller instruments are a great way to learn. They’re hard to find though.
When people complain to me about how they have difficulty making certain guitar chords, I always advise them to get their hands on an inexpensive, 3/4-size nylon-string guitar. Once they can make chords on a smaller guitar with ‘softer’ strings, it’s often easy for them to move up to a full-sized steel-string guitar.
So for mandolin (which is already pretty small), maybe you could ‘soften’ the strings by tuning down a full step or so? I don’t know if it would help; it’s just a thought…
Or, get a ukelele and tune it up like a mandolin and use that to practice?
I think I had too much coffee…
Do a good job of hitting the lowest two or three and mute the rest. Many of the best players play 2-3 note rhythm. mandozine.com/3-Note-Chords.pdf
Or Google 3 note mandolin chords.
Niles Hokkanen’s Mandolin Chords and how to use them takes a lot of mystery out of it. Elderly Music has it for ten bucks.
Key of A try on 3 and 4 string. root/5 3/root 5/root
3rd string 2| 7 | 7
4th string 2| 6 | 9
I recall Sierra Hull saying in an interview that it took her a long time to be able to play the 4 fingered G chord and even now that she is able to, she often “chooses not to”. I recall Ben discussing diferent ways to mute the G string in one of his videos. I consider myself a beginner, but it seems to me to be far more important to keep your pinky finger involved and close to the fret board than to sound all of the strings when playing a chop chord. I think that by keeping your 4th finger involved and by avoiding cheating on that aspect of your playing, the reach and dexterity will come. A few months into learning the mandolin, I actually went back and re-learned some tunes, forcing myself to keep my pinky finger involved, and it really has payed dividends.
I hope that helps.
I think I am getting over the hump on the G chop. I seemed to improve a bit more when I stopped hitting it every day. Maybe I wasn’t giving my hand enough time to recover. I also found that I had to make a conscious effort to maintain a little space between the cradle of my thumb and the neck. It was something I remembered from playing violin as a kid. Anyway, when I did that, it seemed to get a little easier. Anyone else making progress?