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  #1  
Old 01-19-2022, 10:50 PM
wguitar wguitar is offline
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Default Pressing Too Hard When Fretting Chords and Notes

Hi Folks,

Been playing guitar (amateur) for many years and recently stumbled into the realization that I have been pressing too hard when fretting chords (especially barre chords). With the normal aches and pains of age I am always seeking to alter my playing techniques to minimize strain on my hands, wrist, fingers and thumb. Reduced gauge strings help, but often with corresponding tonal changes. Similarly, experimenting with different string brands and materials, round cores, etc. makes a difference. But simply altering how much pressure I apply when fretting seems to allow me to use all kinds of strings, without sacrificing the tones I prefer. And I love my barre chords (especially those major 7th's)

Anyway, I wanted to share and was wondering if others have had similar experiences. Also, got me wondering if pressing too hard is a common thing, and techniques folks have used to soften their playing touch.

Happy strumming my friends !
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Old 01-19-2022, 10:53 PM
Thunder22 Thunder22 is offline
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subscribed I have the same problem.
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Old 01-19-2022, 11:02 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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I have been a heavy handed player for over 50 years.
Only recently have I decided to deliberately try to lighten up.

It is working and my fretting hand can tell the difference.
Still use medium gauge strings on some of my guitars, Bluegrass Gauge an a couple of others and lights on my smaller acoustic/electric gigging. guitar
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Old 01-19-2022, 11:22 PM
JohnW63 JohnW63 is offline
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After focusing on acoustic for awhile, I found I was too heavy fingered on electrics.

What I try to play around with is how little thumb pressure do I need to make clear tones. The lower the action and the lighter the strings the less I need. But you can only go so low and so light.
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Old 01-19-2022, 11:34 PM
guitar george guitar george is offline
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An exercise that I like to do is to play a song without using my thumb and without using any part of my fretting hand on the back of the neck while holding the guitar firmly on the lower bout with my strumming arm. The notes are played only by pushing down with the fingers. This is best done while sitting down. Once you get the hang of it you will discover how little pressure is actually required on the strings to play notes and chords. I do this mostly while strumming.
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:07 AM
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RodB RodB is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitar george View Post
An exercise that I like to do is to play a song without using my thumb and without using any part of my fretting hand on the back of the neck while holding the guitar firmly on the lower bout with my strumming arm. The notes are played only by pushing down with the fingers. This is best done while sitting down. Once you get the hang of it you will discover how little pressure is actually required on the strings to play notes and chords. I do this mostly while strumming.
This is an exercise I do as well. If the guitar is well supported and the fretting hand addresses the fingerboard without gripping around the neck it can be quite surprising to find how easy this is.

I still play with the thumb in contact with the neck but this encourages it to be more an aid to stability than acting as part of a clamping action. How much the thumb is involved then depends on the particular fingering. However from time to time I realise things are deteriorating and need to ‘press reset’.
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Old 01-20-2022, 04:04 AM
buddyhu buddyhu is offline
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My teacher is worming with me to relax as I learn new songs, such that tension is not interwoven with the process of playing. This involves a variety of strategies: some are attitudinal, some involve paying attention to things (like breathing) that aren’t directly involved with fretting and picking. It helps.
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Old 01-20-2022, 04:39 AM
EZYPIKINS EZYPIKINS is offline
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This is my Dad all over. He squeezes so tight it makes MY fingers hurt.

He grew up with no idea about setups.

The sweeter the setup, the lighter the touch needed.

Those who have learned on guitars without setup, may find it difficult to change their squeezing habit.

Just because you may pay for a setup. Doesn't mean it can't be better.

If you don't know what you want. You'll just get what you get.
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Old 01-20-2022, 05:04 AM
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What has helped me has been two things. One of course is proper playing position with left foot slightly elevated and neck up. In fact, while sitting, I routinely use a ‘Neck Up’ guitar support.

The second, I only recently learned. That is, I use my biceps to pull the guitar neck towards the left side of the body, especially when playing barres or bending. I do not let the fingers do all of the work.

Hope these suggestions help.

Rick
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Old 01-20-2022, 06:48 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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That's one of the reasons I sold my electric guitar a few years back. It had jumbo frets and with lighter gage strings I was just mashing it too hard - I'd press the strings all the way down to the wood and all my fretted notes were out of tune.

I've spent a lot of time with mandolin-family instruments for the past several years. Dual course strings, typically higher tension than guitar, I tend to use more force then on guitar.

It's one of the things I have to remember when switching instruments - only use as much force as is needed.

Reminds me of what I always told my kids when we were wrenching on cars/bikes - "a lot more damage is done using too much force than too little."
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:25 PM
jafranks jafranks is offline
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As almost the direct opposite of Mandobart's experience, I have found that playing my electric guitars has helped me to lighten my grip on the acoustic. Because the electric is much less forgiving when it comes to fretting pressure, the electric has forced me to learn a lighter touch. That has transferred over to my acoustic playing and has made a ton of difference (for the good).
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:32 PM
Gordon Currie Gordon Currie is offline
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Just like jafranks, I use the difference between electric and acoustic to 'calibrate' my touch.

Setting up all my guitars properly had a huge impact. In earlier years, I bought into the myth that one cannot get 'the tone' without high action and heavier strings.

Once I got past that nonsense, I realized that my goal was to spend the minimum effort to both fret and pick. I stopped fighting with the guitar and instead feel like it is an extension of my body.
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:40 PM
Alex&r Alex&r is offline
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I tend to press too hard when learning something new, not completely sure why that would be, but the groove in my fingertips lets me know and then I have to be really conscious to back off.
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:51 PM
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Bob Womack Bob Womack is offline
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Try a refret with jumbo frets. With taller frets, too much pressure will pull the strings tragically sharp!

Bob
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Old 01-20-2022, 01:57 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Yes, along the lines of what Bob was saying, if you have a "beater" guitar, string it up with something ridiculous like .08s...and try to play it and sound good.

You'll have to lighten your touch to even approach playing "in tune."

There's really something to be said for deliberately sitting down, and trying to produce a good tone. One note, over and over, make a good sound with just your hands. You'll be surprised how little effort it actually takes.
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