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Acoustic guitar "action"

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(@anthonyrowe)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

This is my first post here on the forums, so hello everyone :)

I have been teaching myself to play the guitar on and off now for almost a year. I have no trouble with the beginner chords such as the G, C, D, E, Em, but the barre chords have been a different story. I have gotten pretty good at getting my fingers where they need to be, but I just can't ever make them sound out clearly, unless I press down REALLY hard on certain strings. For example, on the Bb, the fourth string always buzzes unless I press down extra hard. The 4th string on my A chord, which I feel should be very easy for the level I am at, buzzes in the same way.

Now, I can see two things as being the problem. I know that I have to work at developing some finger and forearm strength, and that will come with time. Perhaps that is the issue. But I have also been reading some forum posts and various information around the web that mentions that "action" is a very important variable when it comes to sound and ease of play. Some people say that learning on a guitar with high action is good because its more physically demanding and so when you play on a guitar with lower action its a breeze. However, some say that a guitar with lower action is just easier to play, and I suppose, easier to learn on.

I am not necessarily trying to find a cheat, as I practice quite a bit once I'm in the groove, but it just seems that I need to press extra hard to get a clean chord. I tried out a Yamaha CPX900 I think it was in a store this week, and it did seem easier to play, but I was too embarrassed to really test it out properly, maybe when I can actually play something :)

BTW, I own and practice on a Yamaha F310.

What are your thoughts on this? Have any of you ever adjusted your action in order to make it "easier" to learn, or play? Is it even possible to adjust action on a cheap guitar like mine? Should I just tough it out and hope that everything comes together in the future?

Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks again!


   
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(@gchord)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 151
 

I would have the guitar taken in for proper adjustments,if you think it is too stiff,or if the action is too high. Some other things you may want to try is different strings.Is your guitar set up with medium gauge strings? If so,try a light gauge,or custom light set.Also,you might want to try a set of coated strings,like Elixers or D'Addarios EXP's.They seem to be smoother and lighter than bronze strings.I use the EXP's and love them. If you already use these type of strings and you still think the action is too high,then have it checked for proper playing height.


   
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(@ballybiker)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 493
 

as a general rule...'lower' end guitars do tend to have higher action as the lower price means less attention is paid to setting up during manufacture....

HOWEVER....

as you have been playing less than a year, barre chords are always gonna be tough to nail :evil:

having said that...a good set up wont do any harm,and a change to lighter strings will certainly help a little...

if you think the action is high,get yourself a ruler and measure the gap at the 12th fret (top of fret to bottom of low E string).....if this is above 3mm then a set up by someone experienced will pay dividends

meantime the favourite mantra 'keep practicing' holds true :lol:

what did the drummer get on his I.Q. test?....

Drool

http://www.myspace.com/ballybiker


   
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 Ande
(@ande)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 652
 

Measure the action, and get a good setup if needed.

(Or have an experienced friend teach you to do it- then it can ALWAYS get done right.)

The barre chords are still gonna be a pain, though. I'm coming up on two years, and sometimes get some of them right.

Best,
Ande


   
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(@jimatwell)
Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 19
 

When I first started learning guitar and had been playing for several months and was starting to play bar chords I "cheated" and went electric. Big difference - much easier to get the bar chords to sound good. Now a couple of years later it's easier to get the bar chords to ring out on the acoustic. Still not great but better. Of course, once you start buying gear it's hard to stop...


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

Hey, Jim...

It's rare, but occasionally a manufacturer makes a good guitar...by mistake. This is doubly true for acoustics. But you don't seem to have the experience to tell one from another. Get a pal to go looking around with you...NOT the salesguy. Get something with a truss rod and restring it with .009's made for electrics. Trust me!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@anthonyrowe)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

if you think the action is high,get yourself a ruler and measure the gap at the 12th fret (top of fret to bottom of low E string).....if this is above 3mm then a set up by someone experienced will pay dividends

meantime the favourite mantra 'keep practicing' holds true :lol:

I measured, as you said, at the 12th fret, and got about 4mm. What should this measure give, ideally? I understand its probably different from player to player, but if I walk into a guitar store, I want to sound a little bit like I know what I am talking about. What should I ask for, if I seek an adjustment? 2mm? 1mm?

I have no problem with my chords sounding like crap, if I'm the one that needs more practice, and that is probably 100 percent the case. But I'd hate to have it be partly the fault of my setup,and get frustrated as a result. I will take it in and see what they say. How much should this cost? How long does it take?


   
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(@gchord)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 151
 

Around here,it costs between $25-$60. Depends on your local luthier. I wouldn't advise you doing it yourself.


   
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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

I measured, as you said, at the 12th fret, and got about 4mm. What should this measure give, ideally? I understand its probably different from player to player, but if I walk into a guitar store, I want to sound a little bit like I know what I am talking about. What should I ask for, if I seek an adjustment? 2mm? 1mm?

there is no generic answer, but usually the manufacturer specifies the action given a particular (recommended) string gauge. the string gauge is critical, because it determines how much clearance is required for good tone and no-buzz at a reasonable volume level. it also affects intonation, which is pretty much fixed for most acoustics, so each is compensated for that recommended set-up and gauge.

lighter, thinner strings are easier to play because the tension is lower, but... they actually require higher action on an acoustic (less critical on electrics) to keep from rattling on the frets ... or you will have to play the guitar more lightly (less dynamic range). that's simply because lights must 'swing' back and forth over a larger distance to store (and release) the same energy as a heavier strings. if you compare two differently, but well set-up guitars with light gauge and medium-to-heavy gauge strings, you might be surprised how easy those barre chords are on the guitar with the heavier gauges. the region you would really notice the difference is in the first couple of frets -- both bending and barring can be substantially more difficult on the heavier-strung guitar. but once you hit the fourth or fifth fret, the difference won't mean so much. again, that's on well set-up guitars.

ask the tech to see if your guitar is set-up to the maker's recommendations. if not, then there's where you start. if it is, then you may want to drop a hundredth or two on the gauge and get set up for that. also make sure the tech is giving proper attention to the nut set-up, as that is critical to low fret playability and intonation.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@anthonyrowe)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

Thanks for all the replies.

I took my guitar in yesterday and had the technicien at the guitar store look at it. He didn't take any measurements, he just played it a bit, looked down the neck at different angles, and told me it seemed perfectly fine. I don't know how scientific his method is, but he seemed to know what he was doing. I suppose now I don't have any more excuses as to why my chords sound like crap!


   
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(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 827
 

You say that the fourth string (D string) buzzes on both of the barre chords you mentioned. Could it be that you have the fourth string right under the last joint in your index finger? Try shifting the position of your index finge a little - just a little bit. Try both ways - towards the 6th string and away - and see if either of those make your chords sound better.

BTW, that guitar tech you took your guitar to sounds like he may be a keeper particularly if he didn't charge you anything. A less scrupulous person might have taken you for an unneeded setup.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


   
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(@anthonyrowe)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

You say that the fourth string (D string) buzzes on both of the barre chords you mentioned. Could it be that you have the fourth string right under the last joint in your index finger? Try shifting the position of your index finge a little - just a little bit. Try both ways - towards the 6th string and away - and see if either of those make your chords sound better.

BTW, that guitar tech you took your guitar to sounds like he may be a keeper particularly if he didn't charge you anything. A less scrupulous person might have taken you for an unneeded setup.

Thanks for the tips. I have realized, while working on my barre chords, that the position of you index can make a huge difference in whether or not it sounds good. However, the problem I am having with the 4th string has more to do with how hard I need to press down on it to get it not to buzz. This happens just as frequently with an open A chord as it does with say the Bb barre. Unless I literally press down with almost all my finger strength, it buzzes. Thats why I took it in, though maybe the action was a lil high, but I guess I just need to work on my strength :)


   
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