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Question about playability

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CheechWizard
(@cheechwizard)
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Joined: 15 years ago
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Topic starter  

Being a newbie, I didn't really know how to choose a guitar. I bought an acoustic that I thought sounded good, and wasn't too expensive. I am trying to learn, and having a tough time of it, but maybe I'm expecting too much too soon.

So recently I'm at a friends house, and we trade guitars. I'm playing his and thinking, "Man, this is nice."
After he plays mine awhile, he says, "these strings are killing my fingers."
As it turned out, we both had the same strings--Elixer lights. His guitar is a dreadnought, and mine a OOO size, but the distance from the nut to the saddle is the same.
My strings are noticeably more taut than his strings. My action is a little higher than his, but only a little. So my strings are harder to fret, harder to bend, and pull-offs high on the neck are almost impossible. Normally when I stop practicing it's because my fingers are hurting, not because I'm tired of playing.

So....do I learn to live with this, or is there some way to make my guitar as easy to play as his?


   
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Ricochet
(@ricochet)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

Look up a page on "acoustic guitar setup." I'll suggest: http://frets.com/

Check the neck relief according to the instructions there and see if your truss rod needs adjustment. If not, your saddle may need sanding off carefully on the bottom to lower the action. If that won't work, the neck may need to be reset, which is a professional job that may cost more than a cheap guitar is worth.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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Mike
 Mike
(@mike)
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As it turned out, we both had the same strings--Elixer lights.
The gauge might be different. "10 lights" will be easier to bend than "12 lights".

Mike


   
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unimogbert
(@unimogbert)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 174
 

So....do I learn to live with this, or is there some way to make my guitar as easy to play as his?

Well, the quickest and easiest way might be to tune down a half-step or a full step.

This would let you work on the complexities of fingering and stuff w/o being cut short by excessively sore fingers.

Later your fingers will toughen and you can tune up again if there's nothing basically wrong with your guitar.

(I don't know why guitar teachers don't have students do this from the start. Too much pain too soon is discouraging.)

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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Dommy09
(@dommy09)
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(I don't know why guitar teachers don't have students do this from the start. Too much pain too soon is discouraging.)

What fun is learning to play if you don't go through the painful finger toughening process too? :P :)

"We all have always shared a common belief that music is meant to be played as loud as possible, really raw and raunchy, and I'll punch out anyone who doesn't like it the way I do." -Bon Scott


   
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jase36
(@jase36)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 247
 

I had much the same problem, It had a good low action but I noticed whenever I played someone elses guitar or tried others in the shop how much easier they were to fret. I stuck with it for over 16 months and traded it in last week, the difference to my fingertips is unbelieveable. When I went looking this time I played the guitar for quite a while and was sure when I left the shop that the new guitar was going to be easeier to play.

http://www.youtube.com/user/jase67electric


   
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slejhamer
(@slejhamer)
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Setting string height at the nut can make a huge difference in comfort. The site Ricochet linked to has a good article on the subject. Hire a good luthier and get it done right.

FWIW, I'm using Elixir phos-bro mediums (13-56) on my low-end Breedlove and I find it very comfortable to play. One of the guitarists in our church band has the same strings on his Martin D35 with high action and I find it painful, so I really think a good setup can make a big difference.

"Everybody got to elevate from the norm."


   
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CheechWizard
(@cheechwizard)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 13
Topic starter  

Thanks for all the replies and suggestions.
I've been playing (trying to play) for a couple months now, so my fingers are probably as calloused as they're going to get.

Last night I (somewhat nervously) sanded 1/32 off my saddle--to lower the action by 1/64th.
It seems to have made a difference. The strings seem easier to fret, and I can do a nice pulloff even on the first fret.
Maybe it's just psyche so far, I'll know more after playing it awhile.

The nut seems plenty low, the strings are real close to the 1st fret already, so I'm afraid to mess with that.


   
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Ricochet
(@ricochet)
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It's a lot easier to remove material than to put it back.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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Wattsiepoops
(@wattsiepoops)
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It's a lot easier to remove material than to put it back.

Very true, i messed up my first guitar by trying to mess with the action without knowing 100% what i was doing and i ended up totally ruining the guitar, but i only paid £32 for it off one of my high school friends a few years ago, and it didnt even have a make so it really opened doors for me to get a better guitar, but be careful when messing with your guitar unless you are certain that what you are doing isnt gonna break the guitar!

David Watts
Takamine G-Series - £229
Fender STD American Telecaster (Cola Red) - £849
Vox 15watt AMP (Valve pre amp) - £129
Acoustic/Electric Rhythm and Lead (Occasionally) Southport Elim Youth Band
Former Aftershock 24/7 Rhythm Guitarist (Band split)


   
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CheechWizard
(@cheechwizard)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 13
Topic starter  

Well, the good news is my guitar uses a "standard" saddle. It will be easy to replace if I screw it up.


   
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