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What does it mean when a guitar is "Easy to play"?

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Tyler N
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 45
Topic starter  

Hi everyone, I have been playing guitar (acoustic) for about 7 months now, and have only ever touched my Ibanez PF300 acoustic. My question was, when I hear the term that guitar is "easy to play" what are the factors that make a guitar deemed “Easy to Play”. I heard Taylor guitars are labeled Easy to Play? But having never touched one, what makes them easy to play? I am very confused, for I am thinking now, that some guitars built easy or hard to play?

Is that what that means? Can you guys who have played and handled many types of guitars elaborate what makes a guitar easy to play.

I am curious because I think I may have a guitar that is built harder to play and is hindering my progress, and I may not even know it.

Thank you(s)
my idol

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 186

It seems to me that the biggest factor would be the action of the guitar, or how high the strings are off of the neck of the guitar. If the action is too high or too low, it can make it very hard to play. How wide or thick the neck is could be a factor too.

Tyler N
Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 45
Topic starter  

How wide or thick the neck is could be a factor too.

Can you elaborate more on this. Thanks for the reply firstly.

Um now you say? the width of the neck can be a factor?

Now the width? would that be the height of the neck for example measuring a fret vertical from bottom to top? or is the width the thickness of the neck? um the diameter of the whole thing? like how much neck you have to hold on your hand

sorry i Know my terms are vague, but I dont know how to describe =/
my idol

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2171

The neck width, the curvature of the fretboard, the height of the action, the smoothness of the fret edges, the body size, the location and style of the bridge, the quality of the tuners, the spacing of the strings, the quality of the nut, the fret dressing, the nut dressing, string guage, scale, . . .I'm probably forgetting a few . .

How all of those things come together FOR EACH PLAYER determine if a guitar is easy or hard to play.

Some players are really sensative to neck scale, but don't really mind differences in fretboard radius. Other players might just be the opposite.

In general, unless you have a guitar that competes in the high end market, you don't have an easy to play instrument. However, even at the lower end, every player can find something that is easy enough to play for their individual tastes.

Once you can play 3 or 4 songs well, go spend a few hours at a music store playing everything they have in your price range. You'll soon get a feel for which guitars just fit you and which do not. Then look at what set of characteristics mark the guitars that feel right to you. Maybe they all have small radius maple necks with relatively flat fretboards. Maybe they're all 25" necks. Maybe they all have the same type of bridge. Whatever it is, you should be able to figure out what matters most to you in an instrument right now in terms of playability.

But that will change as you progress. Some players get very particular, and some get very accepting. My two big things are fret finish and string spacing. If I slide my hand down the neck and it's not perfectly smooth it annoys me to no end. I like a wider than average string spacing as well. But neck scale doesn't matter to me much at all.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 27

Looks like you answered your own question. Width and thickness are 2 different things. Yes the width is the width of the fingerboard ( or frets as you say) and the thickness is the diameter.

I don't own a Taylor but the ones I have played have a wider fingerboard than say a Martin would have.

If I'm not mistaken, the action can usually be adjusted on a guitar.

My first guitar was an Ibanez beginner, then I bought a Takamine G240, and recently bought a Yairi FYM95. All 3 feel (and sound) very different. Now when I pick up the Ibanez I can feel how much thicker the neck is than the other 2 and therefore never play it anymore. The Tak has a nice action and a boomier sound better for strumming. And the Yairi has an action like warm butter with a more balanced tone better for fingerpicking.

I think KP has good advice, go to your local store and play several different makes and models. Don't forget that feel is only half the decision, you also want a guitar that has the sound you're looking for.

Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 441

I agree with Kingpatzer's assesment but there are some basics that can greatly effect a guitar's playability.

Action is probably the most important factor for most people. The height of the strings off the fretboard. It is adjustable and can be done by someone with some basic DIY skills. Alternatively for about 50 dollars you can have it done at a shop. Bad action causes my chord changes to be much slower, my right hand gets tired a lot more quickly and I am prone to many more errors. I will quickly return a guitar to someone when jamming if they want to trade guitars and I am playing one with high action.

Nut width is very important to most people. I like a fairly wide nut width (1 3/4) as I believe most adult men would. Narrower ones cause me to make more errors - unwanted muteing etc. If the neck gets a little wider I make other errors - like muting the high e string unintentionally with the heel of my hand.

Neck radius is very important to many people. I have small hands and like a smaller neck. A very wide neck can cause me to mute strings unintentionally in some chords, and makes chording tiring especially barre chords. Each person will be different.

There are several other factors that I would be looking for when shopping for a guitar but those three are absolutes. I would not purchase a guitar without those qualities. Though I have bought second hand guitars in the past with bad action knowing that I could set it myself. With most new midrange and above guitars you can get a free setup at no added cost.

Everyone is different and your likes and dislikes may not be the same as mine, but I have only heard of one person who liked high action and I personnaly think he was just defending his guitar's setup - although he wasn't being critized. So start I would start with action.

Measure the height of your strings at the 12th fret from the top of the fretwire to the bottom of the low E string. 3/32 is excellent. 3/16s is horrible. Keep in mind that there are other factors in a setup. ie the nut and relief of the neck.

good luck