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How the Electric Guitar Killed My Technique

New Member
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 2
Topic starter  

Hello everyone,,
As some of you know I just got a new acoustic and it really pointed out one thing to playing has really deteriorated in the last 4 or 5 months. The story...

I started playing about 4 years ago and, up until about a year ago, only played acoustic. By no means was I good but I could play most of my chords cleanly (including various barre chords beyond major and minor A and E shapes), could do a bit of fingerpicking and fooled around with acoustic lead. Then I got an electric guitar and pretty much abandoned the acoustic. after about 8 months of playing exclusively electric I decided I wanted to play acoustic stuff again-I missed picking it up and strumming some chords and actually having it sound like music. So I picked up my old Dean starter acoustic and HATED it. I didn't want to play it so I went back to the electric until I had the money for a new, decent guitar. I bought it the other day...

Now my technique is shot. My playing is sloppy and chords aren't ringing true. I've been practicing as much as I can fit into my schedule the last day... even to the point where last night my fretting hand was sore, something I haven't felt in a long time. I still can't get over the fact how SLOPPY I got when I relied on the electric (even though I always played the clean channel).

So guys....
1. Has this happened to any of you before?
2. How do I remedy this? I intend to practice hard but this really shook me.

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2168

Hey there Gabriel!

I sort of had the same experience way back when, long ago, so I can sort of relate to it. Not knowing your exact guitars and how they're setup, i.e. string gauge, the truss-rod adjustments and therefore the 'action' of each guitar, I'd have to guess that your original acoustic might have had a higher action - with the strings maybe higher off the fretboard. And perhaps it had a set of slightly thicker strings, with the back of the neck with a different curvature/contour.

You got used to your first guitar - like we all do - and when you switched to electric all these adjustments and differences in string gauge, etc., made the electric easier to play. All these differences can be very slight, hardly noticeable, but all add up to one instrument being easier to play than another. We're talking fractions of inches, millimeters in some cases; neck width, thickness, contour.

Electric necks tend to be slimmer - from fretboard to back-of-neck - so when you hold a chord, your fretting hand muscles get accustomed to moving and tensing in a certain way. When you pick up another guitar with a thicker neck, the muscles get thrown off for a little while. Fretting is all about 'muscle memory' and they suddenly don't recognize the different neck thickness.

Perhaps that's why you're getting a sore fretting hand.

One thing you might do is take your guitars to a guitar tech - if there's one nearby - and have the actions professionally adjusted. Try stringing the acoustic with slightly thinner strings as well. You might get less volume, but it might be easier to play. In the old days I even put a set of EB 008s on my clunker first acoustic. It really made a difference.

Even something as basic as the scale length of the electric and new acoustic has something to do with playability: most electrics and acoustics are just about the same scale length (speaking length of string from nut to bridge) but vary slightly. And it's those slight variations that can sometimes cause you to struggle when switching between acoustic and electric.

Try thinner strings on the acoustic and see what happens. If you've got .011s, try .009s for instance, OR, better yet, take the guitars to a tech and have them set up properly. Many guitars, especially starter guitars, aren't precisely adjusted right out of the box, and need a little 'coaxing' to play their best.

Anyhow, that's my two cent's worth. And another little bit of advice: don't strain yourself trying to make things work, or trying to get back to what you assume you've lost. It's just different guitars with different playing requirements. Just make sure they're both as evenly adjusted as possible.

Take care,