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Old 03-24-2013, 09:24 PM   #1
Hawt400A
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Fingering Fretboard Too Hard

Hey folks - first post from a longtime lurker...

I've been playing guitar for quite a long time. I'm barely an intermediate player due to never putting in the time to improve.

One problem I know I have is that I press too hard when I finger the strings on the fretboard. For something like Boston's More Than A Feeling, I sometimes actually make the notes go sharp!

I am aware of this problem and am trying to break the habit. I'm fortunate enough to own a great axe that doesn't need a heavy hand. Any ideas to help me break this habit would be appreciated! I am confident that I can quickly move to the next level if I can improve on this issue!

Many thanks!
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Last edited by Hawt400A : 03-24-2013 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 03-24-2013, 11:23 PM   #2
KG6_Steven
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Unfortunately, this is one of those things where the famous answer is "practice." I remember having the same problem years ago, when I was first starting out. The problem was compounded by having a guitar with jumbo frets - this makes it very easy to use too much force to fret a string or a chord, ending up with sharped notes.

Practice fretting notes or chords and listening to the resultant note/chord. You can also practice fretting the notes and paying attention to the fact that it just doesn't take that much force to fret the note - getting rid of the buzz, but not doing it so hard that you sharp it.

It also helps to realize that, when you exert too much pressure on the fretboard, you'll increase the fret wear.
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Old 03-24-2013, 11:42 PM   #3
Kenjisan231
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KG6_Steven
Unfortunately, this is one of those things where the famous answer is "practice." I remember having the same problem years ago, when I was first starting out. The problem was compounded by having a guitar with jumbo frets - this makes it very easy to use too much force to fret a string or a chord, ending up with sharped notes.

Practice fretting notes or chords and listening to the resultant note/chord. You can also practice fretting the notes and paying attention to the fact that it just doesn't take that much force to fret the note - getting rid of the buzz, but not doing it so hard that you sharp it.

It also helps to realize that, when you exert too much pressure on the fretboard, you'll increase the fret wear.


I was going to say something similar to this. I used to do it and it would cause my forearm to tense up real bad. I worked backwards, kind of. When I first started playing I wasn't pressing the notes hard enough, so every time it happened, I would stop everything and re-try. I eventually started pressing too hard, so I did the same thing; every time I caught myself doing it, I stopped everything and re-tried whatever I was doing.

The process of stopping everything for a few moments and recognizing whatever the problem is has helped break a lot of bad habits.
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Old 03-25-2013, 12:52 AM   #4
RockAddict311
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This usually isn't a problem for myself, but after switching over from my Stratocaster to my new Les Paul, I encountered this problem. It shouldn't take much practice. After I realized the problem it took less than an hour to adjust. Part of my problem was the larger frets, shorter scale, and more "slack" (for lack of a better term, perhaps tension?) on the Les Paul.

I noticed this mainly with chords. Test it out with a tuner (to see how sharp you literally go) or by ear to find that sweet spot. When I realized I could actually fret a note sharp without bending I nearly shat bricks. I had no idea you could do this and was about to return my newly purchased LP that was sold used at Guitar Center. Thankfully I found the source of the problem. I would have lost out big if I had returned her. One-piece Studio Premium Flame Maple Top!
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Old 03-25-2013, 03:11 AM   #5
Hawt400A
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I can't thank everyone enough for the helpful words.

Basically, what I'm getting from everyone, and kinda figured out as well, is that I need to think about what my fingers are doing as I fret notes and chords. This means undoing many years of (bad) muscle memory!

What I started on tonight was running A minor pent scales through nine positions so all of my fingers would get used. I decided to work on this issue with scales because it enables me to focus on the fingers rather than getting a riff right or whatever. I also used a metronome to control my speed so I could focus on pressure and accuracy. The first session was successful - I ran scales for over an hour and my fingertips weren't very sore even though I still have a ways to go to build calluses. (I recently resumed playing!)

Obviously, one session does not fix the problem. I still have a ways to go. From my knowledge of muscle memory, it will be thousands of notes before I have been fully retrained. The other benefit is that I will relearn and learn new music theory as I continue to work through this issue with fundamentals like scales rather than songs.

I'm also going to take the same approach with chords. I have sheets with lots of whacky chords from when I took jazz lessons! Developing a lighter touch will enable me to change chords more quickly - especially the complicated jazz ones!

Tips and shared similar experiences will continue to be appreciated!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KG6_Steven
It also helps to realize that, when you exert too much pressure on the fretboard, you'll increase the fret wear.

Stainless!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RockAddict311
One-piece Studio Premium Flame Maple Top!

Grats on the sweet axe!
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:24 AM   #6
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Fret a note with one finger as you usually would, and at a moderate pace, consistently pick the string you're fretting. While doing so, slowly relax your hand and relieve the amount of pressure you're exerting upon the string.

You'll find a spot in which buzzing starts to occur, or the note otherwise isn't produced clearly; apply that small amount of effort more from here to find the threshold you need to abide by to fret a note clearly and confidently.

Repeat this across multiple frets and strings for each finger, and of course work on playing some lines you're familiar with to get accustomed to using each finger in this manner, co-operatively. Once you're consciously aware of just how little effort you need by disciplining yourself through practical application, it'll all fit together.

This is the gist of a rudiment I have students, and even friends of mine, undertake to ensure that this aspect of their playing is relaxed, efficient, and passive.
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Old 03-25-2013, 04:30 AM   #7
Kevin Saale
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juckfush
Fret a note with one finger as you usually would, and at a moderate pace, consistently pick the string you're fretting. While doing so, slowly relax your hand and relieve the amount of pressure you're exerting upon the string.

You'll find a spot in which buzzing starts to occur, or the note otherwise isn't produced clearly; apply that small amount of effort more from here to find the threshold you need to abide by to fret a note clearly and confidently.

Repeat this across multiple frets and strings for each finger, and of course work on playing some lines you're familiar with to get accustomed to using each finger in this manner, co-operatively. Once you're consciously aware of just how little effort you need by disciplining yourself through practical application, it'll all fit together.

This is the gist of a rudiment I have students, and even friends of mine, undertake to ensure that this aspect of their playing is relaxed, efficient, and passive.


Was going to suggest this exact exercise, but couldn't think of a way to explain it. This works well, because it really shows you what little pressure it takes.
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