#1
Hello everyone,

I am new to the forums here at UG. I've been playing guitar on and off for about ten years now. I've never really graduated far from the newbie stages, I'd say I'm at the beginning stages of intermediate (at best =P). I've never put in the time to get to where I want to be as a player in the past, but I'm looking to change that now. That being said, I've never really gotten into acoustic guitar and I find I'm really interested in getting better at acoustic guitar, so I picked a fairly easy song to learn (start to finish), as I've never put the time in to learn full songs) and I chose the song Dear John by Taylor Swift.

One of the snags I've run into in the song is that there are a couple of barre chords (B and C#m) that I'm getting muted notes because it seems that the combination of spreading my hand/fingers (uncomfortable!) and not being able to press the strings down hard enough (need to build up the callus's again) is causing one or two of the notes to become muted/muffled.

It might be important to note that while I did play acoustic from time to time throughout the years, I did predominantly play electric. I did, however, do some research and came across this thread: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1649746&highlight=barre+chords

My question is: Do most people go through the all the effort to adjust the action so that the strings are easier to press to the fret board? Or is it a function of practicing and getting used to an acoustic guitar. The reason I ask how frequently people adjust their own action on their acoustic guitars is because I've never heard of such a thing and I've always known people to "grab and go" and roll with it as is (forgive my ignorance=P).

What are your thoughts/suggestions/tips?

Thanks!
#2
When I was in the stages of learning barre chords, I just kept going until I got used to it. Avoiding lowering the action might solve your problem now, but if you get used to it, you won't have trouble adjusting to guitars that haven't had adjustments. Since you started with electric, you'll develop even deeper callouses and will desensitize eventually.

Or maybe your guitar's action really is too high. Check with a fellow guitarist.
#3
If your guitar is properly set up, without ridiculously high action or anything, then it's something that you need to get used to. You need to develop the hand, finger, and forearm strength, which of course just comes with time, practice, and recovery.
My God, it's full of stars!
#4
Most times when I play electric I'll simply used an inversion or a partial chord - it depends on what style of music you play but for me I could play a C power chord with just the last 3 strings distorted and it's fine and goes with the rest of the music. Acoustic guitars are supposed to have higher action, (Classical guitars commonly have even higher action than steel acoustic). To me, an acoustic isn't an acoustic if it's action isn't higher than an electric. Don't adjust my acoustics action lower to play barre chords, strengthen your hand, wrist and fingers practicing which allows you to play barres on an acoustic. If a particular barre chord is too difficult sure, an inversion or an open string version may do (for example G6 open vs. G6 barred on 7th fret), but there's no substitution for and strength, dexterity and practice getting there. Besides, acoustics with low action buzz like hell and when you need to hit some chords hard fret out... not good.
#5
it may be a combination of the two. slightly high action and lack of strength in your hand.
I can't for the life of me play an electric as the action is so low and the strings are so light( most say that I can't play an acoustic worth a crap either so, take my advice as you will ).
what kind of acoustic guitar are you working with ? what brand/model is it ? most acoustics are set from the factory with ridiculously high action... it's much easier to shave the saddle and make a few adjustments than it is to put material back on of course. that's why it's done that way.
lighter strings may help.. keep in mind that lighter strings on a bigger guitar usually don't sound the greatest.
another way to get around it for now is to tune it a full step down and capo it on the second fret. that should make it a lot easier to play. after a little while, tune it back up a half step and capo the first fret. again, after a while, just tune it to standard and strum away once your hand strength get up where it should be .
well, that's my 2 cents. I hope it helps.
ohhh...and another way... buy a REALLY REALLY expensive guitar that's set up to play like butter !!!
need more gear and a lot more talent(courtesytuxs)
#6
Thanks everyone for the responses. It sounds mostly like I need to strengthen my hand and just get used to it.

Quote by stepchildusmc
it may be a combination of the two. slightly high action and lack of strength in your hand.
I can't for the life of me play an electric as the action is so low and the strings are so light( most say that I can't play an acoustic worth a crap either so, take my advice as you will ).
what kind of acoustic guitar are you working with ? what brand/model is it ? most acoustics are set from the factory with ridiculously high action... it's much easier to shave the saddle and make a few adjustments than it is to put material back on of course. that's why it's done that way.
lighter strings may help.. keep in mind that lighter strings on a bigger guitar usually don't sound the greatest.
another way to get around it for now is to tune it a full step down and capo it on the second fret. that should make it a lot easier to play. after a little while, tune it back up a half step and capo the first fret. again, after a while, just tune it to standard and strum away once your hand strength get up where it should be .
well, that's my 2 cents. I hope it helps.
ohhh...and another way... buy a REALLY REALLY expensive guitar that's set up to play like butter !!!


It's an Ovation Celebrity
#7
hmm... I've had a few of those. very easy guitars to play. very electric like. I still have a few Ovations and Adamas' hangin' around and play them regularly when I'm home.
I'd take it to a shop and have it looked at. those are some of the easiest playing guitars I've owned.
need more gear and a lot more talent(courtesytuxs)
#8
Quote by Skizz_oV
....[ ].....It's an Ovation Celebrity
Wow, two hot button issues in your first thread! Whooda thunk it......

The best way to resolve this is by measuring the action on the guitar. If the git fiddle meets spec, it's you.

Playing the acoustic guitar isn't really the easiest task. Off the top of my head I'd say the electric guitar and the piano are easier, but the 12 string acoustic is a bitch.

In any case, Epiphone's recommendation for action height, steel string acoustic is 7/64" bass side, and 5/64" treble. If I pick up a guitar with those specs, it's well playable. You're going to run into different conversions and standards when you read different articles.

Here is an excellent setup guide: http://thbecker.net/guitar_playing/guitars_and_setup/setup_page_01.html Mr Becker's .100 bass to .090 treble, is pretty close. to the fractions I gave previously.

An electric regular string set has about 100 Lbs. of tension @ E-e. An acoustic light set, about 165 Lbs. of tension.

Barring F major at the 1st fret can be a daunting task to a newcomer.

Anyway, if your guitar a at, or close to, those spec, buck up and try to ignore the pain. Sorry, best I can do. Besides, it will build scar tissue, callouses, and character.

A set of, "custom light" strings, runs about 145 Lbs of tension. You can sort of cheat your way in if you string up with those. But, as it's been said, the vast majority feel big body guitars tend to sound better with lights and mediums.

Although, the lighter string set will thin out the bass of a too boomy dreadnought, and even allow string bending for those so inclined.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 6, 2014,
#9
To me, barring an F with a full bar on the first is much easier than just barring the B and e strings(that's difficult). Barre chords aren't really that hard once you get used to them and they tend to be forgiving- sound good even with a little muting. I think they are easier than a 4 finger open chord. Heck I still have trouble scrunching 3 fingers together for an A without any muting and that chord sounds like crap if there's any muting. The hardest part is going from open to barre and then back. Oh yes you'll want to make sure the action on your guitar isn't too high.
#10
You don't want your action too high, but some barre chords on acoustic are just tough. You need a lot of strength, and that takes a lot of practice. I find the dom7 barre real tough. The one where you can easily switch to a #5, not the major barre with the finger on the D string lifted to reveal the 7. And also the maj7 barre. I find it is a little easy to roll the finger for those.

I think there is no shortcut, you just have to get real strong. I practice so that I can keep a barre, and play anything else, while holding it. So, with one finger I can barre all the strings, which is a m7 shape, if you just don't play the A string. But you can also play the A string, if you play the 5th in the m7 on the A string. That one is also not easy I find.

Just keep doing drills, keep practicing, and you will get the strength to play all the strings clean. My guitars all have medium strings, and it is had but doable. I used to just wrap my thumb, and never played barres that much really, but I'm changing that, and it's definitely coming, but it's hard as shit, and a lot of work. Took me about 3 weeks of putting some practice in every day, and now it's pretty solid. Once you get the strength for it, it becomes easy.
#11
Quote by rohash
To me, barring an F with a full bar on the first is much easier than just barring the B and e strings(that's difficult). ...[ ]...
OK, I can easily barre the F chords @ the 1st fret myself.

That said however, beginners do generally find it somewhat daunting.

Some of the issue can be resolved by setting the grooves of the top nut at the proper depth. Through the years, this has been a part of the setup process that makers have paid little attention.

Please note, I am NOT advocating that any beginner go blasting into this adjustment. It, generally speaking, should be addressed by a competent tech or luthier.

Accordingly, when that situation is addressed properly, it can be discounted as affecting the guitar's playability. Thus, what you have left, is knowing how, "you have to suffer to play the blues".


What follows is anecdotal sarcasm. Read at your own risk...
.

These threads are always kind of tough. I learned to play before the internet. Hell, almost before color TV. I needed to have a guitar teacher to tell me, "buck up dude (*), no pain, no gain".

If we had internet, I could have asked a question about these difficulties, and rapidly had a solution. Accordingly, I would be playing at the level of Steve Vai by now, instead of sucking as I do.

(*) Of course this was in the year, 35 BD (Before (the slang diminutive) Dude)
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 7, 2014,
#12
Quote by fingrpikingood
You don't want your action too high, but some barre chords on acoustic are just tough. You need a lot of strength, and that takes a lot of practice. I find the dom7 barre real tough. The one where you can easily switch to a #5, not the major barre with the finger on the D string lifted to reveal the 7. And also the maj7 barre. I find it is a little easy to roll the finger for those.

I think there is no shortcut, you just have to get real strong. I practice so that I can keep a barre, and play anything else, while holding it. So, with one finger I can barre all the strings, which is a m7 shape, if you just don't play the A string. But you can also play the A string, if you play the 5th in the m7 on the A string. That one is also not easy I find.

Just keep doing drills, keep practicing, and you will get the strength to play all the strings clean. My guitars all have medium strings, and it is had but doable. I used to just wrap my thumb, and never played barres that much really, but I'm changing that, and it's definitely coming, but it's hard as shit, and a lot of work. Took me about 3 weeks of putting some practice in every day, and now it's pretty solid. Once you get the strength for it, it becomes easy.


Haha, to me wrapping the thumb around the top is impossible. Even though I have long fingers, my thumb joint just doesn't bend much. I just avoid any songs that have that or just play it with the low E open or muted.

A good exercise for barre chords is just to make a full barre on the first fret with your index finger and use a common chord shape (E or A minor are good ones) and move it up the fret board while strumming , switching chord shapes between each fret, all the way up to the 12th fret and back down to the 1st. Do this for about 5 minutes a day or until you hand can take no more, and you will be playing barre chords in no time.
#13
Quote by rohash
Haha, to me wrapping the thumb around the top is impossible. Even though I have long fingers, my thumb joint just doesn't bend much. I just avoid any songs that have that or just play it with the low E open or muted.
Are we talkin' "Hendrix Grip" here? It makes for an easy F, C, F, (or C, F, C), change in the open position. Anywhere else....meh. But, if I'm confronted with C, F, G@3rd fret, I use a barre
F, then a barre for the G. Thumb over for C F, & G open.

Besides, playing with a thumb over grip on the F barre chord (1st fret), allows you to extend the chord to Fadd9, and the full C open chord to Csus4, & Cadd9. Who cares if you just get a thunk on the E-6 string.

But the thumb over grip can bend strings on you, (obviously >, causing pitch issues.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 8, 2014,
#14
Quote by fingrpikingood
You don't want your action too high, but some barre chords on acoustic are just tough. You need a lot of strength, and that takes a lot of practice. I find the dom7 barre real tough. The one where you can easily switch to a #5, not the major barre with the finger on the D string lifted to reveal the 7. And also the maj7 barre. I find it is a little easy to roll the finger for those.

I think there is no shortcut, you just have to get real strong. I practice so that I can keep a barre, and play anything else, while holding it. So, with one finger I can barre all the strings, which is a m7 shape, if you just don't play the A string. But you can also play the A string, if you play the 5th in the m7 on the A string. That one is also not easy I find.

Just keep doing drills, keep practicing, and you will get the strength to play all the strings clean. My guitars all have medium strings, and it is had but doable. I used to just wrap my thumb, and never played barres that much really, but I'm changing that, and it's definitely coming, but it's hard as shit, and a lot of work. Took me about 3 weeks of putting some practice in every day, and now it's pretty solid. Once you get the strength for it, it becomes easy.


I'm going to just keep at it. I've been playing every day for a week now, at least 1.5 hours daily. Today was the first day I noticed my hand/fingers are not tensing up so much as quickly as they were.

Thanks everyone for the input!