#1
I have a Martin Smith something acoustic guitar. (am a beginner if that helps)
When I started learning to play the F barre chord (with index finger across 1st fret), I found out I cannot physically press the 1st fret down strong enough to get proper sound out of it. Before, it had come to my attention that the 1st fret is quite hard to press down, but with a single string it's kind of okay (D, A, E).
Then, I played on my father's guitar (old and unknown model) and I played the F barre from first try, without even having to press extra hard.

I am wondering, what could be the issue on my guitar? Bridge too high? Or the strings?

Thanks in advance.
#2
Heavy strings and/or a high action. Take it to a guitar shop, explain your problem, hand over somewhere between £15 and £25 and it'll be sorted.
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#3
Well, if it's the F barre giving you the problem, the most likely root cause of the problem is the top nut grooves are holding the strings too high. Put a different way, the grooves aren't filed deep enough. It had been rather common in the past for manufacturers to leave the grooves high, simply by virtue of the fact, grooves that are too high won't buzz, grooves which are too deep will. From a manufacturing standpoint, you can't patch the top nut, it has to be replaced, otherwise, the guitar would have to be sold as a "second" or "blemished" item.

While grooves in the top nut being too shallow is a primary cause of the issue, all other factors of the setup have to be taken into consideration. Saddle height, neck relief, and string gauge, all factor into the issue. The top nut groove depth, is actually the last adjustment to be made, and probably shouldn't be attacked on it's own. It a "tweak", not the overall setup.

The things to check first about your father's guitar, would be string gauge and tuned pitch. By "tuned pitch", I mean, was the guitar tuned to "concert pitch" (E-e)? Lower tunings such as "D-d", a full step down, are much easier to finger, given the same gauge strings

Here's a great setup guide, specifically for acoustic guitars http://thbecker.net/guitar_playing/guitars_and_setup/setup_page_01.html

Give it a couple of read throughs, before you attack your guitar with sharp instruments or even sandpaper. Even if you don't plan on doing the setup work yourself, it will help to be literate about the process.

In today's market, many makers ship with actions too high, while others are damned near perfect right out of the box. So you have to measure to find out where the instrument stands against ideal.

Sometimes it helps beginners to use a lighter gauge string set, until they build up hand strength and callouses. Very light strings sometimes cause instruments to lose projection and bass output, but that's something you can absolutely worry about later.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 31, 2015,
#4
Quote by Captaincranky
W
The things to check first about your father's guitar, would be string gauge and tuned pitch. By "tuned pitch", I mean, was the guitar tuned to "concert pitch" (E-e)? Lower tunings such as "D-d", a full step down, are much easier to finger, given the same gauge strings


It is standard tuning E-e, yes. I'll have a look.
#5
Screw the barre chord...use the other form:

-----------------------
----------1------------
----------2------------
----------3------------
----------3------------
-----------------------

or move the barre up to the 2nd position (much easier than the one at the 1st fret)


----------8------------
----------9------------
----------10-----------
----------10-----------
----------8------------
----------8------------

...sounds better anyways. I hate that first position barre chord.
#6
Quote by pressureproject
Screw the barre chord...use the other form:

-----------------------
----------1------------
----------2------------
----------3------------
----------3------------
-----------------------

or move the barre up to the 2nd position (much easier than the one at the 1st fret)


----------8------------
----------9------------
----------10-----------
----------10-----------
----------8------------
----------8------------

...sounds better anyways. I hate that first position barre chord.

Neither of those are good equivalents for the first-fret shape in most situations.

As has already been said, the issue's probably that the strings are too high coming over the nut; pretty common problem with guitars of all kinds and not necessarily always noticeable but it's always a pretty big improvement when you fix it.
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#7
As others have said it's probably the nut. Also make sure the neck of your guitar is straight. Sometimes the string tension will bow the neck forward a bit making the strings higher and harder to press.

I would also recommend lighter strings for a beginner in general. I think .12-.56 is standard, but I'd recommend something lighter like .11-.52 or .12-.53 It will make the guitar more comfortable to play all around.
#8
Quote by adambauman31
....[ ]....I would also recommend lighter strings for a beginner in general. I think .12-.56 is standard, but I'd recommend something lighter like .11-.52 or .12-.53 It will make the guitar more comfortable to play all around.
I'm just going to tweak your chart of string set gauges, if I may.

.013 to .056, are generally classed as "acoustic medium". Taylor ships some of its guitars with these, and many, many others with "lights".

.012 to .053 (& sometimes to .054 E-6), are classed as "acoustic lights". These are by far, the most commonly shipped gauge of strings on acoustic guitars in general.

.011 to .052 These are called, "custom light". Generally speaking, if you're going to try a "lighter set of strings", these would be it.

The last commonly available set of acoustic strings, (going lighter), would be, '010 to .047". These are denoted as, "acoustic extra lights".

All of the foregoing are the common classes as they are called by D'Addario. D'Ad sells the mose strings, which is why I chose this as a guide.

Many other brands follows D'Addario's naming conventions, but some do not. If you're going to try out a new set by a new maker, take a moment to read the diameter measurements, while ignoring the text name.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 31, 2015,
#9
Quote by pressureproject
Screw the barre chord...use the other form:

-----------------------
----------1------------
----------2------------
----------3------------
----------3------------
-----------------------

or move the barre up to the 2nd position (much easier than the one at the 1st fret)


----------8------------
----------9------------
----------10-----------
----------10-----------
----------8------------
----------8------------

...sounds better anyways. I hate that first position barre chord.
Gee, why not move up to the 13th freet and play it there?

The trouble you're having is you apparently can't play it either. F major barre @ 1st fret is called a "root 6 voice". Which means the root of the chord is on the E-6 string..

I've seen pages and pages of threads about this particular chord. Nothing substitutes for the full version. You can't use Fmaj7 as a sub either. It's too whiny.

So, fix the guitar and practice. I can routinely get all 12 strings to sound of the 1st fret F chord. You can always wrap your thumb over the top of the neck to hold down the E-6. In fact, this is a better option in some cases, as it frees up your fingers to permit bass notes and suspensions to happen.

So, first the guitar gets set up properly, then you practice. And face it, after you get the 1st fret F barre down, everythng else should be pretty easy.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Aug 31, 2015,
#10
Try a capo on the first fret, if you can bar in front of it OK, then it's definately the nut grooves too high. Check your neck relief and saddle height but from what you've said I think they are probably OK.
#11
Change keys or capo up. First position F barre chord universally sux. Any song that sounds good in F first position sounds way better in E. No reason for a skilled guitarist to choose that nasty F thing so work smart not hard.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Sep 1, 2015,
#12
Quote by Cajundaddy
Change keys or capo up. First position F barre chord universally sux. Any song that sounds good in F first position sounds way better in E. No reason for a skilled guitarist to choose that nasty F thing so work smart not hard.
Right OK. Everything sounds better in E huh? Maybe to you. I guess we should dispense with the key of C then, for everybody's convenience.
#13
There is a very simple way to tell if the nut is too high:

Fret the string at the third fret and look at the gap between the string and the first fret. This should just be a whisker and actually hard to see. If it's a really noticeable gap you know that the nut is too high.
#14
Quote by adambauman31
As others have said it's probably the nut. Also make sure the neck of your guitar is straight. Sometimes the string tension will bow the neck forward a bit making the strings higher and harder to press.

I would also recommend lighter strings for a beginner in general. I think .12-.56 is standard, but I'd recommend something lighter like .11-.52 or .12-.53 It will make the guitar more comfortable to play all around.


its the nut yes .easy fix .use lite strings ,tune to E flat or D . I say use coated strings too elixir . I don't know why uncoated strings are still made ! I hate high nuts .
Last edited by yope at Sep 6, 2015,