I'm 18 and I've just decided to go ahead and try to learn the instrument otherwise known as a steel-stringed acoustic guitar so I've gone ahead and purchased a cheap £30 one from a pawn shop yesterday.

Now, I've read about string thickness and action and everything there is but I just want to know if this is normal -> by the time I've managed to play an Em chord, my fingers were on fire and really sore since I have to press down really hard on the strings.

I have no problem with the technique (I know how to properly position my fingers), but it's the amount of force I put down onto the strings that makes me wonder if they are too thick or the action too high (something that I can't tell by myself since I'm just a beginner). I suppose that is reasonably possible with a second-hand guitar?

I really like strumming the thing so my question is - is it normal for it to be this difficult at the very start (to the point where I can only play a chord for 10 minutes at most before my fingers go on fire)? My fingertips are hurting as I type this even

Thank you!!
Last edited by oraca at Mar 24, 2016,
In the beggining your fretting fingertips are gonna hurt. You have to let them build up caluses, and for that price an acoustic is probably not going to be very easy to play. Are the strings old, if so try replacing them Maybe get a tech to take a look at it.

If you are serious about learning your best bet will be to save some money and invest in a decent guitar, not sure what the availability is where you live but you can get a better quality guitar for less if you buy used!
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It's probably partly technique (for barre chords im thinking) but also your hands need to develop armour. It's normal for it to hurt at first for sure.

I have intense callouses on my hands. Yesterday I accidentally dunked my fingertips in 400F oil, and came out unscathed.
Acoustic guitar is tough. I can do things now on acoustic guitar that would have seemed to me impossible. Stuff that had I seen someone else do it, I would have figured they are using some kind of optimum guitar, or FX like compression, or some kind of trick.

But it's just like that. Guitar is difficult. When you watch great guitarists do really difficult things like it was a walk in the park, it's not trickery, they just are actually that good.

Of course you could maybe use a setup, but although some guitars are definitely easier and some harder for me, a poorly setup guitar would not limit me that much. I could easily play whatever it is you're trying to play on your guitar.

But a setup might not hurt anyway, I'd have to see the guitar. Your technique is probably poor, too, if you're trying barre chords. Mine was, but that's part of learning, also.

Let your hands heal a bit, then grind it out some more. Eventually you will.be able to.play all day, if you practice enough.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Mar 24, 2016,
Fingertips on fire is pretty much what should be =)

what you can do for an easier start:
1) change your string to a smaller gauge llike 10-50 (the thinnest for a steel string acoustic i've seen that wouldn't lose tone)
2) position your fingers as vertically (perpendicular to the fretboard) as possible and try pressing on the string with the middle of your fingertip
3) position your fingers as close to the fretwire as possible. that really is a great help as long as it takes you way less effort to completely have the string pressed against the fretwire.

check out this picture for points 2-3, a very good demonstration of C-major chord fretting

4) practice harder and more often - you will work up your fingers adequately in no time =)

hope this helps
Last edited by FK_Ultra at Mar 29, 2016,
UPD concering the pic: I would place the thumb more vertically and perpendicular to the neck, that would be more correct. but the finger placement is good.