Grouchy Guitar or Grouchy Hands?

By Lila Karash, Local Musician and Teacher at Twin Town Guitars

Since spring is almost here, it's time to check in with your guitar and see how it's feeling. Does it have any dead or buzzy frets? Are the strings so high off of the neck that it's difficult to play? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, it's time to bring your guitar into Twin Town Guitars for setup service.

How do your hands feel when you play? If your fretting hand tires quickly when you are practicing and you feel like the guitar is fighting you, you might want to consider switching to a lighter string gauge when you bring your guitar in to get it set up. Also consider how hard you are pressing down when you play. You might be using more force than you actually need! To check this, play a note repeatedly while gradually reducing the pressure that your fretting finger is using. Do this until the note no longer sounds clean, then add the pressure back again little by little until the note sounds clean again. You might be surprised that you don't need to press down as hard as you thought you did.

Another thing to be aware of is how you hold your guitar. While playing in a seated position, your fretting hand shouldn't really need to be doing the work to hold the neck in place. Your strumming arm should help hold the guitar against your body. Place your feet flat on the floor, and if the guitar feels like it is slipping off of you, try putting something under your feet to function as a foot rest, or lower the chair if that's possible. Consider using a guitar strap to help hold the guitar in place. Also, some people prefer using classical guitar position when sitting. To try this, place the guitar on the opposite knee (the one that's the same side as your fretting hand) so that the neck angles upward. This position will take some of the strain off of the wrist of your fretting hand, although your arm will have to reach out farther to the side.

Finally, is your guitar the right size for you? Guitars come in different sizes, and some people find that a guitar with a smaller or thinner body fits them better.

Getting comfortable with your guitar is a process. Often, you will find that you adapt over time and that whatever was bothering you before has gone away, but it helps to experiment with different options as well. 

By the way....
If you have a guitar that you really, really like and you've had it set up before but it still seems like it could feel even better, you might want to consider having it PLEK'd. What is PLEK? It's a machine that automatically fine-tunes the neck and frets of an instrument to optimize its playability. To learn more about it, check out the Twin Town Guitars PLEK web page.

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