string gauge/action


tammielyn.ts
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Joined: 11/11/19
Posts: 81
tammielyn.ts
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Joined: 11/11/19
Posts: 81
07/18/2020 4:45 pm

Hi Mike

so, i'm a newbie, learning since last November. i have arthritis in my hands and fingers., been adjusting well and doing all i can to modify. one thing i had my repair shop do was put a lighter gauge string (not sure how light) and i asked them to lower the action. i am still having some difficulty especially on strings that seem higher from the fretboard than the others, the B and the high E. So, im in a tutorial with Lisa at the moment learning finger picking and the two chords are the Em and the Am., when pressing the B string down for the Am chord i am having to press so hard., and it's causing me hand pain. what would you suggest? I did pay for a lesson and it's with you at the end of July, i can save these questions for you to see then if you like, but any suggestions in the meantime, and what is the lightest gauge possible without comprimising sound too much. Thanks in advance! Tammie


# 1
snojones
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Joined: 04/17/13
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snojones
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Joined: 04/17/13
Posts: 695
07/18/2020 8:12 pm

You may need some more "set up" done on the neck. If you measure them are the e and b strings actually higher off the fretboard than the other strings? That could require some more "set up" work. If you nut is filed wrong that could be the answer. Go back to the shop that changed your strings and lowered the action and talk to them about your e and b string problems. If those strings are too high off the fretboard that could require filing your nut a bit. Probably best assessed by a skilled luthier who is looking at the instrument and talking with you about what your problem is.

Is your pain, when you finger the b string of the Am chord, from the arthritis or is it from a lack of callouses? Those narrow strings do cut into your finger tips more.

Do you stretch before you start playing the guitar?

Does the pain subside after you warm up your fingers by playing guitar for a while?


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# 2
Mike Olekshy
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 09/21/10
Posts: 1,051
Mike Olekshy
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 09/21/10
Posts: 1,051
07/19/2020 12:12 pm

Hi Tammie, sorry to hear you're having this issue, and thanks for reaching out!

Also, a big thanks to snojones for beating me to the punch with some great points and questions, all of which should be considered.

I do agree this sounds like it could be a set up issue. It would be worth taking it back to the guitar tech and describing the issue you are having. It doesn't sound right that the high E and B strings seem further off the fretboard.

What happens if you move the Am shape up the fretboard to around the 7th fret? Is it still painful to make that shape up in that position? If not, then most likely the nut might have to be cut lower.

Beyond that, snojones does bring up a good point that perhaps your fingers haven't built up calluses yet. Here are some tips from our GT blog on this topic:

https://www.guitartricks.com/blog/How-to-Toughen-Up-Your-Fingertips

As for the string gage question - I would say you can go as low as you'd like. It will (slightly) affect the tone, but it won't inhibit your ability to learn the guitar. Keep experimenting to see what gage works well with your hands.

Finally, always rest your hands/fingers when you feel pain. Don't push it!!

Hope this helps!! I look forward to our upcoming lesson!

Mike


Keep rockin!
Mike Olekshy
GT Guitar Coach

# 3
tammielyn.ts
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Joined: 11/11/19
Posts: 81
tammielyn.ts
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Joined: 11/11/19
Posts: 81
07/19/2020 6:43 pm

Hey, thanks! both of you for your replies! Much appreciated and helpful. I've built up callouses and numbness, so it's not my fingertips, and i'll definitely take the suggestions regarding light stretching. i have issues with tendonitis so i have to even be careful with stretching, and i found i did stretch a lot this week and i think it aggrevated me., however, i believe your suggestions regarding the nut may be right on point. I checked like you said Mike and moved the Am shape down the fretboard and with ease able to hold down the string. It's very tight on the 1st fret which is why i've been having problems i'm guessing getting the right sound and not being able to with ease get a clear sound and pain having to press so hard on that string/note. I'll take my guitar in with your notes and get them to help. With regard the string gauge, is there a type you prefer or number i'm looking for?

Again, thanks to both of you for all your help! Talk to you soon Mike at the end of the month for our lesson Cheers


# 4
Mike Olekshy
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 09/21/10
Posts: 1,051
Mike Olekshy
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 09/21/10
Posts: 1,051
07/20/2020 12:19 pm

Hey Tammie - well then it does sound like the nut needs to be lowered, or the slots need to be cut more - definitely check with a luthier!

As for strings - D'Addario and Ernie Ball tend to be the most popular brands, although there are others that I'm sure are great.

For acoustic - I would look for Extra Light Gage 47-10. I'm not sure if they go any lighter than that.

For electric - look for either 42-09 or even 38-08.

Hope this helps!

Mike


Keep rockin!
Mike Olekshy
GT Guitar Coach

# 5

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