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I'm trying to learn to play guitar but I have a problem. My fingers touch the other strings so that I get a buzzy sound. Although my fingertips press the string perpendicular, they touch the other strings. I think the problem is my fingertips' shape. They're not flat but curved. When they press the string, the curved side of fingertip flesh touches other string. I'm about to give up. I wanted to ask your opinions before I give up.

a photo of my finger

Do you think my finger's physiology is proper for playing guitar? Is there a way to overcome this obstacle?

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Need to know what sort/style of guitar you're using. –  Tim Jul 9 at 9:37
    
Both Acoustic and electro –  zontragon Jul 9 at 10:17
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Just so you know, most beginning guitarists evenually ask themselves, "am I just screwed by the shape of my hands/fingers/nails?" No, you aren't. 99% of the time the real problem is that your hands and fingers aren't relaxed enough and you're doing something more awkwardly than necessary. Place your fretting hand on the fingerboard. Play some music lef hand only. Feel tension? Do it again, slowly, and on each change of your hand's placement move your elbow and wrist around until you feel the tension leave your body. –  DanielSank Jul 9 at 19:40
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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

This problem is encountered by almost all beginners. It's a technical problem, your fingers are OK. Here are a few tips that hopefully help:

  • keep your nails short
  • your fingers should be bent and not straight, and they should be - as you already mentioned - perpendicular to the fretboard.
  • experiment with the exact part of the finger that presses the string. If you press the string close to your nail, there's a lot of flesh left to mute the next higher string (higher in frequency that is). In this case move your finger up a bit.
  • have the action of your guitar checked. If the action is very high, then it's generally more difficult to play, and your problem is also aggravated.
  • in case you're using a steel string guitar, try a classical nylon strung guitar. It has wider spaces between the strings, which should make it easier for you. After having learned the basics it will be also easier to switch back to a steel string guitar, if you like.
  • don't blame the shape of your fingers :)
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Thank you Matt. I'll follow your suggestions. –  zontragon Jul 9 at 10:18
    
@zontragon: If your problems persist, it's also a good idea to take a few lessons with an experienced teacher. –  Matt L. Jul 9 at 10:32
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"don't blame the shape of your fingers" indeed. While stocky fingers seem at first sight only good for playing bass, there's a surprising number of guys who can play violin or mandolin really well, though the instruments' necks are barely thicker than the player's thumb! –  leftaroundabout Jul 9 at 12:25
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Your fingers are perfectly normal. And that is the problem! If you play a steel-string guitar for a few hours a day, you will quickly get calluses that make it much easier to hold the string tight. The really hard part is getting the first joint of your ring finger flexible enough that you can use it to hold down strings 2, 3 and 4 without buzzing string 1.

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Don't get discouraged. The quickest answer I can give is, #1, have somebody knowledgable look at your guitar to make sure it's set up correctly. #2 is look for a teacher--and don't think you have to commit to a whole raft of lessons right away. Just ask for one lesson and see how it goes.

Buzzing could be caused by not fingering close enough behind the fret, or not enough pressure, but could easily be caused by the setup or fretwork being out-of-whack on the guitar. Also, other strings shouldn't buzz unless you are also picking them along with the intended string, so that's a separate problem. Why would other strings buzz if you're not picking them? There are so many things to look at besides your fingering hand (your left, if you're a righty, or vice-versa).

In other words, just don't look at one aspect, like the angle of your fingers to the string. Guitarists constantly have to change their joint angles anyway, depending on what they're doing; crossing to other strings on the same fret, making full bar chords, or playing just two strings in a "mini-bar" a-la Chuck Berry, for example. If you're feeling held up in one aspect, shift to working on something else, like picking exercises, maybe crossing strings in different patterns. You'll be surprised how much it helps to "take a vacation" and come back to something. Good luck

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Its impossible to overstate the importance of playing exercises repeatedly with the goal of developing strength and muscle memory.

I noticed while trying to find a new teacher that prescribing scales is not very common (in spite of centuries of precedent) but when I finally found someone who insisted on them my technique improved in leaps and bounds.

I'd suggest you start with the C major scale (the most used scale. You'll need it anyway) in the first position and play it every day until it is automatic. The good thing about scales like this compared to the pentatonic scale is that they require more fingers.

Another excellent exercise is to play first fret first finger, second fret second finger, third fret third finger, fourth fret fourth finger. Do this on each string. When you are comfortable doing it then move it up one fret each time all the way up to the 12th (2nd fret 1st finger, 3rd fret 2nd finger, etc)

GO SLOW AND USE A METRONOME

Your hands and arms will hurt but if you do it every day for a few minutes you'll be amazed how much better your contact with the fret board is.

Good luck.

Oh yah. DONT QUIT!!!!! you'll be SOOO happy you didn't.

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Thanks! Would you suggest finger exerciser tool to strength my fingers? –  zontragon Jul 9 at 20:55
    
I've never used one so I couldn't say but you cant beat playing the guitar for getting better at playing the guitar. –  David W Jul 10 at 22:09
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