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I have Westfield JBEA 35-SB acoustic/electric guitar.

It's currently strung with Elixir Nanoweb acoustic guitar strings that are extra-light gauge, .010 - .047.

I find it very difficult to play barre chords on the lower frets (most notably barres on first and second frets). Positioning isn't a problem, I can finger the whole chord, but it requires a hell of a lot of pressure to get the sound to ring, and not be muted.

Is there something I can do to reduce the pressure it takes to form these chords? Or is there something about my guitar that just makes it more difficult? I have noted that bending strings on this guitar is also much more difficult than other guitars.

I have no trouble playing barre chords on other acoustics, and all of my other electric guitars.

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Have it set up by a professional guitar tech.

They can adjust the nut, the bridge and the truss rod to reduce the action.

The action being too high will also explain your difficulty bending. You've already bent the string some amount just by fretting. The higher the action, the more tension you have to add.

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I will also add that you may want a lighter gauge string. –  kylex Jan 15 '12 at 18:38
    
@kylex The OP said they're extra-light. –  Matthew Read Jan 16 '12 at 16:34
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I agree on the set-up. Many guitars are shipped with the action purposefully high, as the manufacturer knows picky experienced guitarists will adjust to taste. The action at the nut is critical for playing ease. A good set-up will let you use heavier strings as well, which will likely improve sound.

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+1 for the impact those extra-light strings are likely having on the guitar's sound. I've never been able to go even to actual light strings, they just don't have the tone I'm after. –  Josh Fields Jan 16 '12 at 1:57
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@JoshFields but, if you can't fret a clean note, the greatest tone in the world will be no good to you. –  slim Jan 16 '12 at 16:37
    
Very true; it's all a balancing act. I think like M. Werner said, a good setup may allow heavier gauge strings with the same fretting ability as lighter ones before the setup. Obviously I don't recommend sacrificing playability for tone; I'm primarily a brass player, so I'm more the opposite! –  Josh Fields Jan 17 '12 at 0:45
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