Take the 2-minute tour ×
Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was comparing a fender and an epiphone acoustic guitar and noticed that fender was easier for my left hand. Both guitars have the same dimensions and seemed to have same string gauge.

I thought that the tension in the strings should be the same. That's just basic physics. What are the factors which affect ease of playing?

Also, when I tried out taylor, it was very effortless to play.

share|improve this question
    
I bought a Blueridge BR-70CE for about $1k. It looks and sounds nice, but the action is high on the lower end and apparently there is not much that can be done without costing a lot. I am really bummed out and wish I'd bought a different guitar. :-( –  user7110 Sep 21 '13 at 3:56

2 Answers 2

  • Neck width - and hence the distance between strings
  • Neck thickness - affects the distance from thumb to fretting finger
  • Fret height - affects how far past the fret you need to press in order to touch the fingerboard. Although note that actually touching the fingerboard is not necessary.
  • Action - the distance from the string to the fingerboard. Action can be adjusted.
  • String gauge - yours are the same on both guitars, but it's worth including in this list anyway
  • Scale length - a longer scale means tighter strings, and frets further apart
  • Fingerboard curvature - some fingerboards have a curved cross-section.
share|improve this answer
1  
Much better answer than mine :-) –  Dr Mayhem Jan 17 '13 at 16:02
1  
A couple more things: neck profile (affects how well neck fits in hand) and finish (ease of moving hand up/down the neck), fret condition (worn frets can cause buzzing unless pressing strings harder), string condition (finger fatigue and ease of moving left hand) and material (nylon strings are easier to fret than steel strings). –  Indrek Jan 17 '13 at 20:57

All other things being equal, you may have a guitar which should be very easy to play, but it is out of calibration. This situation can be improved. In my experience a lot of guitarists, particularly amateur ones, do not appreciate the importance of the professional setup.

How high the strings are above the frets and fingerboard, and how much strength in the fingers is required to hold the strings against the frets, is what we call action.

If the action is high, it requires more strength in the fingers to press the strings down, and this may also adversely affect the intonation, or whether various notes play in tune with respect to other notes.

If the action is too low, it will be much easier to press the strings down against the frets, but certain notes will buzz or be choked in their sustain and the intonation may be aversely affected at the other extreme as well.

The aim of a setup is to calibrate many parts of the guitar to lower the action to the lowest possible degree whereby each note sounds clearly, with no buzzing or choking. Since this also depends on the particular needs of each individual guitarist, it depends on many factors. This is why a setup is best left to a trained professional guitar technician.

Get a Setup

With any guitar, acoustic or electric, in order to make it easy to play and to make it play in tune, you should take it to a professional luthier or guitar repair techician and pay them for a setup. Based upon the gauge and type of strings you select to use on the guitar, and in response to questions about your playing style, the technician will make adjustments to the nut, truss rod, bridge and bridge saddle(s) and if necessary file down and shape the frets, in order to achieve the optimal "action" for you.

Some guitars, often the more expensive ones, get sold to the player with a good setup to begin with. Other guitars, often the less-expensive ones, do not--they are sold with a very high action and poor calibration for intonation. The good news is that most guitars, expensive or inexpensive, can be adjusted for optimal action by a skilled technician.

You may want to use a heavier or lighter gauge of string than the one that came with the guitar, and if so, this will require a new setup. Furthermore, it depends on your playing style. Do you mostly strum chords with a pick? Do you play fingerstyle? Based on the answers to these questions, a technician can calibrate your guitar for the best action.

Finally, the subtle amount of "bow" in the neck may change over time based on the guitar's exposure to seasonal changes in humidity and temperature, and this will change the action and intonation and in extreme cases may make some of the fret positions on the guitar not sound correctly (buzzes or "dead spots"). If this happens, a technician may be able to correct the problem by adjusting the truss rod and calibrating other factors as appropriate.

A good setup requires taking into account a complex set of conditions, and a well-trained technician has the tools to fix this based on precise measurements and guidelines.

share|improve this answer
    
I don't agree "the aim of a setup is necessarily to calibrate many parts of the guitar to lower the action to the lowest possible degree" - some players prefer a high action. E.g., hard hitters who play at loud volumes without amps. And some guitars suffer intonation problems if the action is too low. –  wim Jan 18 '13 at 0:30
    
Well perhaps I didn't put it correctly. I tried to make the point that how the action needs to be set depends on the needs of the player, implying that some players need higher action than others. –  Wheat Williams Jan 18 '13 at 2:33
    
I use a rather unusual custom tuning and playing style. If I take my guitar for a setup, what would be the best way of ensuring that it ends up being compatible with the way I play? I'd hate to end up with an action so low that it's hard to play without it buzzing all the time. –  supercat Feb 5 '13 at 18:07
    
Find a good technician and have a talk with him about your playing style. Do you fingerpick lightly? Do you strum hard? Do you bend strings a lot when you solo? (if you bend strings a lot, you'll need a higher action). The purpose is to enable the guitar to be easy to play AND well-intonated AND with no buzzing. All these subtle little adjustments can add up to a big difference in playability. You will need to provide the technician with another brand-new set of the string gauges you want. He will throw your existing strings away and start with a new set. They always do this. –  Wheat Williams Feb 5 '13 at 18:14

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.