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I recently purchased a beginner guitar. I’m learning chords and my fingers are hurting so much. I’ve watched videos and they say not to push so hard but if I don’t push hard then the chord gives a buzzing sound and sounds awful. I know that your fingers are meant to harden up after time but until then does anyone have a resolution on how not to push so hard but still get a good sound

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The first thing to do is take the guitar to an experienced guitarist and ask what they think of the set up. Many guitars come set up with a very high action at the nut (i.e. the strings are too far from the frets) which makes it impossible to play chords easily. If your guitar has this problem you'll learn bad habits and hurt yourself.

You should also make sure your arm and guitar position are suitable to let you to use your fingers as easily as possible. Finger position comes from arm, body, and instrument position. Again, an experienced guitarist or teacher may help.

Apart from that, it will just take a while for you to learn to control your fingers independently enough to press each one down just enough. Don't expect to get good in just a few weeks.

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  • Certainly agree with the last para. Some of us never learn to only press just enough. Although it seems like OP has tried that option. – Tim Dec 26 '20 at 12:52
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Often beginner guitars have awful action. That's how far the strings are away from the fretboard. On some (not all, sadly) that action can be adjusted so it's easier to press down the strings.

Another problem is that they usually come with heavy strings, which need to be very tight to be in tune. Way round that is to either change them for thinner strings, which won't be as hard to press, or tune the guitar down a tone. Or even consider changing the strings for those found on classical guitars - nylon. Which are thicker, but not so tight. Therefore kinder to beginners fingers.

And - read all you can about callouses. I think they're more the product of bad playing technique and/or badly set up guitars. You will probably get them playing your guitar as it is right now. Others vehemently disagree, and believe they're a 'must have' to be a guitarist.

Finding a good teacher (difficult to find any teacher to go to right now!) will help, as they will check the guitar out, along with what you do, and provide solutions.

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  • a sad indictment of the instrument industry that both of us had the same first thought..? – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '20 at 12:44
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    @topoReinstateMonica - yes, it's almost like they don't want to encourage any more would-be guitarists! – Tim Dec 26 '20 at 12:48
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Just like everyone has mentioned, acoustic guitar requires good setup, even more so than electric guitar. You check the action level yourself by buying a guitar action ruler from Amazon. If it is awfully off, find a guitar tech on Yelp. If not, then you are good to go.

Then that brings it to the next point. Assuming you already have a good setup on your guitar, you still need time to develop finger strength.

I think the easy thing to do right now is "lowering your expectation". High expectations lead to more frustration. Try to forget about sounding good, focus on your fingers and posture. It's like going to the gym and expect 6-pack on day 1. It won't work that way, and it leads to frustration easily.

Break up your practice session.

For example,

5 mins - hold the chord, strum, release, hold strum, release, repeat 5 mins - watch a YouTube video 5 mins - hold the chord, strum, release, repeat... 5 mins - watch another video Repeat above steps

Give it 1 month, your fingers will be ready. Barre chord may take a little longer, maybe 2~3 months.

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I'm assuming you're learning to play on an acoustic guitar. Even if they are set up for a beginner - low action and lighter strings - they can still be difficult on the finger tips. I still complain about sore finger tips after 35+ years of playing when I use an acoustic, if I play it long enough in one sitting.

Let me suggest learning on an electric guitar at the same time. Even the cheap ones are much easier on the finger tips, if they are set up reasonably well. I play both, but I spend much more time on the electric for that reason. Electric guitars allow you to practice for hours without pain. And you don't need an amplifier at this stage, for you can still hear the notes on an electric.

They really compliment each other. Playing an electric improves your acoustic playing and vice versa. An electric will keep you practicing, learning and enjoying the instrument with no pain. Search the used market for one. You can find a pretty decent electric guitar for $100 on the used market today, and it will be an investment you won't regret.

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