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For years I did not notice now I need to correct my bad habit of putting a lot pressure on guitar strings when I play. How to get rid of this bad habit.

I know I put my finger on a guitar string and after buzz, the minimum pressure will give me enough to get a clear sound but how to train myself to do so?

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  • I do chromatic scale without pressing, I do chromatic scale just buzzing but even though I have been doing this for the last 1 week still when I go back to play some thing the old habit of pressing hard is back Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:28

4 Answers 4

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Try to think about your whole hand at once. The goal here is to relax as much as possible. Obviously, you have to use some muscles to actually push the string, but to use them no more than necessary—AND also not to use any muscles that aren't necessary.

As a violin teacher, when I see tension in a student's left hand, the thumb is often part of it; they're clenching their entire hand into a fist. I ask them to tap their thumb against the neck a few times. This does a few things: it focuses their attention on a part of their hand they weren't thinking about, but also, to "tap," you have to first release the pressure to move the finger away; after the tap they can replace the finger with a relaxed contact.

Try reminding yourself to do this; at random times while playing, tap your thumb; if any fingers are on strings but are not the "front fingers" (e.g. if one finger is on fret 5 but another is resting behind it on fret 4, not changing the pitch) then tap those. Try to consciously relax your entire hand (and arm!).

See also this answer, and its question about where to press the string. The answer makes the good point that you only need to press until the string meets the fret, not the wood.

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    My guitar teacher told me at some point to put less pressure on the back of the neck with my thumb. This answer reminded me of that and it helped me a lot. When it comes down to it, pressure of your thumb also means more pressure from the fingers. When I learned to put just the right amount of pressure on my thumb (and position it optimally), the pressure from my fingers naturally decreased. Another thing is trying to not cramp your wrist. Thumbs up! (no phun intended) Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 8:16
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This might sound crazy, but try playing for a few weeks pressing the strings down on the fretboard so they hardly sound at all.

Then, gradually increase that pressure until most notes are clear. Continue in this silly way until all the notes are actually clear. All this will depend on how well or badly your guitar is set up, of course: with a well set up guitar you'll hardly going to need to press hard any way.

Also be aware that your thumb does not need to make a vice-like grip on the back of the neck - use the right arm to pull the guitar body in, particularly on barre chords, so your fretting hand hardly needs any pressure from the thumb to hold the strings from rattling. You may also consider the angle your guitar is held at, both from a vertical and a horizontal aspect.

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  • Good point! After years of bad habits, releasing an unnecesary amount of pressure applied with thumb (also proposed by Hans) was, in my case, one of the biggest problems, and also the guitar angle and wrist position. On the other hand, some similar propioception exercises as the one you mention (pressing down strings) helped me slow but massively to get relaxed and apply not much more of the required pressure (even nowadays, as I keep practicing them as much as I can). I must reinforce that a good teacher -as it was for my case- is a key factor on this matter... Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 13:06
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In addition to Andy and Tim's excellent answers, one of the things which helped me was playing without using my thumb at all - this shows you just how little pressure you need on the frets.

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  • Great is there any more tips? Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 14:32
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    @Iplayguitar - at least eight - on the ends of those fingers...
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 15:46
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I suppose you are OK with your right hand and can hit the strings in time?

So let the right hand do its thing and play a nice rhythm.

Now pay attention to the left hand. Pay attention to the exact feel in the fingers, in the fingertips, how does it sound?

  • If you press harder how does it sound?
  • If softer?
  • Does each string sound as good?

If you pay close attention to both how the fingertips on the left hand feel as you play, and to how it sounds, you will be able to teach your brain and hands to apply the right pressure.

If it sounds right it is right.

This will probably take about 1-3 weeks if you do a few hours each week.

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