I'm a beginning guitar player, with a secondhand Yamaha FG-180J I got as a gift. The strings were already wound when I got it. Upon playing it, I had a lot of trouble playing barre chords. The strings feel tight and it's relatively high-action. It's a really old guitar by the way, with some of the old pegs having been replaced.

How can I change/adjust the guitar to make it easier to play barre chords? I can play barre chords using other guitars with relative ease but I'm stumped using mine. It's frustrating. I'm trying finger strengthening exercises but to still no avail. The middle and sometimes last strings are the the most difficult, I find. I can't put enough pressure on the fret and I end up muting the strings.action near the bodypegs, some are replaced

  • “Wound too tight” is completely the wrong description here. If a string is would tightly it means the outside wrapping wire is firmly pressed against the inner core. That's always a good thing and does not affect playability. What you seem to mean is, the tension is too high. Apr 2, 2018 at 15:21

3 Answers 3


Those strings look like .011s or .012s. Not only that but 10 years too late being changed ! Put some .009s on first, and feel the difference. If that doesn't solve all the problem, check the action, and the relief in the neck - they're related, and in old guitars often need adjustment.

Don't bother with finger strengthening - playing is the best way to get them right for guitar playing.

  • I will, I will, I will! The strings felt old the day I got them but I was a bit too cheap to shell out money for new ones. The neck doesn't look overbowed to me but I'll take your advice. Playing it has been a real pain. I thought I'd just have to suck it up until my thumb and index finger became pincers! Thanks for your help!
    – H. Anon
    Jan 8, 2018 at 13:31

Put a new set of light gauge strings on it and adjust the truss rod accordingly to give just a bit of neck relief. It needs adjusted from time to time especially if you change string gauges. It may have had heavier strings put on at some point—which are great for tone but harder to play if you aren't used to them—or the neck just got out of whack over time.

The amount of neck relief is a matter of preference, but basically you want something like this:

  • Never bowed back (away from the body)
  • Usually not perfectly flat. If it's flat or backbowed you'll get buzzing.
  • Not too much relief (upbow) because the action will get too high
  • You want it somewhere in the middle where less relief will mean lower action and better playability but more relief will mean better tone and less chance of buzzing.

Take it into a guitar shop and have them do it if you've never done that before.

  • Thank you! I was thinking of doing exactly that but I needed a second informed opinion because, like i said, I'm a beginner. You have restored my faith in helpful strangers on the internet, and for that, I salute you!
    – H. Anon
    Jan 7, 2018 at 3:59
  • @H.Anon one other thing you might want to check - the action at the nut. Many guitars have nuts that are too high to play barre chords comfortably. Again, adjusting that is something you'd want a guitar shop to do. Jan 7, 2018 at 9:41
  • I'll check that out. I had a feeling i should get it checked by someone who actually knows what he's talking about when it comes to guitars. Thanks, stranger!
    – H. Anon
    Jan 8, 2018 at 13:26

You need to reduce the action to get the strings closer to the fretboard.

This can be done by following:-

  1. Adjusting action at bridge
  2. Adjusting action at nut.
  3. Adjusting action with truss rod.

Here is a detailed explanation of how to do it. If you have never tried it before try not to put to much pressure using truss rod, it might break your guitar :). But the sad part is you will never learn without breaking one or two guitars. So if you love your guitar too much try going to a music shop and getting it fixed else you can try it on your own.

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