Learning and perfecting guitar playing is an endless journey. Even pro guitarists have something to learn with every new guitar session they have.
There are small details in playing guitar that are often bypassed in guitar lessons, like how much pressure do you put on guitar strings. The pressure you put on the guitar strings is responsible for the note produced and how the guitar sounds.
If you are a beginner and your guitar tutorial has not mentioned how much pressure you should put on guitar strings, this guide explains the pressure levels you can put on guitar strings without damaging the fret wires.
How Much Pressure Do You Put On Guitar Strings? (Quick Answer)
To get the best note from your guitar, simply press the strings until you hear a clear note. This is mostly achieved by only applying the amount of pressure that will push the strings until they touch the fretboard.
If you have a soft touch on your acoustic-electric guitar but you are not getting a clear note, exert a little more pressure to get a clear note.
If you have been pressing your guitar too hard that your hand hurts, practice exerting less pressure. When the string touches the fretboard, you should hold on to that pressure.
Why You Should Not Press the Guitar Strings Too Hard
Applying so much pressure on the strings might give you a good note, but it does more harm than good.
Here are reasons why you should not apply so much pressure on the guitar strings:
Guitar Fret Wire Wears Out
Pressing too hard on the guitar strings causes it to ding faster. If your trips to the guitar center for guitar maintenance have become more frequent and thus more expensive, pressing the guitar strings too contributes to the wearing out of the fret wire.
It is expensive to replace the fret wire on the guitar. It is not as easy as removing old guitar strings and installing new ones.
Change in the Guitar Tone
If you have noticed that your electric guitar shifts slightly on the pitch, this might be because you are pressing the strings too hard.
Pressing the strings too hard conditions the strings to move over the fret wire onto the fretboard which might cause an irritating pitch sound.
Beginners complain of sore fingers even when they press the strings softly. This gets worse if you put pressure on the strings. Your fingers are bound to get hurt and sore when you put too much pressure on the strings.
Sore fingers are not ideal for guitar playing as you will endure more than you enjoy your sessions. You might not even play guitar daily because you have to recover from your sore fingers.
Marks on the FretBoard
If you want your guitar fretboard to be sleek and markless, you should avoid pressing the strings hard.
Your fingers leave marks on the fretboard if they are often pressed on the board. When playing guitar, it is normal for your fingers to be sweaty or oily, which easily leaves marks on the fretboard.
Iron Grip Issue
You might not consciously realize this, but the more pressure you put on the guitar strings, the more likely you are to grip the guitar harder.
When you grip the guitar hard, you become slow in movement, and it takes more time to change chords. The iron grip also leaves your arm stressed, which makes you slower. Also, when your arm is too stressed, it will get sore.
Why You Should Practice Less Pressure on the Guitar Strings
Habits are hard to change. If you have been pressing the guitar strings too hard, it might take time to unlearn the habit and practice being softer on the strings.
Here are reasons why you should apply light pressure on the guitar strings:
It Will Do Your Fingers Good
With little pressure on the guitar strings, your fingers will feel less sore after playing. The stress on your wrists also significantly reduces with less pressure on the strings.
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Swift Movement From Chord to Chord
Once you reduce the pressure on the guitar strings, your arms become less stressed, which makes it easier to move from chord to chord.
When the hands are less stressed, it takes less time to relieve the hand, which reduces the amount of time you take to move to another chord.
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Less pressure on the guitar strings means that the fret wire and the fretboard are safe from the damage caused by the extra pressure applied on the guitar strings.
The only thing you get from applying a lot of pressure to the guitar strings is sore fingers, marked fretboard, and extra trips to the guitar center for repair. It is better to practice putting only the needed pressure to get a clear note from the strings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the right amount of force to apply on guitar strings?
From experience and practice, I can tell you that guitar strings should only be pressed with enough force to ensure a clean sound. Every guitar and player is a bit different, but generally the force required is between 0.3 and 0.5 lbs for a single string. If you’re doing a full barre across all six strings, you might have to use up to 3 lbs of force. Ultimately, it comes down to feel and sound – if you’re pressing down too lightly, the string may buzz. If too hard, you’re wasting energy and could be damaging your fingers. A common mistake we tend to do when first starting out is pressing the string on top of the fret. Always remember, the force should be applied just behind the fret. There’s no escaping it, when you’re first starting out, you’ll likely experience some finger pain until those callouses form. Stick with it, that’s all part of the process.
How much pressure is appropriate for the fret?
In my many years of guitar playing, I’ve discovered that the pressure applied to the fret needs to be just right, enough to create clear, quality notes. Think of pressing near the frets, not so much that you’re overworking your hand, but not so softly that the strings don’t resonate. I wish someone told me this when I was starting out, pressing too hard can tire your hands quickly, slowing your ability to transition between notes and diminishing the length of your playing sessions. Remember, **you do not need to press the string to the fretboard**, but just enough for the string to make firm contact with the fret. Keeping this balance can optimize your guitar playing experience.
What’s the best way to press on guitar strings?
The best method for pressing on guitar strings comes down to practice and finding what works best for your personal playing style. As a general rule, press the strings down with just enough strength to produce a clean note. You’ll want to be careful not to press too hard, as this could tire out your hands and slow down your finger transitions. A helpful tip I learned over the years, is to make sure to play BEHIND the fret, not directly on top of it. Playing directly on the fret can lead to muffled notes. So finding that sweet spot is key for clear, beautiful sound. Practicing this skill may be slightly uncomfortable at first, but with time, your fingers will develop callouses, and it’ll become second nature. Who knows, you might even find it therapeutic in some way! Just remember, the focus is on producing the best sound possible, not on how hard you can press the strings.