How to Make Guitar Strings Easier to Press

If you’re an advanced guitar player, you know how important it is to have strings that are easy to press. When your fingers are tired and sore, the last thing you want to do is struggle to push down on them.

As a beginner, it is even more important to know how to properly compress them, and with the right amount of force.

This can help you to not only increase finger strength, but also to become faster on the fretboard. Learning how to make guitar strings easier to press earlier on will produce better habits!

To make your strings easier to press, first you need to make sure your guitar is properly set up. If the action is high or parts are worn out, this is the first place to start. You will also want to learn how much force to exert when pressing down. This comes by properly training your fingers and increasing your motor skills.

In this article, we will discuss some tips and tricks that will help make your strings easier to press. We’ll also talk about how to set up your guitar so that it’s comfortable for you to play.

How to Make Guitar Strings Easier to Press

How Hard To Press Guitar Strings

One of the most asked questions, especially from beginners, is how hard to press guitar strings. In the early stages, it is normal to want to clamp them as hard as you can. But this only makes it harder on both your fingers, motor skills and even the frets. It is not necessary to press hard on guitar strings.

When you press on a guitar string, use only enough pressure to fret the note. This means the note does not buzz but will ring out as would be expected. With a guitar that is properly set up, this will require very little pressure.

This does not come without practice, however, but every beginner should have this in the back of their minds. Next time you sit down to play:

  • Relieve pressure: apply very little pressure as you hold them down, continue to use less until the string starts to buzz as you play it. This is the minimum amount that can be used before it is too little.
  • Find the right amount: apply slightly more until the note sound right. This is the right amount of pressure that you should use when you press frets properly. Any more than this is too much, as the note sounds correct at this point.
  • Use a lighter touch: now that you have found the right amount of pressure, practice this every time you play.

When you continue to play with a lighter touch, you will find that your fingers do not hurt quite as bad. As you progress as a player, this new light touch will not only make it easier now, it will also help you become faster in later years.

How to Make Guitar Strings Easier to Press

One way to make your strings easier to press, and less stiff, is by using a lighter set. If you’re just starting out, we recommend using a light gauge string set like the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky.

These are thinner and will be easier for you to press down on because they have less tension, this makes them more flexible as well.

Thicker strings are stiff and have more tension, making them harder to play. When you bend them or require vibrato technique, they will be much harder on your fingers, even possibly making them hurt.

Also, if you have smaller hands, you may find it easier to play with thinner strings as less force is required to press them. A guitarist should only push down hard enough to properly fret the note, nothing more. 

If you are using thin strings, then it could also be an issue with your guitar. As you will see, there are many things that need to be set right to make guitar strings easier to press.

String Height

Another way to make your strings easier to press is by adjusting the action on your guitar. This is the space between the strings and the top of the frets. If the action is too high, it will require more effort to push them down. If you are a beginner, it is best to take the instrument to a tech and have it set up.

A properly set up instrument is important when you are learning for the best possible experience. If you are handy and have an idea on how to set it up, you can adjust the action on your guitar by using the truss rod. The nut and bridge should also be inspected depending on what model it is.

If the action is too low on the other hand, it will affect the sound of your guitar and may cause the strings to buzz. This is because they will be vibrating against the frets.

Guitar Nut

The guitar nut is an important part and directly affects the string height. It sets the distance from fret to string at one end of the scale. If the nut grooves are too high, the distance will be as well. If they are too low, the strings might vibrate on the frets and buzz.

The slots must not only be set to the right height, but the right width as well. Too wide will allow too much play in the string, too narrow, and you might have tuning issues.

Bridge Height

There are many bridge designs on guitars today. They set the intonation of the scale, but also the height of the strings on one end. Not only that, but a bridge system like a Floyd Rose will also dictate what the height will be.

If the spring tension is not right, the strings can be harder to press, which can be common with this set up. This is another important part that needs to be  set right in order to use the right finger pressure. If you are not sure, inquire with a technician.

Select a Guitar That is Easier To Play

One of the more important points to make is having the right guitar. There are many instruments with different sizes, weight and part thicknesses. The neck for example will need to be the right width for your hand.

If it is too wide, you will have to use more force to press the strings. So make sure to select a guitar that fits you well and doesn’t feel overly large in any area. This is especially important for those with smaller hands.

Short Scale

Another option is to consider using a guitar with a shorter scale length. A short length is going to be easier for you to play because they have small fret spacing, the action is usually lower and strings less tense. If you’re not sure what your scale length is, you can find it by measuring the distance between the nut and the bridge.

For a beginner, this instrument type can be quite beneficial as the weight is slightly lower as well. This makes it easier to get comfortable holding the guitar, which can help to make the strings easier to press and more accurately.

Develop Finger Strength

Strong fingers can help make playing the guitar much easier in general. If you’re having a hard time pressing the strings down, there are also some exercises that you can do to help improve your finger strength. One exercise that is especially helpful is called “The Claw.”

To do this, hold your hand out in front of you with all of your fingers together and make a claw shape by folding them in towards your palm. 

Now, try to press your fingers down into the palm of your hand. You should feel the muscles in your forearm and hand working as you do this. Do this exercise for a few minutes each day, and you’ll start to see an improvement in your finger strength. 

Another exercise that can be done will help with finger strength and spacing. This exercise is done on the fretboard and is very simple. Start by pressing the first fret on any string with your index finger. Then apply your middle finger to the second fret on the same string.

Don’t release your index finger, however, keep it where it is. Proceed to do the same with your third and fourth finger. Place them on the next 2 frets while holding the others in place. Once you reach the end, start again and repeat for 5 minutes per day. It’s normal to start off with weak fingers, but these exercises will help.

Summary

As you can see, there are many things that can help make your strings easier to press. This is a skill that many guitar players wish they would have obtained earlier in when they first started playing.

Not only can this make you a faster player, but your accuracy will be better too. So if playing is something you will want to do for a long time, now is the time to learn how to make guitar strings easier to play.

Finally, if you don’t have thick calluses yet, this can also make strings harder to press. It is very important to work on developing calluses for the best chance at playing the guitar.

FAQ

Below you will find some of the more commonly asked questions that will help you make your strings easier to press.

Are Some Guitar Strings Easier to Press?

Some guitar strings may be easier or harder to press than others, depending on their material and thickness. For example, heavy sets can be more difficult to press down than thinner ones because they are under more tension and have more mass.

Different materials can also be easier to press than others, especially if they bend much easier and are more slinky. 

Bass players might have a better experience using round wound strings over flat for example because they are more flexible. For some players, the flat wound sets are a bit harder on their fingers.

Ultimately, it is up to the player to experiment with different strings to find the ones that are best suited for their playing style. But when getting started on the guitar, stick to thin or regular, medium at the most!

How do I make my guitar strings softer?

If you are experiencing discomfort or have tried a guitar that felt softer, you can try a few things to make it easier to play.

  • Try a lighter string set
  • Have your guitar setup
  • Consider a shorter scale guitar

Depending on your bridge design, a lighter set of strings might be just what you need and is the first place to start. But it doesn’t hurt to also have your guitar setup for best performance.

The last thing to consider is the guitar itself, but not everyone appreciates the same guitar models and could have better results with something else.

Are Nylon Strings Easier to Press?

There is a lot of advice online that suggests using nylon strings because they are easy to press. And while this is true, nylon sets are easier to push on, they may not be right for you.

If your music interests are more in the rock or metal genres, for example, playing nylon will not keep you interested.

At some point you are going to want to play songs you like, and nylon strings will not have the same impact. And so while nylon is softer and less tense, if you’re not interested in classical acoustic music, don’t use them and start with steel on an electric guitar.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!