Difficulties With Left Hand Fingering.

Ease of playability of a guitar is more important for most styles of music than many players realize.

On an acoustic steel string guitar the high 'E' string at the first fret should probably be less than approximately a 32nd of an inch above the fret and around an 8th of an inch at the twelfth fret. The low 'E' bass string should be slightly higher above the twelfth fret. These measurements vary according to the size of the guitar, straightness of neck, and thickness of strings. Smaller guitars with shorter string lengths require far less pressure to hold a string down. Solid body electric guitars can have closer action. For this system of jazz guitar improvisation, though finger picking is recommended, flat picking may be more useful on a solid body electric than on an acoustic guitar. Nylon guitars are quite compatible with this system. Their strings may be further from the frets than those of a steel string but they don't require much pressure. However the greater distance between the strings on a nylon guitar may cause difficulties with double string fingering techniques for small hands.
If you are shopping for a acoustic steel string guitar, take time to try as many as you can with the most difficult techniques you can think of. The 'action' (distance between the strings and the frets) should be ideal if possible. A straight neck is necessary for this.
Mid price guitars do not always come from the factory with an optimal setup. They vary and mostly by chance, some are delivered that are set up quite well. That's why shopping around is important.
Most steel strings have adjustable truss rods that allow you to control the neck precisely to compensate for the different pressures of varying string gauges. The strings can also be raised and lowered at each end to produce perfect action. Some guitar shops are equipped for handling these adjustments and it may be advisable to negotiate an adjustment at the time of purchase.  If you are in a real guitar shop you may find that many professionals take pride in their craftsmanship and will have some degree of appreciation for the fact that you know what you want. 

Higher action can be preferable for strumming open string chords loudly, but usually not for more intricate styles. Close action is recommended for this system of improvisation.
If you love your guitar but it's hard to play, have the action adjusted by someone who knows what they're doing and what you want. A good setup makes a big difference for any style of music.

copyrightę1999-2006 Frank Spagnolo


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