Acoustic Guitars/Guitar question follow-up


QUESTION: I have a starter Fender guitar that I have been teaching myself with the Hal Leonard series (book 1), since February.  I am doing okay and have basically gotten familiar with all six strings but less familiar with the two lower strings on the top of the instrument.
Also, I am trying to practice chords and switching from one chord to another but I notice that it is difficult or nearly impossible to play C and also G7 without there being dead strings.  I wonder if this is me or if it is the guitar.  I have been told if the strings are too far from the fret, especially the extreme left of the instrument, the guitar is said to have high action and the lower the action the better.  If I determine it is not my fault and I want to buy a better guitar, what should I look for?  A guitar from a music store or eBay and a Taylor, Martin or some other brand?  I wonder if a photo will help determine if the action is too high or not.

ANSWER: You have asked a very good set of questions and I think I can give you a few pointers. I also play and teach guitar. Many of my beginning students have trouble playing chords without 'deadening' other strings. This is usually because of improper wrist, hand and finger placement. Try just placing your fingers on the top two strings of the 'C' chord on the 'D' & 'A' strings..then strum...are there any dead strings? If not, then add your last finger on the high string and strum.  If so, without removing your fingers from the two strings mentioned, push your elbow out slightly and your wrist down and your hand bent back toward your body, kind of like your fingers are waving to you shoulder-that's the position you want to be in to play your guitar. Try this also, with your instrument at playing position, set your shoulder square, not dipped or slumped. Now, let your arm fall limp to your side, next, bend your elbow and slide your hand down and up then around the neck of the guitar to fingerboard height, let your fingers wave to your shoulder...see that little arched cup of your palm-that part should remain off the fingerboard when your fingers make contact with the strings. Now you have an arc (a space) where the fingers can articulate independently from the meat of your hand. A pencil should slide throgh that arched space easily with touching anythng. Next, make sure each of your fingertips meet the depressed string exactly in the middle of the fret and as far up on your fingertip as possible. You want the least mass possible on the string. Check to see one string at a time if there is any buzzing-if so, your depreesed finger is touching another string. Reposition that finger while arching the wrist more while extending the elbow out...Remember that technique and accuracy are the important things here, speed is merely a by product of repetition and will always come if you practice the first two.   

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QUESTION: Thanks.  I knew all about the arching of the hand behind the neck of the
instrument and using the thumb to rest the fingers or to anchor the thumb behind, but it is easier said than done.  It is actually painful and you have
to consciously will your hands and fingers to do it.  It is not natural.  Why is the low C chord so difficult?  G7 is not that bad, once I think about it
and I know they are trying to get you switch back and forth easily and quickly, especially D7 which uses the same second string as C.  It sounds better and I guess I have to practice to get used to it and to eventually
make it second-nature.  I was in an evening-class guitar class in February when I decided to do this and the instructor paid no attention to issues like mine.  It is the lower string (second sting from the bottom).  The ones higher-up on the fret are fine.  I do have thick fingers that are also stubby, which doesn't help.  Am I too old for this?  Also, is it possible to teach yourself the guitar, or at some point do I go to a 3rd party for some objective analysis?  Finally, if I can make the C chord and G7 sound okay with more effort (ouch!) does that mean the guitar is workable?  A friend suggests a better guitar will make the learning more enjoyable and require less effort but the instructor in the evening-class
said not necessarily.  I just finished an hour practicing, because I based it on how I felt about what I was practicing.  I am still motivated to learn.  I wish I had felt this way when I had more time, like when I was
still in college (when I first took up the guitar).

Hi. No you are never to old to learn to play. I have had students from 7 yrs old to 70. Yes, it is possible to teach yourself but it is always helpful to get a one one one teacher to help. Youtube is also a great resource. You can always take your guitar to a music store and have a guitar tech lower the string height if you think that is the problem.  

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Kevin Dunham


Sigma by Martin guitars, Vintage Asian Import Guitars, acoustic guitars, american guitars, vintage music gear and vinyl record albums


I am a scholar and researcher of vintage Asain Import guitars and my area of expertise is Sigma by Martin fretted instruments imported by C.F. Martin & Co. from 1970-2007. I have been compiling materials and studying Sigma since 2008.

I have my own website,, a blog, Sigma Martin Memo's, I am a consultant on the Vintage Sigma Guitars Facebook page and am an editor of the Sigma Guitars Wikipedia page. I am also writing a book on the sigma line and have just returned from MArtin in NAzareth where I was granted access to and permisiion to reproduce Sigma by MArtin materials by Dick Boak, Archivist at Martin. Martin customer service representatives now refer Sigma by Martin inquiries that they cannot answer to me.

My book propsal is currently under review by Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publshing group and an article I wrote for Vintage Guitar Mazine is under advisement.

Studied at Linn Benton Community Collage in Albany Oregon and Marylhurst University in Portannd, Oregon. I have been a lifelong musician and student of guitars and am a guitar tech.

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