Tip of The Week #1: Electric on Acoustic - Make Your Acoustic Guitar Easier To Play

A common topic among early acoustic guitarists is about how when they begin to play the acoustic guitar it's hard on their fingers. Yes, pushing down on some cold metal for a half hour per day is going to feel strange at first, but you can't become a rock star if you can't learn to touch the thing.

So here's something that can make the beginning phases of acoustic guitar playing a little bit more tolerable and similar to that of an electric player.

*Put electric guitar strings on your acoustic guitar.

I actually learned this trick of trading acoustic for electric strings from my dad. He told me how when he was younger, the strings were tough on his fingers, (like everyone else in the world) and he knew that electric guitars played easier, so he created an obvious alternative for himself.

There are a few down sides to putting electric strings on an acoustic instrument however:

* The strings will not resonate with as much power creating softer tones.

Yea, things are going to be a little bit softer in volume, but you can think of these as just practice strings. If you were planning on gigging soon, you might want to put the real acoustic strings back on.

* You'll be missing out on some finger strength development.

Honestly, it's not as much as it seems, but pressing down on those acoustic guitar strings over and over can really give your fingers a workout. If you change to electric strings, your fingers won't be working as hard.

* The flexibility in electric guitar strings are merely illusions to acoustic guitar players.

Anyone who's played both electric and acoustic guitars can vouch that bending strings on an acoustic is a son-of-a-you know what. You might be able to pull off some bends with the swapped strings, but I wouldn't incorporate them into your original acoustic compositions.

These are just the very few detriments though! Don't let these things deter you from putting electric strings on if you really need them. Here are some good things about it.

* Pressing the strings to the frets is easier.

That's simple enough to realize. Acoustic strings are stronger and less flexible, so replacing them with the alternative will make things easier. Ta Da!

* You might be able to avoid the appearance of blisters.

Sometimes, when new guitarists start with an acoustic guitar, nasty, pussy blisters form on the tips of their fingers. Using strings with more flexibility and more cushion for your fingers can help you avoid this.

* You'll keep your enthusiasm in playing the guitar!

Once you start playing the guitar, you shouldn't feel like it's too much work. Think of these electric strings as training wheels for your fingers. You should always be excited to play!

If you think that you're comfortable and can endure a week or two of finger pain to get those finger callouses without this tip, then that's completely awesome. Otherwise, don't feel any shame. The important thing is to use every tip you can to keep yourself playing!


ericmakesmusic said...

Poor set-up is the main cause of soar fingers while playing acoustic guitar.

I'd recommend that you do not put electric strings on an acoustic for a few reasons:

1. acoustic guitar sets-ups are a little different than electric. electric strings will stretch more when fretted and the intonation will be sharp...compounded by the smaller diameter, and the strings will actually have a higher action.

2. nut slots do not match the strings. smaller strings in wider nut slots make for broken strings, and irregular wear on the nut.

3. Electric strings on an acoustic sound "Weenie" you mention this, but the sacrifice for ease over tone will cause the player to stay in the easy place. it is human nature.

My suggestion: start with x-tra light acoustic strings, and have the guitar set-up for that specific string set...then go to work. it may hurt at first, but there is nothing like good old fashioned hard work.

Guitar strings are like tires on a car. They can only perform as well as the suspension.

How To Guitar Tune said...


That's some really great info you just provided and I'm glad that you posted it.

Like you, I wouldn't recommend putting anything but acoustic strings on an acoustic guitar if you can take it. It shows that you have good work ethic to actually take the pain for only a short while.

However, there are quite a few players that can't help but be discouraged. I only think of this string set-up as training wheels.

I mean, the sensitivity of each person's fingers are going to be different and I think that this is a good way to ease into playing if you honestly can't stand it.

Leaving electric strings on the guitar however... not a good idea once you get callouses going.

Thanks for your input Eric! Well appreciated!

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