If you’ve played more than one guitar in your life, you certainly noticed the difference in playability each guitar have. Some guitars are more playable, some are not.
Some guitars are played with much more ease and comfort than others. Of course, everyone wants their guitar to be as playable as possible.
So, the question remains. What makes one guitar easier to play than other?
It is impossible to answer it in just one sentence. Therefore, I made a list of the most common factors that affect the playability of a guitar, whether it’s acoustic, classical, electric acoustic or an electric guitar.
These factors affect all guitars. Let’s go!
Guitars with wider necks are generally harder to play. Especially if you have really short fingers.
On the other hand, too narrow necks can also make some guitar players struggle. The bottom line is that neck width plays a big role in an overall playability of a guitar.
Classical guitars have wide necks. Acoustic guitars have wider necks than electric guitar necks, but narrower than classical guitar necks.
Whether it’s classical, acoustic or electric guitar in question, some guitar players have their preferences. I like to play all of those guitars.
But keep in mind that you can’t expect to play Master Of Puppets on a classical guitar with ease.
Also, you can’t expect to play Reminiscences of Alhambra (classical guitar classic!) on an electric guitar with ease.
Many guitar beginners expect something that’s just not possible.
Scale length of a guitar neck affects a wideness between each fret on a fretboard.
Longer scale length means wider distance between frets. Wider distance between frets affects the playability.
You may struggle to perform, for example, barre chords on your guitar if the scale length is long. It is certainly harder to play various chords, or scales, when the distance between frets is too big.
It depends on what do you prefer, in the end.
Fret height is also something that affects overall playability of your guitar.
Higher the fret on your guitar neck is, the more pressure you have to exert on fretboard to get your string ringing.
Frets can go bad. They can rust if not maintained properly. Make sure you wipe them every time after you’re done playing your guitar.
It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds of time to do it.
Action height can affect playability of each guitar the most. By action height, I mean too high action.
What is action height? It’s the distance between a bottom of a string and the top of the fret.
If the action high is too high, strings are too far away from the fretboard. That can really significantly affect the playability, in a bad way.
Strings being too far away means you have to put more pressure in order to get them to ring. Also, it’s very uncomfortable to perform barre chords in this situation. Not only that it is hard to press strings, it can also hurt your fingers.
If you notice that the action on your guitar is too high, take your guitar to the professional examination. If you’re not experienced in action adjustment, don’t do it alone.
You may screw your guitar even more.
Strings can be coated or uncoated. Coated strings are strings that are layered with polymer material on their surface.
Coated strings have a longer lifespan, but they are also somehow harder to play. It’s because they have more mass, and because they are coated, they vibrate less.
Still, those are good if you have excessive sweat problems, since they last longer.
IMO, Elixir brand of strings are the best ones in this context. They are coated with ultra thin material (nanoweb) which makes them more durable and more resistant to corrosion and dirt. Also, because the coating material is ultra thin, it makes them easier to play with than other coated string brands.
Here, check them on Amazon for more info. (First pack below is for electric guitar, second is for acoustic.)
Anyway, check out the article from this page where comparison between coated and uncoated strings has been made. Read it, here.
String gauge affect the playability of your guitar significantly. Heavier strings are harder to bend and are also harder to press onto fretboard.
Heavier strings require more force to be bent and pressed.
They have more mass and they are wider than lighter gauge strings. It’s often advisable to use lighter strings, if you’re a beginner.
That’s because you don’t have enough strength built up in your fingers. Therefore, it is better for you to use lighter gauge strings.
However, when your fingers gain some strength, you can try and play heavier gauge strings. I prefer medium gauge strings, but nonetheless, you can check out the products above and pick the gauge level you prefer for yourself.
Anyway, this is another factor that affects the overall playability of your guitar. If you’re interested in how string gauge affects the tone, fret buzz, action height, intonation and playability, I recommend you to check out the article from this page about it, here.
Neck curvature affects the action height. As you already know, action height affects the playability.
However, neck curvature affects the action height. It’s all connected! Neck curvature is setup by truss rod adjustments. Truss rod is acting as a counter tension on a guitar neck.
Strings are exerting tension to your guitar’s neck in one direction. Truss rod is making a tension to your guitar’s neck in an opposite way.
That way a guitar neck is maintained stable. But, if this counter tension is too strong, neck my be bent too much in one direction. The same goes in the situation when the counter tension is too weak.
One way makes string action too low (too strong truss rod adjustment), while other way makes string action too high (too weak truss rod adjustment).
Make sure you adjust your truss rod properly. Again, if you’re not experienced, give your guitar to some professional who will perform needed adjustments properly and correctly.
Nuts are small, and yet very important parts for every guitar. Every nut has its dimensions. It is important that your guitar nut fits your guitar perfectly.
Guitar nut has also its nut slots. Each string pass from fretboard to its tuning post via its nut slot.
Often, those nut slots need lubrication. The key thing is to maintain every nut slot lubricated, to eliminate as much friction force as possible.
Why is that important?
If nut slots are not smooth enough, each time you tune or bend your string, there will be a problem. Bending will get harder to perform, and tuning stability of your guitar will worsen. Overall, it affects the playability!
I have Graphtech guitar nut on one of my acoustic guitars. (You can put it on electric guitar, also). It is impregnated with PTFE, the material which makes tuning stability of your guitar more stable; also it makes strings vibrate more.
Anyway, I recommend you to check the article from this page about these issues:
Sometimes the playability of the guitar you’re playing can be affected by your subjective assessment.
We, humans, are irrational beings (nothing bad about it!) and we tend to like one guitar more than other, just because it arouse a specific emotions in ourselves.
I remember myself when I got my first acoustic guitar. Before that, I’ve been playing a classical guitar. Acoustic guitar was something new for me, and I always thought that my classical guitar is easier to play than an acoustic one.
Over time, I have realized that this was just my subjective assessment that played part in my reasoning.
That acoustic guitar was in no way whatsoever harder to play than my classical guitar. Anyway, our characteristic subjectivity can make us feel one way or another, so keep that in mind.
If you don’t maintain your guitar, it will become less playable. Poor maintenance can cause a million issues in the long run.
For example, it is extremely important to monitor relative humidity level in the room. Both high and low humidity can hurt your guitar badly. Low humidity can cause wood shrinkage that can consequently cause fret sprout.
Anyway, read more about this issue in the article from this page, here.
Humidity can change the shape of your guitar’s body and neck, which can affect its playability. Therefore, it’s not advisable to leave your guitar anywhere you want, like in a car. (See: Can You Leave Your Guitar In A Car?)
Hard case is the best place to put your guitar in. It will provide the best possible protection against external threats, like temperature, humidity, sunlight etc.
Also, strings can rust and corrode, which will definitely affect their playability. It is much harder to play on a corroded or rusted string. (See: Protect Your Guitar Strings From Rust And Corrosion: 6 Essential Tips)
Maintenance is important if you want to keep your guitar alive and playable. Take care of your guitar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Guitars Are Easier To Play?
Electric guitars are easiest to play. They have a narrow neck, which makes playing barre chords much easier and much more comfortable.
Also, they have thinner strings and lower action height. These subtle details make an electric guitar much easier to play than acoustic or classical guitar.
Acoustic guitars have wider neck than electric guitars. Also, they have slightly higher action. It’s slightly harder to bend a string on an acoustic guitar than it is on a electric guitar.
Classical guitars have wide neck, wider than necks of acoustic or electric guitars. Also, bending a string on a classical guitar is very hard. But that’s not really an issue, since a classical guitar is made to play classical music. Bending is not something you hear a lot in classical music.
Every guitar type is made for specific style. I would say that, yes, electric guitar is easiest guitar to play, but on the other hand, it’s not easy to play something that’s not meant to be played on an electric guitar (for example, classical guitar).
Are Small Guitars Easier To Play?
Small guitars can be easier to play if you have small hands. Therefore, small guitars can be suitable for children.
But it all depends on your preference in the end. If you like to play on big guitars, then perhaps those are easiest to play for you. And vice versa.
How Can I Make My Guitar Easier To Play?
To make your guitar easier to play, you must first examine it thoroughly. See the text above where the most factors that can affect the playability are described.
If you’re not experienced enough, take your guitar to professional service. They will know what to do, and they will do what needs to be done properly.
Are Wide Neck Guitars Easier To Play?
Wide neck guitars are easier to play when you want to play classical music. If you want to play some powerchord, fast rhythm rock or metal music, than you’ll have a hard time doing it.
Here, we come to the end of this article. If you found the answer on the question you’ve been looking for, than I’m more than happy about it.
Some guitars are easier to play, and there are a lot of factors affecting it.
I hope you found some valuable information on how to make your guitar more playable. So, let’s recap.
- neck width
- scale length
- fret type
- action height
- string type
- string gauge
- neck curvature
- nut adjustment
- subjective assessment
- general maintenance
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles from this page regarding guitar care.
Cheers, and rock on!