Question: How hard should I be pressing the string against the fret?

Here’s a question that I was asked today from my student Paul:

“How hard do you press on the strings? When I watch you play chords, it seems like you are barely exerting any force at all, and I seem to be mashing the strings?”

To me, it feels like I’m barely exerting any force to get the chords to ring out nicely. That’s because, after years of practice, my hands are especially conditioned to play guitar. Since my hands are more conditioned to play guitar, it takes less effort for me to play chords than it does for a beginner.

As a beginner, you probably feel like you have to press pretty hard to get a clean sound. Beware, however, that sometimes beginners press harder than they need to. Try backing off on the pressure a little bit. If the strings start to buzz, than apply slightly more pressure until the buzz goes away.

You should continually monitor your finger pressure and relax as much as possible until the buzzes start to creep in. You’ll find that as you mature as a player, you’ll need to exert yourself less and less.

Why is it so important to press the string only as hard as you need to eliminate the buzzing? Here’s why:

  • It helps you move quicker. Guitar playing requires moving fluidly from one note to another. You can’t do that effectively if you’re tense.
  • It helps you sound better. The harder you press a string, the sharper the note gets. That makes you sound out of tune and that’s makes you sound bad in a hurry.
  • It helps you play longer. If you over-exert, your hand will cramp or fatigue faster than it should.

One more note: keep your fingers as close to frets as possible. The closer the fingers are to the frets, the less pressure it takes to make the notes ring true.

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit

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