Beginner pressing the strings too hard - help

I’m in grade 1 module 5 at present. Mostly going well and I feel I’m improving. The biggest issues I’m having right now are that even though my finger tips have hardened, I’m pressing way too hard on the strings with my fret hand and the finger tips still hurt. This generally gets worse during moments of harder strumming, where I feel I need to also press down the strings harder. I keep telling myself this isn’t necessary, but easier said than done. It’s reducing my enjoyment of playing and I’m sure the chord changes could be faster and more fluid if I wasn’t wasting energy in my hand to press down the strings too hard.

Any suggestions?

My other main problem at the moment is changing strumming patterns. Not too difficult to learn one pattern, but switching between 2 different patterns to play along to different songs is challenging for me.

Hi Ian , I think this is quite common as a beginner as I know I had a similar problem when I started. With more experience you do learn a better touch and press more lightly.
You also might want to check the action on your guitar? If you play acoustic and the action is high then you need to press harder to get a clean note.
Hope this helps.


I have an electric and I think the action is set quite well (although I don’t have anything to compare it with). I think its just me pushing down way too hard.

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We’ve probably all been there - the tension in your body when you’re just starting to learn translates into a death-grip with your fretting hand.

You can probably help it by consciously trying to relax, and by practising strumming quite hard not worrying about the rhythm but experimenting to see how little pressure you can get away with on the frets. Disconnecting your hands so that strumming hard doesn’t cause squeezing hard is something that comes with practise.

The other thing that will be causing it is that you aren’t yet able to strum without thinking (it comes eventually with practise) and so you’re completely focussed on your strumming hand and don’t realise until you stop that you’ve been grinding the strings into the fingertips of your fretting hand! Try doing your strumming practice with your fretting hand just flat across the strings to mute them rather than holding down a chord, then you can concentrate on the strumming for as long as you need to without hurting your fingertips.


Hi Ian,
What you’ve described I think we’ve all been through and imo is very much a question of playing through it, as you progress all this stuff will fall into place and will become more and more natural and therefore easier on your hands!

It’s very good however that you’ve noted the issued and with identification being the fist step, your sub-conscious will already be figuring it out as a consequence of that.


Recognizeable issue.

When I was learning, the “pressing down real hard” creeped into my technique and as soon as I played another guitar which wasn’t my Strat but had higher frets, I pressed all my notes sharp.

You’ll have to confront yourself by going to the other end;
Try, slowly, to press down a chord grips AS LIGHT as you can until it all sounds mutted and muffled.
gently re-apply a bit of pressure until the moment most of the strings sound decently again.

learn to VARY pressure that way.
Now you only have one setting: MAX
before reaching a light touch, you probably need to feel what trying to dose it feels like
You’ll have to develop a sense of consciousness for it, as now it is already in your “auto-pilot”


You don’t need to worry about this to much at this stage. When you feel ready to start your journey into rythem Justin’s Strumming course covers just that. Extremely worthwhile when your ready.


First off Ian, as others have said this is common. I experience it on the very rare occasions I go to play an electric that has tall frets.
Firstly, train your fingers to feel the necessary pressure to achieve single notes on single strings by just playing one note at a time across your guitar from 1st to 6th strings. Press the string gently, gently, gently until you hear the note. Yo will be surprised how little pressure it takes. Do this repeatedly - say one minute per day for several weeks.

Remove some variables that present your problem in context. Immediately after the finger pressing routine (above) play some simple strumming, using a soft and not too complex strumming pattern. Reduce the complexity so you can focus on hearing good notes from good finger pressure.


I had this same problem, and it caused me to quit guitar 25 years ago. The training that Richard and LievenDV suggest REALLY WORKS!! You need to train your brain to believe that pressing harder isn’t necessary.

Before, I couldn’t play for more than 5 minutes before my fingers ached so bad I had to stop. Now, I can easily play for over an hour.

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Thanks a lot for all the advice. I’ll try and exercises suggested and let everyone know how it goes.

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Ian, great advice already given. What I’d add is also try teloling yourself what is necessary, what you want to do, rather than what you don’t want.

Everyone has been though this, so you are not alone. Wringing the neck out of the guitar is something we all do. Everyone has given great advice. Basically slow down (going too fast makes you leap for the next chord and hang on for dear life). Get your fingers used to how much pressure is used by varying the amount you press on the strings. One day you will naturally be able to push light enough to be fluid and not tire or cramp your hand.

Hi Ian. If you haven’t already, changing to lighter strings (on my to do list for this weekend) might help. In my case I’m hoping it’s going to prompt a almost subconscious transition to less of a death grip, and certainly help with reducing finger fatigue.

At the moment I find my chord change exercises start to get sloppy coming up to the minute mark as the hand tension builds. Interestingly I’ve just done a 15 minutes of slow deliberate chord practice - fret, check, squeeze, and if good release into a fist and go again. If not as soon as hitting a muddy string releasing and shaking it out. Fingers were only just starting to get fatigued at the very end.

Don’t allow tension to build is my take away from that.