Chord Formation on Acoustic vs Electric Guitars

Hi all,

This may be a bit of a ramble - apologies in advance! I’m a returning beginner, been playing regularly for about 10 months. I’ve been on my acoustic, and recently took the plunge and bought an electric (a not-heavy Epiphone 1961 Les Paul SG Standard) after trying all of the usual styles I could get my hands on. I’d read that electrics are “easier” to play for various reasons, but lighter strings are usually cited. It certainly seems one doesn’t have to press the strings as hard! I’m having a blast with my new guitar but - I’ve noticed a couple challenges:

  • I have a really bad tendency to bend the strings! My pinky on the big G slipped right off the fingerboard the first time I played :flushed:, others are not that bad but I can tell I’m still bending many. Am I still pressing the strings to hard? I noticed this when I was trying out various guitars, but naively thought I’d adjust easily.

  • Chord changes that I thought I’d gotten pretty good at on the acoustic are a whole new challenge on the electric. I guess things are just in a slightly different place on a different guitar!

  • This isn’t really related to chord formation I think, but I’m also having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to hold the guitar, how to adjust the strap, where to keep my elbow…my shoulder/arm seems to fatigue pretty quickly. I practice sitting…for giggles I tried standing up and that was even more confusing! I’ll tackle that in the future.

I’m taking it slowly, and focusing on putting just enough pressure on the strings, with the tips of my fingers, keeping the pressure as close to perpendicular to the fingerboard as I can. Also trying to observe where my elbow is when my shoulder starts bothering me and moving it to a more neutral position. There are lots of chord perfect and 1-minute changes in my life these days! My SG has a fairly flat neck - 12in radius - I can’t even imagine playing a smaller-radius neck like a Stratocaster right now!

I’m guessing my experience is not unusual, but I’ll still ask: has anyone else experienced these or other challenges when first learning to play an electric? Any advice? Hoping this will become less of a problem as my skills improve. I’ve only had my new guitar for a week, but it already seems that practicing the same songs and exercises on both guitars is beneficial! Oh, and fun. :smiley:

First thought: you’re pressing down too hard.
You have a habit of pressing it very hard because of the work the acoustic needs.
add a little angle to that (even just a little) and you’re bending strings.

I had a similar problem, moving from a Fender Strat to a Gretsch, which had higher frets.
I had sharp notes because I was pressing down too hard. On the Fender it was no issue but on the Gretsch, there was more room to press down in and the string went noticeably short…thus giving me a higher pitched note.

Playing guitar is all about efficiency.
applying -just- enough pressure on the most efficient spot.
Too little and you’ll buzz, too hard and you waste energy, press notes untill they’re sharp or…like you, even bend them.

So, you have 2 things to work out now

  • managing pressure of pressing down
  • checking out whether the angle of your fingers is ok
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Are the nut width and scale length the same on the two guitars? If so this shouldn’t be a problem. You might just need to get used to a slightly different neck shape.

I started on an electric, so I had the opposite adjustment when I got an acoustic. Not finger placement, but having to press harder. And I still struggle with barre chords on the acoustic that I have no trouble with on the electric.

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I think the short answer is yes, others struggle with this and it takes adjustment time.

I changed my electric from 9s to 10s as I’ve got a bit of a heavier hand and found I was bending strings sharp.

It takes time - play accurately and build muscle memory.


Hi Mark,

Nut width is the same, scale length is a bit different: 25.5 on acoustic vs 24.75 on electric - which might be just enough to make a difference!


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Thanks Lieven. I’ll keep your two points top of mind as I practice.


It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this!


You’re absolutely not alone in this Judi. I’ve got a Gibson SG which came with 9’s. It’s got a shorter scale length than my acoustic which has 12’s.

When I first got it I couldn’t play anything without the notes going sharp. I changed the strings to 10’s which helped a bit but between the scale length and the lower action on the SG even now after several years I have to really concentrate on lightening my touch when moving between acoustic and electric.

Acoustic and electric are two completely separate beasts. :grinning:


I’m experiencing all of the same issues you’ve mentioned Judi as I only recently got my first electric, particularly bending the strings out of tune :grimacing: I’ve persevered with the 9’s but I’m definitely going to switch to 10’s to see if it makes a difference.

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I’ve recently gone the other way actually. Most of my learning to date has been with electric but have got myself an acoustic in the last couple of months. I’m relearning how hard to fret strings to not cause buzzing and also kind of adjust chord changes with lifting my fingers a little more to avoid squeaking too much!
So yes I can empathise, but as with all these things practice will build familiarity between tht instruments in my view.
All the best!


The SG is a fairly small body, so resting the arm whilst seated could well prove a problem - the opposite problem of having a large guitar, but still a problem!

The only thing I could suggest is to ensure that you play with bare arms, and allow the arm to touch the guitar body in as best a place you can find. Justin covers this in one of the beginner videos, and it is just about friction between the arm and guitar, so that you don’t have to support the weight of the arm in an awkward position.

The strap needs to be one that is fully adjustable, rather than the traditional leather style. Having the ability to adjust by a centimetre or two is somethign I have started to appreciate since getting mine (something off Amazon) and as already mentioned, time will allow you to adjust.

I have also found a chamois leather (the sort of thing used for cleaning cars) on the leg also prevents the guitar slipping about, which overwise made me try to support the guitar with my arm instead of resting the arm.


It’s good to know this really is a challenge!

@sairfingers and @Billca - I wish I could blame the strings, but both my acoustic and electric have 10s. The 10s on that SG feel like spider webs compared to the 10s on the acoustic!

@Notter - I’m not moving around much on the fretboard yet, but I’m with you on the squeaky strings on the acoustic. That makes my skin crawl, but I realize how difficult it is to avoid doing.

@AndyTake2 - Thank you for all those good observations and suggestions. The impact of the body size hadn’t even occurred to me - focused on my fretting arm as I have been!

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I never have the string squeak problem. Is it because of the strings, perhaps? I use Elixir phosphor bronze with the nano-web coating on my Taylor. I think coated strings are less susceptible to squeaking.

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I was just about to make a thread about this - I’m having the same problem. Just started playing on an electric yesterday and noticed a lot of my chords sounded just a little off.
I’m going to try to persevere with the 9’s some, but I’m interested to hear how trying 10’s goes