Fret frustration!

Remember that it’s not just the nut width that matters. It’s the string separation too and that depends on how the nut has been cut. If the high and low E strings are a fraction closer to the centre of the fretboard all the strings will be closer together.


The strat neck width is also quite narrow. It’s 1.65 inches which is 42mm. Verses 1 3/4 nut width (as most Taylor acoustics (as one example)) have which is 44.45 mm.

That may seem like a small amount but it can make all the difference.


You’re comparing acoustics with electrics - acoustics, as you say, being your preference.

@garymck Are you looking at acoustics or just electrics with bigger / wider / thicker necks?

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How does fretboard radius factor in to this? The Classsic Vibe has a 9.5 radius. Isn’t the Gretsch 12”? Also, isn’t the Gretsch a short scale? Both of those could have an impact.

It seems all my guitars end up with 15” radius and regular scale, so I can’t really claim any experience about these differences.

Either way it’s still a matter of physical dimensions that affect how easy / hard it is to play. The type of playing also comes into it, I play a lot of fingerstyle so the wider strings at the saddle help me dig into the individual strings, something that’s not as important when strumming chords.

Radius gives more of an indication of how ‘flat’ the fretboard is under the fingers. The lower the number the more curvature there is from beneath one E string to the other.
Think of the curved surface of the fretboard as a short arc taken from a much larger circle - the radius refers to the imaginary circle it would sit within.

Now a close up of just two fretboards in cross-section.

The general wisdom around this is that a smaller radius favours chord playing at he expense of bending. Vintage Fenders had a 7.25" radius - great for chords but lead players found / find that bent notes can ‘choke’ due to the curvature. This led Fender to move to an increased radius of 9.5" - a happy compromise for both types of play. Other manufacturers opted for 12-16" on their guitars. Some ‘shred’ machines have upto 20" radius and are essentially flat. Classical guitars have very flat (and wide) necks - great for lots of fast note playing up and down, not so great for barre chords.

There are also different neck shapes to consider - which is the chunky bit your hand goes around.

This is very much a personal choice based on what feels good in your hand.

RE: scale length.

This is the measured distance between nut and saddles. For a given gauge of string at the same standard tuning, a guitar with a shorter scale length will have the strings at a lower tension, meaning that bending is made easier and pressing barre chords potentially easier too.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator


Thanks for all the replies - I’m looking at electrics only, as something else to try, I read about progressively trimming and filing fingernails to make them as short as possible. I’m going to see if I can get them even shorter than I have them now. I’ll let you know what happens once I’m able to see a teacher, hopefully this week - may be delayed as we had severe thunderstorms a few days ago and the music school got flooded out.

If this issue could lead to giving up guitar then the better option would be to switch to a guitar that is more comfortable for you.

However, if you want to stick to the current guitar, I want to give you some hope. :wink: I currently play guitars with narrow nuts - classic vibes and taylor gs mini. I had similar issues as you, but overtime my technique improved and narrow nut stopped being a problem. I also think that it makes some things easier.

Thanks kamkor, sorry you had similar issues, but glad you overcame them. I have to admit I did have a couple of moments where I thought about chucking it in, but decided to work through everything I could possibly try before giving in - I can be a persistent, some would say obsessive little %^cker :slight_smile: even at 70 years old…

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I’ve been practicing 30 minutes a day, 5-7 days per week, for almost 2 years now (following Justin’s curriculum) and my chording has finally started to get solid in the last 6 months. I’m currently working through grade 3.

It seemed like it took forever to get the chords clean, then one day, after about a year, it seemed as though my fingertips finally grew “eyes” and my fretting started to become good without me having to always think about it. The two things that helped the most were:

Chord Perfect: I still do this for every new chord I learn and still have this in my practice routine. I really focus on how subtle changes to my finger angles, thumb position, and wrist angle affect my hand comfort and the ease of fretting. Once I get a “grip” that works for me, I then focus on trying to keep the strings fretting clean with the least finger & thumb pressure possible. Squeezing more just causes my hand to tire more quickly, and I was SHOCKED to realize just how little pressure is really needed to fret a string. This was really a game-changer for me!

Perfect Fast Changes: I still do this to my 3 “worst” chord changes or the chord changes I need for whatever song I’m trying to learn.

Here’s my neck width story:
I was playing an electric guitar with a common 1.673” (42.5mm) nut width and was having so much trouble keeping adjacent fingers from grounding out strings that I searched for an electric with a “wide” neck. A long-distance friend of mine had the same guitar as mine, except his guitar’s nut was 1/16” wider. I decided I’d try his guitar the next time I visited (6 months away) and buy one like his if it was easier to play. Well, in the 6 months that I practiced until my visit, my chording became much better. When I finally tried his guitar, I struggled to play it because the strings felt like they were too far apart LOL!

I also thought I had “soft” fingertips. Keeping my nails cut as short as possible over the last 2 years has definitely made my nails retract a bit, so I no longer feel like my nails are hitting the fretboard before the string is properly fretted. Over the last 2 years, my callouses have actually changed from small hard spots on the fingertips into an overall firm cap on each fingertip. This took about 6 months for me.

If the Gretch is easier for you to play, inspires you to play, and you can afford it, go for it! Anything you can do to make playing more fun is worth it. Just realize that as you progress, you may find a time when you wish the strings were closer together (I never thought I’d say that LOL) and go back to the Strat.

Hope this Helps,



For me, the electric guitar is for lead and solo, so the strings getting closer is actually easier for the finger to move around fast. And the fretting finger needs to mute the adjacent strings, so again close is better.

Thank you Fast-Eddie for the detailed explanation of your experiences. Perhaps I have had too high an expectation of myself…your story has given me some hope! I am booked in for my first lesson tomorrow, and I think the combination of real life teacher as well as online lessons will give me some perspective…as well as stop me prom developing any bad habits.

Thanks and welcome to the community @Fast-Eddie ! That was a helpful response.
Also thanks @Richard_close2u for a great summary of information!

My answer of course is that any solution that involves buying a new guitar is a good one!:wink:

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When I started playing 1 year ago my fingers hurt a lot and I tried to solve the problem by changing my 10-50 strings to 9-42 or 9-46, but what happened is that as my fretting wasn’t very accurate, the thinner strings kind of escaped under my fingers and caused that the notes I played were off pitch. I changed back to 10-50 strings and of course the finger pain is long gone.

I relate to this conundrum. I much prefer the feel of thicker strings under my fingers, but they are also harder to play, at least at this early stage of learning.

The thinner string felt like they would cut into my fingers (not literally, of course) and were less comfortable.

I have 11s on my electrics now and one of them is tuned down half a step. I need to do that to the other as well, they are just a little too much. I like the flat tuning and it makes the thicker strings easier to manage.

On my acoustic I have low tension (Straight up Strings) 12s. These are pretty good and I don’t want to tune down the acoustic. I tried regular 12s and low tension 13s but too much.

I would almost recommend a beginner to try a crossover nylon. That is super sweet under the fingers, but isn’t quite right for a lot of rock and metal rhythm playing. Since that is apparently not my bag (baby), it works for me, but I am afraid I will go soft I’m the fingertips!

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@garymck Hey gary, how did it go with the teacher?

In short, the teacher saved me from giving up. I had been practicing consistently and getting nowhere fast. The teacher looked at what I could do, showed me that I could in fact, do more than I thought I could. I had real trouble with rhythms and chording at the same time. He set me some exercises to practice, gradually making them more and more complex. He got me to slow down the beats until I got chord changes better. The practice was boring, but challenging at the same time, but it produced results. Last lesson he threw me a couple of unfamiliar rhythms, and I picked them up straight away!! He then got me doing some hard chords (G and modern C), and started teaching me some Beatles songs primarily to practice rhythm and 4 chords that allow a wide range of songs to be played. I have also been set practice of arpeggios to program the muscle memory of my strumming hand for string picking. As a teacher he is great at analysing strengths and weaknesses - without him I honestly would have given up.

That is not to say Justin’s course is not good, it is, I am a subscriber to the android version of his app. Online though cannot tell you how to fix a problem, you need someone to help you at the early stages. until you have enough knowledge to work out a problem yourself. I’m sure I will now zip through the online course, much, much faster than I otherwise would have on my own.



Thanks for the update, Gary.

Nothing wrong with blending a face-face teacher with use of Justin’s online lessons. Glad he helped you sort some things out and make progress.

Keep on keeping on and look forward to hearing your play in due course.

That’s a really cheery update Gary - thanks for the insight and it’s great you have a new found belief and commitment to keep going. :slight_smile:

Sounds like good news all round Gary. Thanks for sharing.