Like many of you, I am primarily an electric guitarist. So when situations arise that require me to play acoustic guitar for more than half an hour or so, I know my left hand is in for it.
The good news is that I’ve discovered a few hacks that make playing the acoustic guitar easier on my left hand, which I present to you now.
1. Tune Down
Acoustic strings are heavier than electric strings (lights are usually 12s on acoustic), so tuning down can relieve some string tension. This makes the strings on your acoustic feel more like an electric under your fingers. A full step down is usually plenty (D G C F A D). Plus, you run the risk of floppy, uncontrollable strings if you go too much lower than that.
2. Use a Capo/Avoid Bar Chords
The capo is a wonderful thing. Use it. There is no point in killing your hands on a tune in Bb when you could put a capo on the 1st fret and play it in A. On a related note, avoid 5 and 6-string bar chords if at all possible. They are left hand killers on acoustic guitar.
3. Learn One or Two-Finger Chord Voicings
By learning to use a capo and open strings to your advantage, you can play through tunes using chord voicings that only require one or two left hand fingers. They may not be your favorite sound, but in a situation where you’re playing acoustic for hours on end, they can become your new best friends.
4. Experiment with Alternate Tunings
Sometimes a little work with an alternate tuning can make life a lot easier as an acoustic guitar player. Some classic alternate tunings to try out are Drop D (D A D G B E), Drop C/G (C G D G B E), DADGAD, Open D (D A D F# A D), Open E (E B E G# B E), and Open G (D G D G B D). Pick one and see what you can come up with.
5. (BONUS!) Use Finger Weights
No. Don’t. Those are ridiculous.
I hope this tip saves your hands next time you have a long session with acoustic guitar.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts, ideas or comments. What are some tricks that you have found that make acoustic guitar easier on the hands?