Posted by: worshipguitarguy | July 29, 2007

Guitar Tip of the Day

This tip came from my good friend Eric, who is a progressive rock guitarist in an area band. 

“Whenever, I work on new lead riffs for songs we’ve written, I like to practice those riffs first on an acoustic guitar.  The reason is it’s much harder to play on an acoustic  so you build up hand strength and dexterity.  Once you can play the riff smoothly on an acoustic, move to an electric, and watch how easy it is to play.”

Following Eric’s advice, it’s really good if you have slightly heavier gauge strings on your acoustic.  For me, I play with “10’s” on my electric and “13’s” on my acoustic.  Plus the action on my acoustic is higher than on my electric. 

Lately, I’ve been doing this in my practice time, and am impressed by how well it works.



  1. Heyyy Gerry! This is something you and I have discussed for quite awhile, I’m glad you finally posted something about it. I can’t begin to tell you just how beneficial the acoustic-to-electric method has been to me. Even in general practice and songwriting, it’s a great way to build up your stamina. Just playing on an acoustic with strings the same gauge as the strings on your electric help out tremendously, but using heavier strings on an acoustic (like you mentioned in the post) is a great way to speed along the process. I can’t tell you how many solos or tricky passages I’ve created and perfected on an acoustic before even trying it on an electric.

    Starting off on an acoustic is also a wonderful way to learn how to play cleanly. I often find myself lagging in technique thanks to the masking powers of heavy distortion. A missed note here or there is usually undetectable with a certain amount of gain or overdrive, but working out solos and riffs on an acoustic trains your hear and fingers to recognize and perfect every note.

    I’m glad to hear that my simple little trick has helped you as much as it’s helped me. Keep on rockin’!

  2. That’s some great advice. Another thing that I’ve found very useful is to learn/practice leads on a classical guitar. The strings may be easier to press, but the classical guitars typically have wider necks and larger frets, so you have to stretch for many notes. It’s a great way to loosen up.

  3. I learned on an acoustic and had been playing it for about 6ish years before finally buying an electric so I can relate to this post!

    The only issue I have is I’m so used to over-compensating for the acoustic that I often accidentally bend notes when playing the electric

  4. Very good advice, I do that quite often. I have an unrelated question for you, though: My guitar (a Gibson Les Paul Classic Antique) tends to buzz very slightly when I’m not touching the strings or anything metal, such as the bridge or tuners. You don’t hear the buzz much unless your amp is up to about 6…it does this with several amps and cords. I have another guitar that does the same thing, but it doesn’t really concern me, because it’s old and I’ve actually had to resoilder some of it’s wiring. Anyways, I was pretty sure that it was just a grounding problem, until I called the store I got it from, and they told me it was normal and that all guitars did that. Then my friend brought his Epiphone LP over and it was perfectly silent. I took my guitar to a music store, and they couldn’t get an audible buzz (but I suspect that the guy’s arm may have been resting on the bridge, and he didn’t know it). I took my guitar to a friend’s house, and it hardly buzzed at all there (well, it hardly buzzes at my house, but it was less there). I live in a new house, his is alot older, so I don’t think its my house’s wiring. The tone controls aren’t grounded (one of the guys at the music store popped the back off). Is that normal? I also noticed that when I touch the metal on my amp (I have a Peavey Classic 30, the controls are on a chrome plate, I can also notice this if I touch any of the screws near the speaker, or even the metal near the amp’s handle) the sound is dampened. When I step on my cable, it dampens the buzz, too. Any ideas? I’m not that concerned with getting rid of the buzz, I’m more concerned with knowing if my guitar has a problem. Thanks.

  5. P.S. My pickups are uncovered Gibson 57 Classics, if that helps. My friend has covered pickups. Also, the buzz changes character if I swith to the neck pickup only, or if I change the tone controls.

  6. Hmm, Mac this is an area that I’m a little “lacking in understanding” if you will… It does sound like there may be some issues with grounding by the problems your mentioning, but I’m not sure…

    Let’s see if we can get some other guys to chime in on the!

  7. Mac – I agree w/ your instincts; this has “ground problem” written all over it… you’re becoming the ground when you touch it / step on the cable / touch the amp / etc; that’s why the hum goes away.

  8. Re: acoustic v. electric… funny this comes up; I just lived the flip side of this thing last week.

    I pretty much NEVER pick up my acoustic. I just don’t play it. I’ve had some arthritis problems over the last few years, and the bigger strings on the acoustic are tough for me.

    We did an “unplugged” set last week at church, and I just played straight rhythm on acoustic. It was all I could do to get through the set; I thought my left hand was going to melt…

    So… don’t put the acoustic down for too long… it’s tough to pick it back up.

  9. I’m a piano/synth player, and this topic applies to keys as well. I’m of the progrock persuasion too, and find myself writing wailing, lightning-fast leads I cannot play without practice. (While I don’t tend to wail like this so much during a P&W set at our church, the practice techniques still apply.)

    Over the years, I’ve done the same thing on keys as is being suggested here for the guitar players: practice on something “heavier” than you intend to use for the final product. So when I need to learn a crazy miniMoog solo, I practice on a real piano, or at least a heavy, weighted keyboard (like my PC-88). And I make myself stay OFF the sustain pedal. This is certainly a great workout, and it seems to develop the muscle memory more quickly than unweighted synth practice alone. (I’m not sure — has muscle memory been discussed here?)

    I think Eric mentioned above that practicing without effects really helps, too. In synth land, we have so many effects at our disposal, it’s ridiculous. And for that matter, many of the sound patches that come with modern synths simply have huge sustain built into their envelopes, regardless of whether any reverb or delay is enabled. All these sustain- and repeating-based effects will mask your precision (or lack of).

    Once you’ve learned the technical fingering, and can play it precisely and with FEELING on the piano, next try going back to the unweighted synth, BUT practice it on a harpsichord patch without any effects enabled. I personally HATE doing this, as it exposes so many timing mistakes, but let me tell you, it’s worth the effort in the end. The cool thing about a harpsichord (and a proper harpsichord patch on a synth that reacts to release velocity) is that you clearly hear when you’re *releasing* your notes as well. Again, try to stay off the sustain pedal as much as possible, as it allows you to cheat.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me hijacking this “guitar tip” topic. 🙂

  10. Thanks for your thoughts Tartan!

  11. Just found the site – good stuff!

    I can’t say I recommend stringing the acoustic with 13s and setting the action high. You’ll be working a lot harder than you need to, misdirecting energy into physically playing rather than making music. If your lead contains three-fret bends or tapping, you just won’t be able to do than on acoustic.

    However, I should note that my main guitar is an acoustic strung with 10s and action like buttah. 🙂

  12. Gday everybody!

    Awesome site!

    If anyone is considering changing to a higher string gauge on acoustic, make sure that you get your truss rod in order, otherwise your neck will bow with the heavier tension. it’s always good to have your guitar set up well, it will hopefully make your guitar last in the long run. Also, it I know for me , that a well-set up guitar is a joy to play.

    If your tools are maintained, it makes it easier to do the “job”.

  13. cool

  14. For Mac,
    Have the ground on you amp checked. Try eliminating effect pedals one at a time, put back the ones that make no difference. I would also check around town to find another person to ask besides the store you mentioned. It really does sound like a ground/shielding issue with the guitar. Very few rigs are truely “dead silent”. Even the pros have a little buzz from time to time.

  15. Very nice tip, thanks! I rarely use electric guitar, tend to love the acoustic one and I really felt some kind of easiness when I play an electric guitar.


  16. Great tip! I’ve been doing that for quite some time already and it really helps a lot. Thanks!

  17. Great lesson! I have a e-book where you can download from that will teach for beginners to play a guitar for the first time. This is ebook is so great! Try to download it.

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