Playing Guitar With Arthritis

Hello gman:

Just happened upon your site today.  Very good stuff.  I was wondering if you might have some suggestions on how to make playing easier for someone with arthritis in their hands.  Iíve been playing for 25 years (basic strumming, some light finger-picking, Neil Young-ish style of playing).  In the last 6 years Iíve developed serious arthritis in my hands (and elsewhere).  I can still play, but my mobility and strength is reduced, and my hands start to hurt after playing for a while.  It sucks, but it is what it is.

I recently bought a beautiful used guitar with a long scale length.  Too good a deal to pass up, and itís my first solid-wood guitar.  I love the sound, but it is harder to play than my old guitar.  I was thinking about putting lighter strings on it and maybe seeing if the action can be lowered some.  Is extra-light an option, or does that detract from the sound too much?  I would sacrifice some reduction in quality if it means I can play the thing more.

I would appreciate your thoughts.  Thanks for your time.


My first suggestion is go see a doctor to see what kind or relief you can get professionally.  See also if it's okay to persue playing.

Unfortunately some guitars are not easy to play sometimes. If it was before the fact, I would have suggested you getting a guitar with light strings and a short scale length.  You'll have to experiment to see if extra light sounds okay or not.  Depending on how bad things are, you might even need to go to a nylon string guitar.  Some smaller guitars and travel guitars are easier to play too especially if they have a short scale length.

Take your guitar to a good guitar tech and see if the setup can be improved.  There's nothing that can be done for the long scale length but the strings can be replaced to light or extra light and the action can be lowered.

Another idea would be to tune the guitar lower like to a D tuning and put a capo on the second fret.  This will reduce string tension and  guitar will be easier to play.  The frets will also be closer together.

Bob, Gman ( o )==#


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