I'm going to be doing a single act playing acoustic guitar. I've been practicing at least an hour a day and my fingers and arm still hurt so much that I can't play much more than that. I'm already using very light strings so that is probably not the answer. It does seem to be getting a bit better but a full night of playing seems a long way off.

The question is, how long before I can comfortably play a gig with 3 one-hour sets?
Tune down 1/2 step to improve playability and use 0.10 superlight acoustic strings. We usually practice in 3 hr sessions so a 3 hr gig is no biggie. 5 hr gigs are still tough for me as I do a lot of string bends on blues tunes.

Edit: I just checked out your tracks. Nice stuff. We are cut from much the same cloth.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Jun 5, 2014,
Sounds like you're using way too much pressure when you play. Do some basic warm ups and left hand drills and focus on applying as little pressure as you need, and keeping unused fingers relaxed.

If you have an old or cheap acoustic guitar, the neck is susceptible to warping and making the action way too high (distance between strings and fretboard). You might be able to get it fixed at a guitar shop, if that's the case.
@killaudio666 quit playing like a neanderthal and learn some proper technique

As cdgraves said, it really doesn't take that much pressure to push down the strings. Of course, full barre chords on an acoustic with big strings and high action will always wear you out quickly, but on a well set up guitar it just comes down to technique once you've been playing long enough to have developed the needed muscle.

Try relaxing your hand completely and then slowly applying the tiniest amount of pressure to push down the string until it's just enough to make the note ring out clearly with no buzzing. Concentrate on that feeling and really practice maintaining that feeling the whole time you're playing.

The more difficult the passage the more prone you will be to tensing up, which will actually make it harder to play. Usually this means that you need to practice the part at really slow speeds until your muscle memory takes over and you can play it effortlessly. This is part of the process of learning difficult material. You shouldn't focus on speed when learning something difficult, but focus on playing it extremely slowly so that you don't tense up and you have time to think about each note. Once you know the part perfectly and have it in muscle memory you won't have any problem speeding it up and maintaining that loosey goosey feeling.

It's just another one of the aspects of guitar that takes practice and actively paying attention to it until it becomes second nature. I could literally play all day long with no pain or discomfort whatsoever (unless playing standing up in which case the strap starts killing my back after an hour or so, or playing nothing but full barre chords on my cheap acoustic for 30 minutes.)

This is also very important if you don't want to end up with carpal tunnel in a few years. Remember, it's not about how hard you're pressing down, it's about how accurate and in control of your fingers you are. My callouses on my fingers aren't even that crazy anymore (I still have some) like when I'd only been playing for a couple of years because I'm not pushing hard enough to need them. It seems like the better I get the less distinctive my callouses are.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Jun 5, 2014,