#1
Learning to play the guitar is a pursuit that can bring much fulfilment into your life.

Many people who start playing guitar eventually quit because learning to play the guitar can be seriously painful in the beginning.

Self-improvement is amazing and pushing through the pain of first learning the guitar can be really rewarding.

If you want to get really good at guitar you need to accept the fact that you are going to go through a little bit of pain, pain is good.

A bit of pain means that you are pushing yourself to your limits. Pushing yourself builds your skill on the guitar as with many other things in life.

You should be careful that your practice technique is not causing you more discomfort then is needed.

When you are starting out or trying to build your callouses again it can be useful to ease into your practice, play chords for a few minutes and then play some single note stuff and then go back to chords. Or split your practice sessions up over 15 minute periods through the day to give your fingers some time to rest.

The calluses that form after extended guitar playing are a natural side effect of playing the guitar, especially if you are playing an acoustic guitar with high action.

These calluses are usually temporary and can actually help you play guitar better.

When the tips of your fingers get harder it becomes easier to press down the string and easier to play for longer without your fingers getting sore or going numb.

If you are experiencing sore fingertips or numb fingers it is usually natural and nothing to worry about, just take a short break and play again in a few hours.

If you lose feeling in your fingers completely it could be another medical condition such as RSI and you should seek advice from a professional medical practitioner.

I am in no way a doctor and this article is just my advice from personal experience. You should always take the advice of your doctor over anything you read on the internet.

Playing a lot of guitar is going to make your fingers sore, that is just a fact. This is ok and a good thing. If you push through this phase your will feel a sense of accomplishment and come out the other side as a capable guitarist.

I do not want you guys to quit. I want you to push through the pain and become better guitarists. That is why I have made a short list of things that you can do to ease the pain and make your practice sessions more comfortable and something to look forward to. I you have anything to add to this list leave a comment and I will add it in.

1. Tweak your guitar.


Action is the distance between your strings and the fretboard, it can be adjust in many different ways on the guitar.

Your guitars action is the biggest contributing factor to finger pain after long periods of practising.

Lowering the action can make your guitar much easier and more comfortable to play but you must be careful because the lower the action the more fret buzz you will get on your strings.

You can lower the action by either adjusting the bridge height, truss rod, neck saddle or bridge saddle.

A combination of all these adjustments will get you the best action possible on your guitar.

You should try and find the perfect balance where you get no fret buzz at all but the strings are as close to the fretboard as possible.

If you do not know how to do this yourself feel free to take your guitar to your local music shop to have it adjusted.

2. Don’t press too hard


I know it sounds obvious but beginners tend to press down too hard on the frets while playing because they are trying hard to play the song.

Not only should you relax while practising to avoid bad posture and stiffness but you should relax your fingers so that they are only pressing down as hard as they need to.

Pressing down too hard will cause you more pain than is needed and will stop you from practising for as long as you could.

To check if you are pressing down too hard fret a chord as you normally would and release more and more on each strum until you find the point where the notes do not ring properly.

Try and always play your guitar at just above this strength to avoid unnecessary pain and joint pressure while still getting a good sound.

3. Build your calluses


After a few weeks of continuous playing you will start to develop a layer of hard skin on your fingers.

This layer of skin will take away this pain, you will also notice that your fingertips are less sensitive to heat and touch.

Be careful not to overdo it, if you play for many hours in a day you may develop blisters.

Blisters are very painful and can actually prevent you from playing for a while. If you do get a cut or blister clean it with benzine and put a plaster on it for a day or two.

There are also many other natural home remedies out there for blisters that you can try.

Once your calluses are properly formed they will stay with you as long as you practice regularly. Thanks to them your painful fingers will be a thing of the past.

4. Use the right strings


Using strings that are of a lighter gauge can really make it easier to play your guitar. Lighter gauge mean that they are thinner and therefore take less effort to press down.

Thicker gauge strings can be useful for a thicker heavier guitar tone but it is always a good idea to have a practice guitar with very light gauge strings handy.

You should also try playing with heavier strings or even get your hands on a bass guitar from time to time if you can.

There any many different types of strings or strings gauge combinations that you can uses, experiment and find what is best for you.

As with many things in life practice makes perfect. Playing guitar for at least an hour a day is way better for long term improvement then playing for 8 hours on the weekend.

Keep at it and eventually the finger pain will go away and you will really start enjoying the guitar for the beautiful instrument that it is.
Last edited by Victorgeiger at Jun 25, 2014,
#2
Good advice, Victor. What I've found helpful as well is that several shorter sessions during the day may work for some as opposed to one longer session. This allows your fingers to recover some without fatiguing them unnecessarily. As an older player (50 in a couple days), easing into my practice regimen works well for me.

For instance, I may practice 10-15 minutes, do something else for 30-60 minutes, and then come back for another 10-15 minute session. Eventually I'm building my finger strength, flexibility, and calluses for longer sessions.
I am a StarGeezer: some call me..."Tim."*

* - Heartfelt apologies to Monty Python for blatant plagiarism. Those responsible have been sacked.
__________

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#3
awesome advice for beginners, but try telling this to stevie ray vaughn.
"Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven."
-John Bunyan
#4
SRV was a freak of nature, God rest him. He was known to play until his fingertips fell off, then just glue 'em back on and keep on playing. That's uncommon dedication to one's craft.
I am a StarGeezer: some call me..."Tim."*

* - Heartfelt apologies to Monty Python for blatant plagiarism. Those responsible have been sacked.
__________

Epiphone G-400 "Goth"
Peavey Vypyr 75 Amp
#5
I've heard stories of people back in the day using super glue on the ends of their fingers to give a artificial callus. I'm not sure its true since I haven't been around very long but it sounds like it could be true haha.
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#6
Quote by Fallenoath
I've heard stories of people back in the day using super glue on the ends of their fingers to give a artificial callus. I'm not sure its true since I haven't been around very long but it sounds like it could be true haha.

It's true. A few people I play with used to do that for a while, and I think Joey Eppard still does it.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#7
Quote by Fallenoath
I've heard stories of people back in the day using super glue on the ends of their fingers to give a artificial callus. I'm not sure its true since I haven't been around very long but it sounds like it could be true haha.


In my experience candle wax is more common. I have myself used it and lots of players i know (regardless of instrument) have used it for gigs/practicing when their fingers are hurting. Just light a candle and wait for a fair amount of the wax to melt then dip your fingertips in it and wait for it to cool abit.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#8
We've all heard the stories of folks putting stuff on their fingers. Not sure I would take the chance, and for a couple of reasons. First off, it inhibits the growth of actual calluses, which is all these other substances is trying to replace anyway. And secondly, I wouldn't want to risk damaging the fingerboard, strings, etc. by possibly introducing a chemical reaction from the substance. Candle wax, for instance, sounds harmless enough but how long before it starts embedding in the lower strings and deadening the sound?

Sometimes the old (slow) ways are still the best ways.
I am a StarGeezer: some call me..."Tim."*

* - Heartfelt apologies to Monty Python for blatant plagiarism. Those responsible have been sacked.
__________

Epiphone G-400 "Goth"
Peavey Vypyr 75 Amp
#9
Quote by StarGeezerTim
We've all heard the stories of folks putting stuff on their fingers. Not sure I would take the chance, and for a couple of reasons. First off, it inhibits the growth of actual calluses, which is all these other substances is trying to replace anyway. And secondly, I wouldn't want to risk damaging the fingerboard, strings, etc. by possibly introducing a chemical reaction from the substance. Candle wax, for instance, sounds harmless enough but how long before it starts embedding in the lower strings and deadening the sound?

Sometimes the old (slow) ways are still the best ways.


Honestly, i have not been using it too often to find when it starts affecting the strings. I have actual calluses, i only use candle wax when i have a cut or blister on my finger, too ease the pain of putting the actual finger on the string. I play and teach music for a living, so even if i hurt my hands i need to be able to play without pain.

As said though, i have only done it for short periods of time, maximum two days in a row. And if you wipe your strings of with a cloth after playing it does not have an impact.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#10
I can see where necessity would maybe influence one's willingness to use wax. I sympathize, in fact...early last week, I managed to pinch my forefinger on my left hand in a vacuum and developed a blood blister that made it painful to play. It's all but healed now, but I lost a few days practice because of it.

So candle-wax, in moderation, one could probably get away with. So far as cyanoacrylate ("super glue"), I'd probably draw the line there. Not only would I not want it absorbed through my skin, but the long-term effects of that on metal, finish, etc. would likely not be in anyone's best interest so far as the value of the instrument is concerned. But that's just my opinion. I tend to be very conservative on things like that.
I am a StarGeezer: some call me..."Tim."*

* - Heartfelt apologies to Monty Python for blatant plagiarism. Those responsible have been sacked.
__________

Epiphone G-400 "Goth"
Peavey Vypyr 75 Amp
#11
I must agree with Tim on this one, super glue. Certainly not. Candle wax, perhaps but I personally have never used it and probably never will, play through the pain haha

On my trip to the local music store today I did see a few rolls of this stuff on the counter and remember trying it once when I just started playing.



It's actually pretty good. Some people use it to try and restore old strings. That is silly, you should just buy new strings. If you give your guitar strings a couple strokes with this stuff after every practice it leaves them clean and feeling amazing to play, It has a slight oily feel to it but apparently it is good for the fret board as well and keeps your strings sounding good for longer.

The only drawback, sometimes little bits of fluff get caught in your strings. Annoying lol.
#14
there is a niche market for everything...and some poor schmuck will buy it...(no offence to anyone on here that may have bought them... )
Last edited by Sephiroth976 at Jun 25, 2014,
#15
When is was younger i used to do Karate and would terrible blisters on my feet.My granny said rub surgical spirits on your soles every night, this worked a treat and helped build the calluses up.
#17
Quote by StarGeezerTim
SRV was a freak of nature, God rest him. He was known to play until his fingertips fell off, then just glue 'em back on and keep on playing. That's uncommon dedication to one's craft.


Don't know if it was a film or episode of a telly series, or maybe my sick and mildly psychopathic mind, but I'm pretty sure I remember seeing someone replacing a guitarist's strings with razor wire and his fingers dropping off when he started playing.

Does anyone else remember this or is this me showing my psychopathic tendencies..?

By the way, if any of you call me a psychopathic nutjob I'll kill you.