Fingers Hurt From Guitar Playing? What Can You Do About It?GuitarSpotting
Fingers Hurt From Guitar Playing? Common Causes & Solutions
Many people learning how to play guitar quickly encounter a very annoying problem: their fingers hurt from guitar practice. As if learning to play wasn’t hard enough already!
Consider it a rite of passage – we’ve all been there.
Playing a guitar can definitely lead to sore fingers and hands, especially for beginners. We’ll go through some of the reasons why it happens in this article, and what you can do about it.
Fear not, brave but sore-fingered lover of stringed musical instruments, there is good news on the horizon: the pain usually doesn’t last very long.
Learning to Play Guitar?
Here are some articles you may be interested in:
- Learn to Play Guitar Online – The best way to learn guitar online in 2017.
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- Guitar Tips for Beginners – 7 tips for beginner guitarists.
I’ve Got Blisters On My Fingers
If you’re learning to play guitar, your hands are working overtime. All at once, you’re training your fingers to form chord shapes, move from one chord to another quickly, eliminate muted strings and buzzing, and learn proper strumming patterns.
All this usage often leads to finger and hand pain, which can be extremely frustrating. Plus, it really hurts!
It is perfectly normal, though. Your fingers and hands are performing tasks they’re not used to doing, and it can take a while to adjust.
One of the most common issues is pain in the fingertips from pressing down too hard on the strings.
The good news is that after you’ve been playing for a while, you’ll start to form callouses. They’re basically a tough, thick bit of skin on the tips of your fingers, which feel (and look) a little rougher and harder than they did before. And once you’ve got ’em, suddenly you’ll feel little or no pain when forming those chords.
But how long does it take to build callouses?
It’s different for everyone, and also depends on how much you practice and play. But you should expect less pain after a week or two, and have fully-formed callouses after about a month (sometimes sooner).
Hand In My Pocket
While you’re waiting for callouses to form, there are a couple of other factors to consider:
Are you overdoing it? – If you’re playing for long stretches of uninterrupted time, you may be making the situation worse by not pacing yourself. Take a short break every now and then to give your fingers a little rest. Once the pain calms down, you can get back to rocking out.
Check Your Action – Sometimes the strings are set a little too high off the fretboard, requiring extra pressure to press and hold them down. You could get a guitar setup, and have the strings lowered. This can be done at any guitar shop, or at home (there are videos on YouTube that will show you how to do it).
Try Lighter Strings – Another option is to consider moving to light-gauge strings (if you’re using something heavier). They’re lighter and a little easier to press down on. This is much more of an issue with acoustic guitars.
Press to Play – Some people press down reeaallyy haaaard when forming chords. It’s only natural to want to prevent buzzing, and make those chords sounds great. But it could also be giving you sore fingertips.
You can test this by checking your chords.
First, form a chord with your left hand, press down really hard, and play a chord. It should sound clean. Now press down very lightly, and strum another chord. You will likely encounter some buzzing, perhaps muted strings, and an overall poor sounding chord.
Next, test by applying varying amounts of pressure.
Find the sweet spot where you’re pressing down just hard enough to make excellent sounding chords, but not hard enough to hurt your fingers.
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re placing your fingers further up in each fret, just before the bar to the next fret. Less pressure is needed in this spot to make the strings ring out perfectly than if your fingers are located in the middle or the back end of the fret.
Callouses will form naturally over time, but if you’re experiencing pain in the early going, one trick is to soak your fingertips in apple cider vinegar for 20-30 seconds just before and after playing. This will basically numb the pain so that it’s less noticeable and, well, painful.
Some guitarists swear that dipping your fingers in rubbing alcohol 2 or 3 times a day during the first couple of weeks will dehydrate the skin in your fingerstips enough to help you build callouses faster. Legend has it that Eric Clapton does this prior to every tour.
Others soak their fingers in saltwater instead, to get a similar result.
Also, keep your fingernails trimmed to help callouses form faster and easier.
And if you’re really impatient (or this is a recurring problem), you can consider purchasing a Liquid Callous Formula (Click to View on Amazon).
For most people, time heals all wounds. Just be patient, and give your fingers time to toughen up. It’ll get A LOT easier once you’ve built up those callouses.
Lay Your Hands On Me
Many beginners who experience sore fingers from playing guitar also sometimes notice an aching pain in their hands or wrists. After all, curling your fingers together to form chords is an awkward thing to do, especially when they’re not used to it.
Of course, taking short breaks is essential. However, another thing you should be doing (every time you practice, if possible), is giving your fingers and hands a “warm up” before picking up the guitar.
Do some finger stretching exercises to help prevent feeling pain or numbness. This will also give you some extra dexterity for easier finger movement as your overall guitar playing improves.
Here’s a YouTube video with some sample finger stretching exercises for guitarists:
Fingers On It
Now that you’ve got your fingers on it, hopefully you can fix this problem and get back to, um, whatever it is you do with your guitar. 🙂
It’s never a bad idea to stretch your fingers and hands before practicing guitar.
Also, don’t keep your hands in water for too long, especially right before playing. Simple things like using latex gloves when washing dishes can really make a difference.
Most likely, all you need is time.
Finger and hand pain is definitely frustrating to deal with, but pretty much every new guitarist experiences it. If you’re feeling a lot of pain or your hand is cramping up, definitely take a break.
If the pain feels unnatural or you think you may have injured yourself, have a doctor take a look at it.
And always take care of your hands – they’re kind of important when playing guitar!
Now check out this tune by the criminally underrated Enuff Z’Nuff, and then it’s time to get back to guitar practice!
You’re still here? It’s over. Go practice guitar!