How To Toughen Fingertips For Guitar Playing?

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The early few weeks of learning the guitar can be quite painful. Your fingers are still soft and you find it really hard to press down on the strings. Sore fingers are a common occurrence. As you practice more you will eventually develop enough calluses on your fingertips that will eliminate this problem. But you want to develop them as early as possible.

In this article, I will provide you with several tips on how to toughen fingertips for guitar playing as early as possible.

So, if you are a beginner guitar player or just haven’t been playing the guitar for a while this article will help you to get your fingers into shape.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

How To Toughen Fingertips For Guitar Playing?

1. Start With An Acoustic Guitar

If you want to develop your finger calluses as fast as possible then start with a steel string acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars have higher guitar action and the strings are much thicker than electric guitars. Making them a bit more strenuous on your fingertips to play. And more strain equals more callus development. Learn more about the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners here.

Electric guitars are much easier to play and learn on due to thinner strings and lower action. When I’m talking about toughening up your fingertips then any bass guitar with standard strings will do the job also.

2. Modify Guitar Action

String Action Ruler Gauge Tool for Electric Bass and Acoustic Guitar

Normally an acoustic guitar with steel strings has higher action and needs more pressure on the strings which will hasten the rate of developing calluses. But if you are playing guitar with lower action then pressing down on the strings is much easier. So, if you are serious about toughening up your fingertips then increase the guitar action. You can take your guitar to your local guitar shop and have the guitar action raised.

3. Buy Heavy Gauge Strings

D'Addario EJ18 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Heavy (1 Set) - Corrosion-Resistant Phosphor Bronze, Offers a Warm, Bright and Well-Balanced Acoustic Tone and Comfortable Playability

The thicker the strings the more strenuous they are on the fingers. This allows for greater callus development. Practicing with heavy gauge strings will allow your fingertips to toughen up faster.

4. Take Breaks


When it comes to toughening up your fingers it doesn’t matter how long you practice. What matters is the frequency. Instead of practicing for a long time try practicing in small sessions. Practicing for too long at a stretch will wear out your fingers and make them sore. It can also cause bruising and tendinitis.

As a result, you won’t be able to touch the guitar for a while. This will cause your newly formed callus to slowly fade away. On the other hand, practicing in small sessions will help you avoid injuries. Allowing you to practice more frequently. This will help you to toughen up your fingers much faster.

Since it is more suitable to play and practice while sitting so you should check our article about the best chair for guitar playing.

5. Don’t Press Too Hard


A lot of new guitar players have the tendency to press their guitar strings too hard against the fret. This is because they still haven’t learned the proper techniques. So, they have trouble pressing the strings as close as possible to the fret.

To compensate for their lack of technique they tend to press as hard as possible. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. But still, this is one of the most common bad habits beginner guitarists pick up.

Pressing too hard will increase the chances of you developing soreness, tendinitis, and bruises. As a result, you will refrain from practicing for a long period of time. This will cause your newly formed callus to slowly diminish.

Try to press on the strings as close to the fret as possible (But not on the fret). This will ensure that you play applying as little pressure needed without causing any buzzing sound. Doing this will allow you to practice more which will promote faster callus development.

6. Have Dry Fingers


Don’t play the guitar while your fingers are wet. Wet fingers will sore up and cut more easily. This rule goes even if you have some amount of callus on your fingertips. Water will cause your calluses to soften up and make them useless. So when you are going to start playing after washing hands or dipped in water, wait until your hands are dry enough to play.

7. Use Rubbing Alcohol

Eternal 99% Isopropyl Alcohol for Beauty Tools, Earrings and Nail Gel Prep (8 Fluid Ounces)

Famous guitarist Eric Clapton shared his technique of using rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol for toughening up fingertips. According to him, using rubbing alcohol on fingers 3-4 times a day for one or two weeks will cause the fingers tips to dry out and help calluses develop faster. This will toughen up your fingertips. And the best thing is it’s completely painless.

8. Practice Every Day

Like I said before, it’s not about the amount of time but the frequency. Taking long periods of breaks in between practice sessions will make it hard for your fingers to develop calluses. So, if you want your fingers to toughen up as fast as possible then practice every day. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

Another thing to remember that if you practice the same few chords or notes repeatedly, they can cause grooving. So practicing different chords and notes helps keep the callus grooves evenly.

9. Avoid Shaving Them Off

This might sound a bit silly at first but you’ll be surprised to know that this is very common. Just like nail-biting, many guitarists form the bad habit of biting or shaving off their calluses. I don’t think I need to explain why that’s a bad idea. So, avoid this as much as you can.

10. Trim Your Nails

Keep your fretting hand nails trimmed. Having long nails will prevent your fingertips to properly get in contact with the strings. Slowing down the toughening process. So, trim them frequently.

11. Use Tools Or A Credit CardD'Addario Varigrip Hand Exerciser-Improve Dexterity and Strength in Fingers, Hands, Forearms- Adjust Tension Per Finger- Simulated Strings Help Develop Calluses- Comfortable Conditioning

You can’t carry the guitar everywhere with you. So, using finger toughening tools or a credit card can be very useful. If you are using a credit card, then press against the edge of the card. This will simulate pressing down on the strings. This can help you to work up your fingers much more frequently and speed up callus formation.

Other Available Options

It would be an exaggeration to say that pursue the above tips will result in the same way for every guitar player. If you ask me what would be the best way to toughen fingertips or how long does it take to get calluses on your fingers from playing guitar? The answer varies depending on each person and his/her activity levels. Though I have already shared all the best tips about this topic, there have a few more tips out there. Here are those:

  • Use apple cider vinegar to immerse your fingertips for half a minute before and after each session which will lessen soreness and your fingers will not be oversensitive. Some also say that toothache creams can be used as an anesthetic. This is part of the sore fingers guitar remedy.
  • Some guitarists put one single drop of Super Glue on the fingertips of the fretting hand as a false callus. You can also try a fingertip protector as a remedy to cut off some of the pain or use finger exerciser tools which will help to develop and maintain finger calluses for guitar players.

Final Words

You really don’t need to add up that much callus for playing the guitar. Some guitarists are so sure that more callus is better that their fingers look almost deformed. What is worse is that they boast them like they are some kind of a battle scar.

Don’t do that.

Instead, learn the proper techniques that allow you to play comfortably and applying as little pressure as possible.

Now you’ve learned all there is to know on how to toughen fingertips for guitar playing. Remember what you’ve learned and practice every day. You’ll become a pro in no time.

For any further questions, do not hesitate to ask in the comment box below. I’ll get to you as soon as I can.

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