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.
How To Toughen Fingers For Guitar Playing?
So, if you are a beginner guitar player or haven’t been playing the guitar for a while this article will help you get your fingers into shape. Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Start With An Acoustic Guitar
If you want to develop your finger calluses as fast as possible, 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 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
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 the 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
The thicker the strings the more strenuous they are on the fingers. This allows for greater callus development. Practicing with heavy gauge instead of lighter 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 fingertips much faster.
Since it is more suitable to play and practice while sitting so you should check our article about the best chair and stool 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 by applying as little pressure as 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 your hands or dipped in water, wait until your hands are dry enough to play.
Also, due to the Covid-19 situation, it is advised to wash our hands more regularly than ever. If you repeatedly wash your hands with soap and water, it will make your finger skin soft which will be the quiet opposite condition of making fingers tough. In that case, wash your hands with alcohol-based waterless sanitizers as a substitute for soap and water.
Many cleaning products e.g., soaps, shampoo, and even lotions contain conditioners and skin softeners that would not harden your fingers but soften them. Try to avoid those products or use less quantity.
7. Use Rubbing Alcohol
Famous guitarist Eric Clapton shared his technique of using rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol for toughening up fingertips. To toughen your fingers, just dip a cotton ball or bud into the rubbing alcohol and polish a small amount over your fingertips 3-4 times a day for one or two weeks.
Rubbing alcohol is responsible for drying the skin and hardening the skin. Using this method will toughen up your fingertips. And the best thing is it’s completely painless. Be cautious to frequently use a large amount of isopropyl alcohol on the skin, it can damage your skin.
8. Practice Every Day
Like I said before, it’s not about the amount of time but the frequency. Sometimes taking breaks is necessary but taking long periods of breaks in between practice sessions will make it hard for your fingers to develop calluses.
As you can’t develop calluses overnight, you have to keep playing and stay with the process. It is important to pass through the callus-building procedure no matter how much your fingers hurt.
If you want your fingers to toughen up as fast as possible then practice every day. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Ultimately your fingers will build calluses and that will reduce the pain as well. And when you’ll get used to the process, your guitar playing will be more comfortable.
Another thing to remember is 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 Card
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.
12. Depend on Certain Products
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 their activity levels.
Though I have already shared all the best tips that many guitarists implement, there are few more tricks here.
- 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 before and after practice as a local anesthetic. This is part of the sore fingers’ guitar remedy.
- There are also some other anesthetic creams or ointments available which will help you to numb the finger pain. Before using any of these numbing agents verify that some of these creams can ruin the color of your guitar fingerboard if you apply it repeatedly.
- Some guitarists put one single drop of Super Glue on the fingertips of the fretting hand as a false callus. This is a temporary solution to reduce finger pain and ultimately won’t benefit you. Also, if you continue using superglue to deal with sore fingers, damage can happen.
- 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.
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 fingers for guitar playing. Remember what you’ve learned and practice every day. You’ll become a pro in no time.