Sore Fingers

How To Toughen Up Your Fingers (And Release Your Inner Shredder!)

Many beginner guitar players, and even regular accomplished players, can have issues with the war between playing and pain when starting off. It can be a bloodbath…literally!!

Bloody fretboards. Crusty, sore fingertips – we have all been there. So Strings Direct have compiled 11 Top Tips (no pun intended) to help you rock out for longer without curling up in the corner to find your happy place!

1. Be sure to be well groomed – Keep your nails short. It’s 10 times easier to build calluses with shorter nails. Long nails will prove much tougher, not only to play, but also to shape those titanium finger tips you so desire.

2. Get the right strings – We do strings in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but be sure to get the strings that work for you! It goes without saying that if you are using 17-75 drop F for Norwegian death metal, it’s highly likely your tips are going to resemble a scene from Platoon! If you are just starting out, it’s a great idea to start with a lighter gauge set and, once you get used to them, move up to medium gauge and then on to heavy if you so wish. Although pain will increase with heavier strings, your fingers will adapt to this over time.

3. Give your axe a proper set up – The space between the fingerboard of your guitar and where the strings lie is called the action. The higher the action of the guitar, the more pressure is needed to push the strings down to the fretboard in order to fret the note. The good news is any guitars action can be adjusted. A nice low action will give you the perfect platform in order to learn your craft. We always recommend taking your guitar to a local guitar tech for a full set up.

4. Start with an Acoustic Guitar – If you are just starting out on your way to rock and roll hall of fame, it’s best to begin with an acoustic guitar. I know what you are thinking… that electric guitar would be so much easier to play (thinner strings, lower action etc..) but the idea here is to train your finger tips in to ultimate shredding champions, and the heavier the strings the quicker this will happen. So when you move to electric guitar you will not need any further toughening of the fingertips.

5. Only press the strings as much as you need to – When starting out is very easy to want to press down way too hard. Chill out, relax your fingers and practise fretting the strings, with just the right amount of pressure needed, and no more. Being too heavy handed just results in a very uptight playing style, and doesn’t lend itself to fast, flowing chops. It can even result in developing conditions like tendonitis, which will halt your guitar playing totally until your hands are out of rehab. Plus, by the time you have got back to playing, your calluses will have disappeared!

6. Try not to bite, pick or shave the calluses you have worked so hard to cultivate – Do this and you will be back to square one! You’d think this was a no brainer, but its super tempting to chow down on those juicy suckers – especially after a shower when they are ripe for the picking!

7. Tricks and tips – Building your fingertips up can further be helped by certain products and methods. Most players use apple cider vinegar, soaking their tips for around 30 seconds. Also, icing your fingers before and after playing can help prevent soreness. You can even apply a drop of super glue to replicate a callus. Be careful though, as your fingers can get stuck on the fretboard, and can damage the finish to your beloved axe! Eric Clapton famously rubbed alcohol onto his fingers a few times a day. Be sure to wipe your fingers clean after with surgical wipes or soap and water.

8. Keep your flexible friend close – It’s a great idea to keep a credit card or similar in your pocket, and use it to build up the indents within your fingers where the strings would rest.

9. Man up! – Every guitarist starts somewhere, and we all have to deal with sore fingers. But for the joy that ripping it up on your guitar brings you – isn’t it worth it? So chin up – keep going. Don’t let the pain of sore fingers stop you from achieving guitar legend status. Just man up people!

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