Every new guitarist has to struggle while strengthening calluses for playing guitar. The frustration often comes from the sore and tender fingers. Especially when you are playing for the first time. This makes the early few weeks of learning guitar really painful.
Even if your fingers are hurting, keep going! You can still harden those calluses and get those fingers in top shape with some perseverance and TLC. In this article, we’ll tell you how to toughen up your fingertips.
Here we’ll tell you how to reduce soreness and strengthen your calluses quicker with some techniques and adjustments. By practicing these, you can eventually improve calluses on your fingertips.
Are the Calluses Good for Playing Guitar?
Calluses, also known as keratomas and tylomas, are protective layers of dead skin cells or an area of thickened skin. It often forms in the bone area due to repeated friction or pressure. Calluses in fingertips are common among guitar players.
In fact, good calluses come from good guitar practices. A guitarist with good calluses is claimed to be a capable guitar player. It forms like defense mechanisms on the fingertips to prevent it from getting cut or irritated.
So, is this bad for fingers? Absolutely not.
When you are practicing with your first guitar, you may face your fingers getting sore. Well, it is normal. To get used to it, you should take a frequent break in between to rest your fingertips. Like, in every 30 minutes of playing guitar, take a 10 minutes break.
You may be wondering, by when this soreness will stop?
The first week goes harsh, and by the second week of playing guitar, this soreness will start to wear off. Your finger will become in between. In about one month of continuous practicing, calluses will build in your fingertips, and the soreness will be gone.
Still, you can fasten the process of building calluses and reducing soreness by following the steps below.
How to Toughen Up Your Fingertips – 12 easy tips
The following tips will help you with calluses building. Note that it requires frequent practices. So, with times, your skin should be thicker, and the sensitivity on your fingertips will reduce.
1. Start Playing an Acoustic Guitar
The best way to toughen up fingertips is to start with an acoustic guitar. An acoustic guitar with steel strings is really harder than an electric guitar. Firstly, that’s because acoustic guitars include higher action means more distance between fretboard and the strings.
It will make it harder for the player to play due to the force that needs to apply. Secondly, an acoustic guitar has a thicker string gauge, which impacts the guitar’s playability. All these make somewhat strenuous on your fingertips to play.
The more strain means more calluses will develop. Still, if you have an electric guitar, you can somewhat upgrade the guitar’s action and thickness of strings. It will help you to toughen up calluses faster, even with an electric guitar.
2. Upgrade Guitar Action
Usually, an acoustic guitar with steel strings should have higher action and thicker string gauge. However, if your guitar has lower action, you should upgrade it. It is easier to play those guitars with lower action. This will not help you with building up guitar action. So, it is essential to modify your guitar action from the nearest guitar shop.
3. Pick Up the Right String Gauge
Earlier, we mentioned, the thicker guitar strings are more strenuous on the fingers. So, you always try with the right string gauge. Guitars with 0.08 or 0.09 gauge are more comfortable on the fingers. It will not help you toughen up calluses.
That’s why you should switch to heavier strings even if you are a beginner. At the same time, you have to learn how to play those heavy strings. You can try on Elixir Acoustic Guitar Strings or Elixir Electric Guitar Strings.
4. Boost Your Guitar’s Playability
With higher guitar action and thicker string gauge on, you should focus on your playability. It requires more force to press down the strings. So, practice more with the right technique. It not just helps in building up calluses faster, but also make your guitar career much easier.
5. Trim Your Fingernails More Often
Building up calluses is nearly impossible with long fingernails. Your long nails will stop you from getting the right notes. Also, you cannot fret the strings properly with fingertips. Even playing chords and simple tunes become difficult.
That is why trimming your nails is what you should take seriously. Don’t forget to do this before every playing session. Also, wash your hand before cutting and do not chew the nails.
6. Do Not Press the Guitar String Too Tightly
Because of the poor knowledge of techniques, many guitarists press down guitar string too hard. They press the string on the fret rather than close to the fret. It may sometimes work, but mostly it is considered a bad habit.
Instead of toughening the calluses, it mostly enhances soreness and tendinitis. It will do nothing but refrain from practicing the guitar for a long time. So, relax your fingers and be gentle while pressing the string. Try to press down the strings close to the fret.
7. Take Breaks In Between Practicing
The calluses build-up doesn’t rely on how long you practice but on the frequency of practice. When you play guitar for long, it will make your finger sore. You won’t even be able to touch the guitar as a result.
So, make the practice session short but practice frequently. This will help in avoiding injuries and toughen up calluses on fingers.
8. Play With Dry Fingers
After taking a shower, swimming, or washing dishes, your hand becomes soft. Your calluses will also soften up when your fingers are wet. It will boost soreness, and even your fingers can also cut. So, do not play guitar when your hands are wet. Wait till your hands are dry enough to play on.
9. Avoid Biting or Removing Your Hard-Earned Calluses
It might look irrelevant to you, but removing calluses will ruin your effort till now. If your calluses go off, you’ll need to start the process all over again. Also, you should avoid biting your fingertips.
10. Use Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is very useful for tightening up fingertips. The renowned guitarist Eric Clapton has shared this technique; that’s why it is known as “Eric Clapton’s famous elixir.” He suggests using rubbing alcohol on fingers 3 to 4 times a day. It will dry the fingers and help in developing calluses faster. Also, the process is absolutely painless.
11. Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Another painless way to toughen up fingertips is using apple cider vinegar. Soak your fingertips on apple cider vinegar for at least 30 seconds. Do this before and after playing the guitar. You can also try ice on fingertips every time before and after playing. It helps in reducing soreness on the finger. Topical aesthetic products like toothache cream also work.
12. Use Credit Card or Other Finger Strengthening Gadgets
Most guitarists keep a credit card in their pocket to strengthen and maintain calluses. They use it to toughen up calluses during leisure time or down-time between guitar practice sessions.
Hold the credit card with the palm at one edge and press the other corner with fingertips. Move the card around, so it digs into the surface of the fingertip. Some tools are designed to strengthen the fingertips. You can look for it in the local guitar shop.
Additional Tips (Really Helps!)
- Create Fake Calluses
Your dream of having structured calluses can be fulfilled by creating fake calluses. Yes, you can do this by using super glue. This might look like cheating. But you know, the famous guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan used to create fake calluses with glue.
However, here you need to apply glue carefully. Avoid gluing all the fingers together, and also the glue should climb over the fretboard. That’s why you should apply glue in a perfect amount and dry it before you touch anything.
- Use a Pick While Strumming
Mostly finger soreness happens because of continuous pressing the string with fingers. It ruins the calluses’ development instead of strengthening. So you can use a pick for sometimes to give your fingers a break. Keep switching between the pick and fingers.
- Maintain a Routine Everyday
As we mentioned before, practicing a long time doesn’t help, but the frequency of practicing does help. No matter what happens, you should keep going. Pain in the first few days is normal, as it will go off with times.
That’s why you should make a routine and follow it every day. Keep practicing daily for at least 15 minutes. Remember, it will lead you to a beautiful way of getting strengthen calluses without pain.
See! You don’t need to put on too much effort, but little practice and techniques bring a good result. Some people think too many calluses are better. But in reality, it deforms the fingers, and in the worst cases, it looks like a battle scar.
Thus far, you’ve learned how to toughen up your fingertips in the best possible ways. Now, keep going! Best of Luck!