Guitar 101: 5 Tips for Dealing With Calluses

Guitar callusesNot quite mastering your guitar riffs yet?  Don’t worry.  Yesterday we gave you a list of subjects to get started with as you learn the guitar.  However, there is another important thing for beginners to be aware of – the often-painful, callus-building stage.

When you first begin playing, your fingertips start out sensitive and soft; as your fingers learn to move against the guitar strings, you’ll start to build calluses. This can be a pain, but it’s necessary if you plan to continue learning and playing.  To help ease the discomfort, here are 5 tips for building calluses:

1) Swab rubbing alcohol onto the tips of the fingers on your fret hand two or three times a day. This will remove excess moisture and help develop and maintain calluses.

2) Use water sparingly when washing your hands. Water can destroy calluses and force you to begin again. Keep your fingertips dry as much as possible.

3) Play the guitar at least 20 to 40 minutes a day. Use all your fingers as much as possible.

4) Use a product like Rock-Tips, which creates a tough protective membrane on your fingertips. It is made to both protect your fingertips and build calluses faster.

5) Rub your fingers on rough surfaces as often as you can, or carry something like a rough stone with you, so you can use it throughout the day to toughen your fingertips.

We know this stage is tough (literally) – and often, this is the time where beginners give it up and stop practicing. But don’t let it deter you! Once you get past it, it will be smooth sailing.  For the guitar veterans out there, what words of advice can you offer to beginners to get through this stage?  Leave a comment below!


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1 reply
  1. Mark Maloney
    Mark Maloney says:

    Managing guitar calluses is part of guitar playing. I play a lot of acoustic guitar, and my calluses get dented to the point of twanging my strings as the string slides off the hill of the callus into the groove. I spend a lot of time conditioning my fingertips with pressure to keep the callus flat. When my hands are wet, it really helps to pressure flatten the callus out, but you must do it all the time to maintain the condition of your fingertips. (However, do not play guitar until your fingertips are dry, or they really get grooved.) I also use nail clippers to cut the edges of the calluses to smooth them out. I have tried to use sandpaper and files, but they do not get the grooves out without taking too much of the callus, so I learned to just constantly use the pressure flattening technique to keep my calluses manageable. On occasions when I cut too much callus off, I use super glue to make like a fingertip bandaged to help with the pain. I also want to add, that over fifty years of playing, I still get grooves and pain in my fingertips after hours of playing.

    One other thing is that if you play the same few chords over and over, they can really cause grooving, so varying your notes/chords helps keep the callus grooves mostly smooth.


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