Struggling to hold down the strings of your guitar without feeling like you are going to cut your finger wide open? Do you put your guitar away after just a few minutes of practicing with your fingertips gleaming red and feeling raw? Don’t worry! This is a common problem for the first few weeks or so of playing until you start developing guitar calluses.
What’s a callus? A callus is “A thickened and hardened part of the skin or soft tissue, especially in an area that has been subjected to friction.” Plain English? The more you play guitar the harder the tips of your fingers will become, allowing you to play more and more comfortably without any pain. Today we are going to talk about a few things you can do right now to make things a little easier on your fingers until you build up this protective layer.
Make sure you are pushing down on the string just behind the fret you are trying to. When we are pushing down a string, our goal is to make the string touch the fret firmly to make a solid connection so we can get a clear sound. If our finger is too far away from the fret we are trying to hold down, we have to push down all that much harder to get a clear sound. By holding right next to the fret we get can get that solid connection with much less pressure being necessary. In this case less pressure=less discomfort!
Try Lighter Strings
Many guitars come strung with thicker strings than might be appropriate. Thicker strings require more tension on the strings to be tuned appropriately. By putting lighter strings, this tension will be lessened, and this will allow us to push down on the strings with less pressure to get that solid connection we discussed in tip #1! Make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing (i.e. a more experienced guitar player or a guitar store tech) set up the guitar to make sure it is still in good playing shape after the change.
Have The Action Adjusted
The “action” of a guitar is how we refer to the distance between the strings and the frets. All guitars need to have this adjusted from time to time. Many beginner guitars come with very high actions that make playing very uncomfortable and painful. To make a guitar easier and more comfortable to play, the action should be lowered until just before any of frets start buzzing when played. Again, make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing do this for you.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Make sure you are picking up the guitar almost every day if possible. Your practice sessions don’t need to be long, just a few minutes each day should suffice to help promote the building of guitar calluses. Find some good exercises to help build finger strength and play them at least once each time you pick up the guitar.
All of these tips should help make playing guitar comfortably more attainable for anyone who is just starting out, or picking the guitar back up. Now, there are no more excuses, get back to practicing!
Beginning guitar is easier when you have a guide. Your guitar teacher can help you along the way and show you the best way to learn to play the guitar. Search for your guitar teacher now!
Joe H. is a guitar and music theory instructor in White Plains, NY. Teaching since 2009, he received a degree in Jazz Studies from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and can help students specialize in blues or country guitar. Learn more about Joe here!
Photo by Codayy