One of the biggest frustrations when you are either getting started or you had been playing for a while and then stopped for months or years is painful fingers caused by non-existing callouses or muscle weakness in your fingers and hands.
So what do you do when your fingertips start to hurt? Is there a way to numb, dull or eliminate the pain? How can you prevent your fingers from straining so you can get back to practicing?
Here are a few tips and some advice to help you get through, and even sometimes eliminate, your pain!
Go through these tips, and by the time you’re done with your article, you’ll be able to handle any finger pain that comes your way!
Not the drinking kind, the rubbing kind!
I usually use disposable cups or a mug, pour about 1/4 cup of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol into it, and dip my fingers in for about 20-30 seconds.
This is especially helpful when my fingers start getting raw from playing extended periods of time, if I need to play guitar within an hour or so after a shower.
The alcohol dries out your fingertips, causing the callouses to form much more quickly, and its healing properties repair worn callouses, fingertips and restore proper sensation to your fingers.
Another pro: Eric Clapton is rumored to use this technique 3-4 times a day to keep his fingers in a constant state of readiness to perform. If it’s good enough for Eric, it’s good enough for me!!
No, this is not the name of an ex-wife or girlfriend of mine, but a product like rubbing alcohol, which is sold in the same aisle in the grocery store or pharmacy as the rubbing alcohol!
Guitar strings are usually made of nickel and steel, the same stuff used in building bridges and construction projects, so continued contact is going to do 2 things: wear out your budding callouses and start digging into your nerves, causing sharp pain to radiate through your fingers. It stinks, I know, but don’t worry – there’s a quick solution!
When I want to repair my fingers FAST, I pour about 1/4 cup of witch hazel in a cup, dip my fingertips in for about 20-30 seconds, then pour it out and replace it with rubbing alcohol to rebuild my callouses.
The active agents in witch hazel will numb your pain, moisturize and repair any damaged tissue in your fingertips that lead to finger pain. Even better, it works RIGHT AWAY!! Add rubbing alcohol to the mix and you get soft, smooth fingers AND great callouses, the natural defense for preventing and eliminating pain later on!
Here’s one of my favorite ways to build my callouses when I don’t have access to rubbing alcohol or witch hazel – tapping my fingers on hard surfaces.
Check out the top of your guitar – it’s solid wood. Take a few minutes during your practice time or when your fingertips start hurting and start tapping your fingertips against the wood of the guitar.
Feeling the pain and you’re away from your guitar? Find ANY hard surface – a desk, table, box, sturdy magazine, ANYTHING with a relatively hard surface, and start tapping away!
When you play the guitar, the strings push directly down into your fingertips, and when you’re still building up your callouses, you might hit a nerve. Tapping your fingers spreads the sensation out to the surrounding nerves. Those nerves work together to support the affected nerve and bring your pain down dramatically.
P.S. If you get to the point where your nerves are in that much pain, stop playing until your fingertips feel better. Even if you want to keep practicing, take a break, watch some TV, OR play some video games for a few minutes – an even more fun way to tap your fingertips 😉
The biggest tip I can possibly offer you is when your fingertips start to hurt, take a small break, then practice again.
The constant tapping (hint, hint) of your fingertips against the strings, forces your fingertips to form its own natural defense against the barrage of the strings against your fingers, forming callouses – the natural shield your body builds to protect your fingertips and nerve endings.
Much like lifting weights regularly builds up your body, regular practice also builds up the muscles in your fingers and hands so they won’t tire out so quickly, giving you instant and added confidence in your playing, so PRACTICE!!
This pain WON’T last forever!
With regular practice intervals, and without exhausting yourself practicing, you can form great callouses in as little as 2 weeks!
Let me know how these tips work out for you and watch for the next installment!
Written by: Marcus L. Diaz
Owner, Mentor, Trainer, Coach
Master Your Guitar Music Academy
Here’s an extra tip:
The typical, average, logical approach to learning guitar that most instructors follow is NOT the best way to learn to play. My students come to me week after week because they learn faster with me than with any of their previous instructors! Why? Because there is madness in my method and a method to my madness! Learn how to prevent YEARS of frustration when you...
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