Coping with sore fingers from learning to play guitar

The first time you pick up your brand new guitar is so exciting. It looks amazing, feels great and you start to learn some chords, but hang on…. it hurts!

Placing your fresh fingers down on thin pieces of string is OK at first but eventually your fingers will burn and become painful. Don’t be put off! Yes it hurts when you first start playing, but plenty of perseverance and short burst of practice time will eventually pay off and you will then be able to play for longer and your fingers will become stronger and develop the much needed callous at the end of your finger tips.

How to help your fingers when you play your guitar.

When you first start to pick up the guitar play for about 15 -20 minutes by the end of that time your fingers will be sore, it’s best to leave your fingers to rest until the next day, during the next day just have a go at picking up the guitar and playing for around five minutes and then taking a break for a couple of hours. Keep repeating this over the next few days, short sharp bursts of playing and eventually your fingers will start to toughen up.

Try not to get your fingers too wet or moisturise too much. Obviously we all have to wash our hands, but daily doses of washing up and long hot baths will counteract your good practice on the guitar.

Some people recommend other methods like super glue and alcohol. I personally have never used any of these methods, I just kept on playing through the pain and when it hurt too much I left my guitar alone for a few days for my fingers to recover. Too much playing can hurt and cause more problems, so be sensible and go with what your instincts tell you.

Other ways of playing are using a lighter gauge string or play on or play on an electric guitar for a while if you are learning on an acoustic. The smaller strings will be less harsh on your finger tips and enable you to practice whilst you recover. Going back to your acoustic every now and then will also strengthen up your hand which is important for when you then go on to playing bar chords.

Is the action on your guitar too high? The action on a guitar is the distance between the strings and the guitar neck, if it is too high it can mean more pressure on your fingers tips when you press down on the strings. Sometimes on entry level guitars the action is set very high and this can be damaging if you leave it and it will also put you off playing because it can be near impossible to play. You can ask you local music shop to check your action and they will often adjust it for you. This requires them to take the guitar away for a short while whilst they tweak it for you. They will often adjust the truss rod of shave down the bridge by a few millimetres to lower your strings.

My main advice is to not give up on your instrument!

I kept playing and I have not not stopped for nearly twenty years. Every so often I will still have pain if I have taken a break from guitar because of a holiday, but I just keep on going and I am now able to play fine for around 2 hours straight and maybe more!

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