21 Guitar Finger Pain Tips (Blisters, Calluses, Sore Fingers) | Midlife Guitar (2023)

I am currently learning guitar with Justin Guitar’s beginner course and my fingertips are sensitive to the touch. They feel bruised, I have blisters and they are red.

I have done enough reading to understand that calluses will eventually form and this is an important part of learning the guitar. However, is there anything I can do to ease the pain and how do I toughen up my fingers?

So I spent a few hours researching to come up with the most comprehensive list I could find on dealing with this pain often felt by guitar beginners. This way we can all hopefully find some small piece of advice that will work for us and keep us playing.

If you are more of a visual person I condensed these down in to 18 Tips here:

Otherwise read on for more detail:

(Video) Fingers hurt from playing guitar? Try this!

1. Your Fingertips Will Hurt

Understand that when you first start to learn guitar your fingertips will hurt. This will happen for a few weeks before the calluses form. You are abusing your fingers by putting the fleshy part of your fingers on thin steel wire. However your body will adapt and a callus will form you just have to be mindful of when and when not to stop.

2. Lighter Gauge Strings

When you purchase your first guitar ask the guitar shop to put on light gauge strings. These are typically ‘11’s’ or ‘Lighter Gauge Strings’ or ’10’s’ which are extra light. Typically a new guitar will come with thicker gauge strings so ask at your guitar / music shop if you don’t know how to change strings yet and they will do it for you, likely for free if you are just buying the guitar.

3. Trim Your Finger Nails

Not only will this prevent your fingers from forming calluses quickly but it will also cause inconsistency in your playing. Trim down the fingernails on your hand that presses down on the strings, your ‘fretting’ hand, the hand that is on the fretboard. If your nails are preventing your fingertips going all the way down to press on the string then they need trimming. Trim them down to the point where it is your fingertips that are on the string and they are forming the chord or playing the note.

4. Don’t Quit Playing When It Hurts A Little

Don’t take a day or two off when beginning to learn, play past the pain barrier for a short while. Your fingers will likely turn red and feel like they are swelling a little. They will be sensitive to the touch which will become obvious just by touching each one with your thumb and applying a little pressure.

5. Play Little And Often If You Feel Pain

Play little and often, try 5 to 10 mins but a few times over the course of a day. This is certainly what I did in the early part of my guitar journey which I document on YouTube, check out my Guitar Journey page here to see how I get on. This will help break up any feeling of pain but will also continue to develop the skill that you need in the early days. Consistency is the key to forming a habit, so you have to perservere.

6. Stop Playing When Blisters Appear

When the blisters come this is when you need to stop playing. The blister will become the callus. So in order for this to happen you will need to let them heal. Once they do you will be left with little pads on your fingers which are the calluses and are what you will need to play guitar.

7. Don’t Let The Blisters Heal All The Way

If you let the blisters heal all the way you will be starting again. The blisters are what become the calluses. So don’t wait more than a few days before playing again. If you take a week or more off in these early stages you will be interfering with the habit that you are trying to create. Just let them heal a little to the point that the pain is bearable when you press down on the string.

8. Avoid Soaking Your Hands In Water

If you go swimming a lot, like to take a lot of baths or do the dishes quite a bit for example, then you will need to slow down with this for a few weeks. Your fingers need to form layers of calluses and these are just dead skin. If you submerge your fingers in water for long periods of time then this will soften the skin on your fingers and it will likely peel off quickly.

(Video) How To Toughen Up Your Fingertips - 18 Tips For Beginner Guitar Finger Pain (2019)

9. Do Not Play Guitar Immediately After Having Your Fingertips In Water

So you may have just had a shower and are itching to get straight in to playing guitar. Wait 10 minutes or so, so that you skin is less soft and will not get shredded when you start playing guitar.

10. Care For Your Calluses

Sounds weird but you have to look after your calluses, try to avoid them drying out. By using a small amount of moisturizer this wont soften them too much and will prevent them flaking off. When your calluses become very dry they can flake off really easy, and the flaking will get worse when you are playing the guitar with dry fingers.

11. Do Not Peel Calluses

If you have a callus coming off, do not peel it off. The best thing to do is just trim them. You can use some nail trimmers just to trim the edges. Over time your calluses will build up layers and layers of thick dead skin. If you then get a callus that is flaking off and you try to peel it off that will hurt because you will peel off way more than you should.

12. Stimulate Your Fingers When You Are Not Playing

When you do not have the opportunity to play and are busy doing other things you can still stimulate the ends of the fingertips. You can do this by using the edge of a credit card and pressing your finger tips down on it or by simply using the thumb nail on your same hand to press down in to each finger tip.

Alternatively you can use a Finger Exerciser that has a callus builder, the one I use is excellent and has a removable pad and you can use it for many different exercises, like open chord practice, barre chords, finger picking and many others. Read about it here and different exercises you can do with it in my review here Best Guitar Finger Exercise Tool.

13. Rubbing Alcohol

Eric Clapton supposedly used to rub his fingertips with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. You could try doing this three times a day for a week or so as a beginner or as someone who hasn’t played in a while. Rubbing alcohol should dry out the skin and help calluses build quicker.

Use a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol and wipe your fingertips, or use alcohol wipes, which health care providers use to clean your skin before giving you a shot.

14. Superglue

Some people use this as a method to keep on playing when their fingers hurt. Not sure I would recommend this but here is what you can do:

(Video) How to stop your guitar from hurting your fingers - End the pain once and for all

Put a small amount of superglue ( a drop will do) on foil or something plastic and roll all four fingertips from your fret hand in the glue. After approximately 5 minutes this will dry. You can then use an emory board to smooth down the edges as the glue will start to breakdown after a few hours of playing.

15. Finger Placement On The Fret board

Making sure that your finger is closer to the front fret i.e. next to the fret closest to the sound hole is important. If you get this right you will find that there is less pressure required than if you have your finger towards the back fret.

16. Pressing Too Hard On The String

If you follow item 15 then press down on a string in between two frets and closest to the fret that is nearer to the sound hole. Now play that string and slowly ease of the pressure of the finger until you here a slight buzz, then press down a little bit harder and the buzz will go. This is how much pressure you need to make a note. Practice with this and you will find your fingers hurting a lot less.

17. Try Playing Scales As Well As Chords

By breaking up your practice in to playing some chords shapes and then in to some scale practice like in this video below you will give your fingers some relief.

Playing the scales means that your fingers are always pressing down, so around half the time they are getting relief. This way you are still practicing but also giving your fingers some respite

(Video) Guitar 101: Calluses

18. Guitar Setup

Often the action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) of a cheap guitar is high. Whether this down to the construction of the guitar or that it needs a proper setup from a guitar technician or a luthier will need to be determined. If you are not sure if you need a setup or wonder what goes in to a professional guitar setup you can read my article here What Is A Professional Guitar Setup And Do You Need One?

Take it to your local guitar shop and ask if the action can be lowered. Just be aware that sometimes this can’t be achieved and if the action is lowered can then create fret buzz, but talk to them and see if there is anything that they can do.

19. Light Pain On The Back Of The Hand

If you have light pain on the back of the hand particularly around the knuckles then it is very likely that your grip is too hard. So see item 15 and 16 above. However it could also be your thumb placement so try moving this around to see if provides any relief.

20. Try A Finger Strengthener

If you are away from the guitar for long periods of time, like going to work each day then this can be a great option. The Finger strengthener I used whilst building calluses and still use at work for practising guitar finger strength is surprisingly very good. Read about it here and different exercises you can do with it in my review here Best Guitar Finger Exercise Tool.

21. Try An Alternate Position

Instead of using the casual position/folk position where the guitar is resting on your right leg (if you are right-handed, opposite if you are left handed) then try using a classical guitar position.

We talk all about different guitar postures and hand position in our post here, if you want to get in to the detail.

By changing position it can provide relief on your wrist and hand, provide easy sighting of the fret board and generally be a lot more comfortable.

FAQs

Why do I get blisters on my fingers when playing guitar? ›

Blisters from Playing Guitar

Blisters are caused by repeated friction against the skin. This can be incredibly painful, especially if the blisters burst. But your body is responding in exactly the way it should. Eventually, those blisters should heal into tougher skin that will be able to withstand the friction.

Why do the tips of my fingers hurt when I play guitar? ›

Many new guitar players experience sore and painful fingertips in the early stages of learning guitar. This pain comes from the indenting your skin over and over again on hard guitar strings. Remember that this pain will eventually subside once you build up calluses.

Do blisters turn into calluses guitar? ›

If you let the blisters heal all the way you will be starting again. The blisters are what become the calluses. So don't wait more than a few days before playing again. If you take a week or more off in these early stages you will be interfering with the habit that you are trying to create.

Should you pop guitar blisters? ›

Blisters usually heal quickly once pressure has been relieved and should not be punctured unless they are painful enough to prevent you from using your hands or playing your instrument.

Should I keep playing guitar if my fingers hurt? ›

Fingertip soreness is temporary and can last a week or more. It doesn't require treatment, although icing and numbing creams can provide short-term relief. But again, simply playing guitar until you build up some calluses, is the best remedy.

Do guitar calluses go away? ›

Guitar calluses will go away over time. They are not permanent and if you stop playing guitar for a long period, your fingertips will soften. It's estimated that after 1-2 months your calluses will have gone away completely. If you are done with the guitar, you may want to speed up the process.

How long should you practice guitar a day? ›

Aim to practice guitar for at least 15 minutes per day. Try to avoid long and unbroken practice sessions of longer than one hour at a time. If you want to practice for longer than 20 minutes, set short breaks to split up your practice sessions for the best results possible.

How long does it take for fingers to callus for guitar? ›

It's different for everyone, of course, but on average, it can take anywhere between two to four weeks for your fingertips to grow calluses. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process.

How long do guitar blisters take to heal? ›

In most cases, blisters do not need treatment and will heal on their own within 1–2 weeks. Keeping the blister intact will allow the skin underneath to heal more quickly.

How long till a blister goes away? ›

Treating blisters

Most blisters heal naturally after three to seven days and don't require medical attention. It's important to avoid bursting the blister, because this could lead to an infection or slow down the healing process. If the blister does burst, don't peel off the dead skin.

Are calluses permanent? ›

Most calluses aren't permanent and can be treated at home. Once you stop doing the activity that leads to the callus forming, it'll likely go away in a couple of months. In some cases, workers' calluses and guitar-playing calluses go deep into the layers of your skin and may never fully go away.

How many calories do you burn playing guitar? ›

Playing guitar burns around 140 calories an hour if you're sitting down, but 200 calories an hour if you play standing up. Everyday activities and hobbies can help shed the pounds, so if you're looking for a way to lose a bit of weight but can't stand the gym read on for inspiration.

How do I stop calluses on guitar? ›

Keep your hands dry when you play.

When your fingers are moist, your calluses become softer and more likely to peel. Making sure that you have dry hands will both save you from some pain and keep your calluses from peeling so often.

How do I make my guitar less painful? ›

Just soak your fingertips in apple cider vinegar for about 30 seconds before and after playing. Lightly icing your fingertips before and after playing can also help alleviate soreness. Topical anesthetic products containing benzocaine—toothache creams, for example—can also be applied before and after playing.

How do you make a guitar blister heal faster? ›

How to treat sore fingers
  1. Apply a cold compress to relieve the pain and swelling.
  2. Take a mild pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil), for muscle or joint pain.
  3. Apply a numbing ointment to ease the discomfort between sessions.
  4. Soak injured fingertips in apple cider vinegar between sessions to promote healing.
19 Nov 2019

How do you heal a blister? ›

Here's how:
  1. Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  2. Swab the blister with iodine.
  3. Clean a sharp needle with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Use the needle to prick the blister in several spots near the edge. ...
  5. Apply an ointment such as petroleum jelly to the blister and cover it with a nonstick gauze bandage.

Are blisters painful? ›

A blister is a painful skin condition where fluid fills a space between layers of skin. They form when something — like too-tight shoes — repeatedly rubs against your skin. These fluid-filled bubbles are a pain, but you can treat them easily at home.

How many hours does it take to master guitar? ›

More Arbitrary Ratings of Proficiency
LevelHours NeededDaily Practice Investment
Beginning625156 days
Intermediate125010 months
Advanced25001.8 years
Expert50003.5 years
5 more rows

Do all guitarists have calluses? ›

Every new guitar player will have to go through the experience of some finger pain as they develop calluses on their fingers. I recommend working through the pain as long as you can endure it. However, guitar is supposed to be FUN and it's not fun for most people if it hurts.

Does playing guitar make your fingers thinner? ›

Playing guitar can change the shape of your finger, although not in a very noticeable way. The strength and speed required to play will make you build muscle, elasticity, and dexterity. Those factors could make your fingers look or feel slightly thicker or longer, but callouses are the most noticeable change.

How long does it take to lose guitar calluses? ›

Guitar calluses are not permanent, and they will go away if the guitarist stops playing the instrument. It usually takes around one month of inactivity for the calluses to finally go away, depending on how solid they are. However, for some players, it might take even longer.

Are calluses good for guitar players? ›

The short answer is yes. When you build calluses on your fingertips they let you play without any pain and for longer. This in turn will mean you can practice more, develop greater technique and generally get better at playing the guitar. Without calluses you would experience significant pain every time you played.

Why do I have calluses on my fingertips? ›

Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when the skin tries to protect itself against friction or pressure. They often form on feet and toes or hands and fingers.

What is the hardest chord to play on guitar? ›

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

Can you get good at guitar in a year? ›

These guys aren't interested in being the best players in the world and just need to learn the skills that will get them through basic repertoire. Depending on your commitment to practice you can become a good hobby player in as little as 6 months or as long as 4 years.

When should you stop practicing guitar? ›

If you're feeling tired or can't concentrate, then only practice guitar for a very short time. If you're full of energy, by all means, have a longer practice session. The length of your practice session needs to stay short enough for you to stay focused the entire time. If you lose your focus, you're wasting your time.

Do guitar finger protectors work? ›

Your guitar technique will also suffer if you use finger protectors. You won't be able to judge the string as well. These plastic pieces interfere with techniques such as bending or finger vibrato. It's the strength of your fingers and the calluses that helps you perform these various guitar techniques.

Does Super Glue Work for playing guitar? ›

The fast-acting adhesive can work wonders ... if you know how to handle it safely. Super glue plays an important role in many types of guitar repair. At our shop, we use it in dozens of ways, but unless you understand its properties and know how to handle it safely, you can wind up in trouble in a matter of seconds.

Are guitarists good with their fingers? ›

They're damn good with their fingers.

Guitarists, violinists, guitar players and, yes, DJs all use their hands as part of their job. All that concentration certainly makes for a guy who knows how to use his fingers to their utmost potential.

Do guitar calluses go away? ›

Guitar calluses will go away over time. They are not permanent and if you stop playing guitar for a long period, your fingertips will soften. It's estimated that after 1-2 months your calluses will have gone away completely. If you are done with the guitar, you may want to speed up the process.

How do you practice guitar blisters? ›

I got blisters on my fingers from guitar playing. Should i continue playing?

What are guitar calluses? ›

Guitar calluses are pads of skin on the fingertips of your fretting hand that have hardened from use. The more you play and use your fingers the more these hard pads develop and build, which in turn makes playing the guitar and holding down the strings easier and less painful.

How long till a blister goes away? ›

Treating blisters

Most blisters heal naturally after three to seven days and don't require medical attention. It's important to avoid bursting the blister, because this could lead to an infection or slow down the healing process. If the blister does burst, don't peel off the dead skin.

How long should you practice guitar a day? ›

Aim to practice guitar for at least 15 minutes per day. Try to avoid long and unbroken practice sessions of longer than one hour at a time. If you want to practice for longer than 20 minutes, set short breaks to split up your practice sessions for the best results possible.

How many hours does it take to master guitar? ›

More Arbitrary Ratings of Proficiency
LevelHours NeededDaily Practice Investment
Beginning625156 days
Intermediate125010 months
Advanced25001.8 years
Expert50003.5 years
5 more rows

Do all guitarists have calluses? ›

Every new guitar player will have to go through the experience of some finger pain as they develop calluses on their fingers. I recommend working through the pain as long as you can endure it. However, guitar is supposed to be FUN and it's not fun for most people if it hurts.

How long does it take to get calluses from guitar? ›

Perfect calluses for guitar. They cover the entire fingertip smoothly. So realistically you should expect at least three weeks before you have any decent calluses developing.

How can I make my calluses blister faster? ›

Keep a blister clean and dry and cover it with a bandage until it goes away. While it heals, try to avoid putting pressure on the area or rubbing it. You can help a callus go away faster by soaking it in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then rubbing it with a pumice stone.

How do I stop calluses on my guitar? ›

How Do I Keep My Calluses From Peeling On My Guitar?
  1. Keep your hands dry when you play. When your fingers are moist, your calluses become softer and more likely to peel. ...
  2. Switch to lighter gauge strings. ...
  3. Take breaks while you're practicing.
31 Dec 2020

Are calluses permanent? ›

Most calluses aren't permanent and can be treated at home. Once you stop doing the activity that leads to the callus forming, it'll likely go away in a couple of months. In some cases, workers' calluses and guitar-playing calluses go deep into the layers of your skin and may never fully go away.

Are guitarists good with their fingers? ›

They're damn good with their fingers.

Guitarists, violinists, guitar players and, yes, DJs all use their hands as part of their job. All that concentration certainly makes for a guy who knows how to use his fingers to their utmost potential.

How do you get rid of calluses blisters? ›

Keep a blister clean and dry and cover it with a bandage until it goes away. While it heals, try to avoid putting pressure on the area, picking it, or rubbing it. Calluses go away faster by soaking them in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then gently rubbing them with a pumice stone.

What soothes a blister? ›

Here's how:
  • Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  • Swab the blister with iodine.
  • Clean a sharp needle with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the needle to prick the blister in several spots near the edge. ...
  • Apply an ointment such as petroleum jelly to the blister and cover it with a nonstick gauze bandage.

Do blisters heal faster if you pop them? ›

Just keep in mind that blisters usually heal on their own within a few days. Popping a blister disrupts this natural process, and it could mean that your blister will take a little longer to completely disappear.

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1. Sore Fingers from Playing Guitar - Guitar Basics for Beginners
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2. Finally getting some fingertip calluses!
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3. Doctor Reacts to Foot Blister 🦶 #shorts
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4. How to avoid getting blisters when playing the harp? - Coffee Break Harp 19
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5. Original Guitar Fingers - Finger Tip Blues.MP4
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