8 Tips For Stronger Guitar Fingers

Building calluses and flexibility in our guitar fingers takes time & effort – Let us help you break down how to build up those hands!

 

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 8 tips for stronger guitar fingers
  • The ‘Eric Clapton’ method for quicker callus building
  • The importance of the right guitar strings
  • How to clean your strings the right way!

It’s Time To Toughen Up Those Guitar Fingers!

We need to harden those calluses so we can shred our favorite instrument with ease.

Maybe you’re brand new to the guitar and your calluses aren’t developing as quick as you thought they would; or maybe you’ve been away from the guitar for a while and you’ve lost most of them.

  • Either way, we need to get those fingers in top shape if we’re going to play awesome music.
  • Creating a good set of guitar fingers takes time, patience and a lot of work. Today we’re going to break down some great hacks for tougher fingers that won’t quit on you.

But why do we need calluses in the first place?

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Guitar Fingers: The Importance Of Good Calluses

With good practice come good calluses.

  • With good calluses come better and more capable guitar fingers.
  • Calluses are formed out of heavy friction against our skin, and the irritation that comes with it.

Cool, right?

As a defense mechanism, our skin forms a hardened, protective layer to stop it from getting cut and irritated repeatedly. If it sounds gross, that’s because it kind of is.

But is this bad for you? Absolutely not!

Calluses make guitar playing way easier, and once we get past the initial irritation stage we will be able to play for longer periods of time.

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With that being said, if you’re just starting out playing guitar you may experience a limited practice time frame before your fingers get extremely sore.

  • This is normal, but you should make sure to take frequent breaks to let your fingers rest in between practicing.
  • Even playing for 30 minutes and breaking for 10 works wonders!

Pro Tip: Don’t play guitar when your fingers are wet! You’ll end up shaving your calluses off and setting yourself back weeks (or worse).

Make sure your fingers and hands have dried before you play, and wash your dishes with latex gloves to avoid softening your hands too much during the beginning phases of building your guitar fingers.

guitar-fingers

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Hardening Your Guitar Fingers Doesn’t Require A Guitar!

Some of the best exercises for building sturdy guitar fingers can be done anywhere.

One of the first things we should do is keep our nails properly.

This helps us in two ways:

  1. Removes any barrier between our fingers and the strings.
  2. Ensures that we don’t scratch or dent the fretboard with our nails.

Keeping your nails in good condition can positively affect your guitar playing in a big way, but leaving them unattended for too long can cause problems. Keep your nails in check!

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Using your thumbnail to work in the skin on your fingertips in another great (and weird) way to help introduce your fingers to calluses.

Pro Tip: Listen to the wise words of Eric Clapton – Apply a bit of rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball and dab the tips of your fingers with it.

  • This will help to dry the skin out, creating a nice and even dry patch for a callus to form.
  • Be careful to apply this only to the tip of the finger, as we don’t need to dry the whole finger out!

If that’s not enough, we can always do it the old-fashioned way.

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Create Better Guitar Fingers With Your Acoustic

The acoustic guitar is the tried-and-true method for creating calluses that don’t quit on you.

Steel-stringed acoustic guitars are tough on our fingers, and help us build up an effective layer of skin that will help us play with grace and ease as time wears on.

  • Practice makes perfect, and it’s a great rule of thumb to practice often on an acoustic guitar.
  • If you don’t own an acoustic guitar, consider renting one for a few weeks to help get your fingers into the swing of playing guitar without discomfort!

Be warned, however – You might very well fall in love with the acoustic guitar.

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If you’re in need of some great acoustic guitar exercises, you should start with your chords.

  • Playing chords evenly is a difficult task when we first start building up our guitar fingers.
  • Focus on making sure that each note rings out evenly, and you’ll be on the right track for building some serious calluses.

Pro Tip: Chords challenge our fingers when we first begin playing, and that’s what makes them such great tools for practice.

This is also a musical practice tool, which means it benefits your ears in the process! Practice holding a chord for an extended period and strumming evenly without releasing your grip of the chord.

sore-guitar-fingers

Tougher Guitar Fingers Require The Right Strings

Whether you’re playing on an electric or acoustic guitar, the wrong strings can ruin our experience playing guitar.

  • There are two types of wrong guitar strings, and one type of right guitar string:
  • Guitar strings can be a bad fit for your hand, or they can be a bad fit for the guitar itself.
  • If the strings are too heavy for your hands, you won’t enjoy playing as your guitar will fight you too much.

If these heavy strings are strung on a guitar that is set up for lighter-gauge strings, the neck will bow from the weight of the strings.

This pulls the strings further from the fretboard, making it more difficult to play.

tougher-guitar-fingers

The right set of strings can make all the difference in the world, and it can be easier than you think to find them!

Pro Tip: Head over to your local music shop and speak with the store clerk. Ask them if there is a guitar tech on site who can recommend you the right strings.

If not the tech, many music store clerks are more than happy to help you find the ideal set of strings for you.

While we’re on the topic of guitar strings, let’s talk about rust and grime.

guitar-finger-pressure

Never Play With Rusty Or Grimey Strings

Got a guitar that you haven’t played in a while? 

  • Like, more than a year?
  • Chances are your guitar’s strings have built up some grime (and maybe even some rust) since the last time you’ve played it.
  • If you’ve kept it in a good case, you may not encounter this problem.

For those of you that leave your guitars out in the open however, you’ll have some maintenance ahead of you (and probably some dust to blow off too.)

Grime and rust slows the speed of our strings and make it difficult to play with efficiency. Techniques like sliding become much more difficult

guitar-finger-stretches

There’s nothing better than the feeling of fresh strings – but there’s also nothing worse than the feeling of slow, grimey, rusted strings.

These will take all of the fun out of playing guitar, so make sure to arm your guitar fingers with the strings they need to succeed.

Pro Tip: To keep your strings feeling fresh for longer, grab yourself a microfibre cloth for cleaning your strings after practice. This will help extend the life and voice of your strings and keep them from dulling out too quickly!

Finger pressure is another huge factor in building calluses – Let’s discuss below!

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Watch Your Finger Pressure!

Applying too much pressure to the strings as we play can cause our notes to sound weird and slightly off.

  • When we press too hard on the strings, we cause them to overshoot the note we are intending to play.
  • This is an annoying side effect of playing guitar.

Finding the right amount of pressure to apply to the strings depends largely on the type of guitar that you’re playing, so it will take some time to find the ‘sweet spot.’

Having a guitar that is well set up helps to make this process easier, as the guitar strings will be the right distance from the fretboard and won’t cause you to overcompensate with pressure.

Be patient and experiment to find what sounds right!

guitar-lessons

Stretch Those Guitar Fingers!

Creating a good set of hands for playing guitar isn’t just about the calluses – it’s about the rest of your fingers too.

A good stretching routine will make all the difference in your guitar fingers, and it will make playing a breeze.

  • As you venture forward on your journey as a musician, you will find that the more you play, the more you are required to stretch.
  • Keeping ourselves in good shape for playing guitar helps in a bunch of different ways.

Most notably it helps with good blood flow and circulation, as well as keeping your finger joints feeling fresh and energized.

free-guitar-lessons

Pro Tip: The basic arm and finger stretches work wonders to keep your guitar fingers in good shape.

There’s a great video you can watch here from GuitarLessons365 that will show you a basic stretching routine.

  • It’s important to stretch before you play, but also after.
  • Remember that playing guitar can wind up the tendons in our forearms, creating tension.

Make sure you stretch out all that tension after a solid practice session!

national-guitar-academy

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With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Stop Biting Your Fingers & Nails!

Let’s face it, folks – we’re all guilty of it.

Whether it’s a nervous habit, anxiety or just boredom – biting our fingers and nails can have an effect on our guitar fingers as well as our playing.

  • We want to keep our fingers free of the messiness that comes with biting them.
  • Maintaining our fingernails (in our fret hand especially) helps us avoid digging into the fretboard with our nails; and avoiding biting our fingers means that our calluses will stay clean and smooth.

If you’re into fingerpicking at all, this will affect you in both hands as you will need to keep your fingernails at a decent length and well-trimmed.

guitar-tutorials

Pro Tip: If you want a great article on how to maintain your fingernails for guitar, click here.

It may sound silly to some, but a nail care routine is important for guitarists of all genres. Even if it’s as simple as filing your nails often, you will notice more consistency in your guitar playing.

  • Many touring guitarists keep a nail kit in their backpack to keep them in check while they’re all the road.
  • Proper guitar fingers have the nails kept clean and smooth calluses that don’t get picked at.
  • Nobody wants to hit a bad note as a result of an unchecked fingernail!

This last point is crucial and extremely important, so we’ve saved it for last. Keep reading for our last secret to great guitar fingers!

Take Frequent Breaks!

That’s right – hang it up for a while!

The best guitarists know when to call it in for the day. Being aware of stress and strain on our forearms and fingers as well as when ‘enough is enough’ is super important as a guitarist.

  • If you’re trying to build a solid set of guitar fingers for better playing, one of the best things you can do is determine how long you will practice before taking a break.
  • Make a schedule for yourself. If you’re planning on a long day of practice, try playing for 45 minutes and taking a fifteen minute break.

This break time is a great time for stretching so that we can keep our guitar fingers in top condition.

Pro Tip: There are many yoga videos online that are short enough to fit into a fifteen minute practice break.

  • Many of these routines will help you center your body and mind so that you can come back to practice with a fresh perspective and increased focus.
  • Personally, we’re huge fans of Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube! This awesome woman has a Yoga routine for everyone, and they’re all free on her channel!

Cool, right?

Here’s a link to our favourite routine – Yoga For Musicians! 

This one is great to use before you get started with your practice routine (or if you’re like us and playing guitar full-time, first thing in the morning!)

If you want a routine that you can fit between practice sessions, click here!

Namaste friends, and keep those guitar fingers moving!

Where Do I Go From Here?

If you’re looking for more ways to strengthen your guitar fingers, we recommend the following:

  • Pickup a guitar exercise book here
  • Practice to a metronome
  • Do some yoga to help bloodflow!
  • Watch a guitar workout video like this one here

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed this free guide on building better guitar fingers, you’re going to love the other free resources we have in store for you below: 

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