Everyone who's ever learned how to play the guitar will tell you that they had to go through a stage where they got some nasty calluses on their fingertips. Still, if you’re just starting out yourself, may wonder if these calluses will ever go away and if there is something you can do about them.
Guitar calluses do eventually go away. If you stop playing the guitar, they will heal after about a month's time. If you don’t want to take a break from playing, there are also steps you can take to develop them faster and shorten the process of your fingers toughening up.
If you’d like to know more about how to treat the calluses you develop from playing guitar, and the best ways to develop tough fingers, we’ve got you covered. Below we will delve into why you get them in the first place and how to avoid the problems that they come with. So get ready to pick that guitar back up and start playing again!
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Why Does Playing Guitar Cause Calluses?
Playing the guitar will invariably lead to the development of calluses. This is because the friction and pressure you have to apply to your guitar strings irritates the skin on your fingertips. However, this is not entirely a bad thing.
Developing some calluses is actually an important part of learning to play the guitar. It’s very much akin to when you first start working out and feel really sore all the time. Though it’s uncomfortable at first, it gets better and provides a shield for your fingers as you develop into a solid guitar player.
As time goes on, your ability to hold down the string fully and properly will improve, and you will be able to play for longer and longer periods without fatigued fingers or painful fingertips.
In fact Eric Clapton, arguably one of the best guitar players in American history, is said to have dipped his fingers in rubbing alcohol to develop calluses faster! Now you don’t have to go that far, but if you’re trying to avoid them altogether, you’re not actually doing yourself any favors.
How To Quickly Build Calluses For Playing Guitar
There are a few steps you can follow to expedite the process of building calluses. Many of these will be painful, so only use them to the extent that you are comfortable with.
- Medium to Heavy Gauge Strings: If you want to develop your calluses more quickly, your best bet is to use medium to heavy gauge strings. However, keep in mind that these will be more painful at first. If you want to ease yourself into things, you can start with light gauge strings. Just remember if you take the easy road, it will just make the process longer.
- Use an acoustic guitar with steel strings: When you’re first getting started, steel strings on your acoustic guitar can be intimidating because they are more painful. However, in return, you’ll develop callus far faster than you would with nylon strings. Again, it comes down to whether you want to get the process over with or draw it out.
- Simulate guitar strings with other objects: You can rub your fingers on the edge of a credit card, your fingernails, or really anything with a fine edge, even when you don’t have a guitar around you. This may be painful, but it will be as if you are getting extra time with your guitar to develop your calluses.
How To Reduce The Severity Of Calluses
So, now that we’ve examined how to build those calluses quickly, let's take a look at how to keep them from getting too terrible for you to even continue practicing.
- Do not bite them! For some reason it seems that people universally get the urge to bite or peel their blisters when they start to form. This will basically set you back to square one, and it’ll lead to some extremely painful playing until they develop again.
- Don’t play with wet fingers: This includes moisture left over from washing your hands or from using lotions. Having wet hands will soften your calluses and increase the amount of pain you feel when playing with them.
- Try the super glue method: This one is a bit controversial because, ultimately, it just slows down the process of developing calluses. Still, if you just need to give your fingers a break, but you want to keep practicing, you can put some super glue on your fingertips and use it as artificial calluses. Just make sure the superglue completely dries before you start playing.
- Use Apple Cider Vinegar After Playing: It’s said that soaking your fingertips in apple cider vinegar for thirty seconds right after playing can reduce the pain you feel after practicing.
- Guitar Picking Fingernails: If you look closely at a picture of singer-songwriter Paul Simon–renowned for his folky finger picking style–you’ll notice that on his left hand, his finger nails are long enough to act as natural guitar picks. He is just one of many fingerpickers who have discovered that growing out their fingernails just long enough to strike the guitar strings, allows them to perform complex fingerpicking without damaging their fingers.
How Do I Keep My Calluses From Peeling On My Guitar?
Some people find that their calluses peel onto their guitar strings. If this becomes a serious problem there are a couple things you can do.
- 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.
- Switch to lighter gauge strings. Medium to heavy gauge strings are great for developing calluses quickly, however if they keep peeling it might be a good idea to slow things down.
- Take breaks while you’re practicing. You don’t have to do it all in one go. If you feel like your blisters are about to burst you can set the guitar down and take a break.
Timeline Of Developing Calluses
It doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think to develop strong calluses for guitar playing. Within the first few days, your fingertips will start to hurt, and you’ll notice some blisters forming. This may tempt you to give up but if you stick to it, within two to four weeks your fingertips will harden and you’ll slowly notice a reduction in pain until you don’t feel anything anymore.
It’s important to note here however, that if you don’t start practicing regularly then it can take much longer. This is why we recommended above, that even if you’re not playing guitar you should find an object to run your fingertips over and continue to develop those callouses anyway.
So, Do Guitar Calluses Really Go Away?
Your guitar calluses will eventually go away! Still, try to remember that developing them is an important part of learning to play the guitar. The quicker you develop them the quicker you can work towards becoming the next Jimmy Hendrix! With regular practice, your calluses should mostly be developed within only two to four weeks.
You can build your calluses faster by practicing often, using medium to heavy gauge strings, and simulating striking a guitar string with objects like the edge of your credit card. If you feel things are getting too painful, you can soak your fingers in apple cider vinegar or give your fingers a break by using super glue.
Either way, if you stick to practicing, before you know it, you won't even have to think about it anymore!
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!