“You can use my daughter’s guitar. She tried to learn how to play a few years ago, but quit because her fingers hurt too much.” Saroun had invited me to join them for a Barbeque at her home, after church. There were requests for me to lead them in some worship songs, but I didn’t have a guitar with me.
How many people have given up learning the guitar, like my friend’s teenage daughter, just because it ‘hurt too much?’ If you, or someone you know is learning to play and feeling finger soreness… after reading this article, you will know 10 solutions for helping the soreness disappear.
The problem may be your guitar. This is why Saroun’s daughter never made it past the first few weeks of playing. Her guitar hurt my fingers too… and I’m a seasoned player. Nylon-string guitars and electric guitars are in general much easier to start with, although you can find some easy to play Acoustic guitars these days.
Here’s what to watch for.
1. Make sure the action is low. The action is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If the action is high on any guitar, that can hurt your fingers. The action should be around 1/16″, or 1.5mm, at the 1st fret and 3/16″, or 5mm at the 12th fret. You can have the action adjusted in most music stores.
2. Use lighter gauge strings. Try to purchase the newer coated strings. They last longer and are easier to play.
3. If it’s your first guitar, try starting with a nylon-string instrument. You can always move to an Acoustic later. Nylon-strings are definitely easier on your fingers, or an electric guitar.
If the guitar is OK, you can still experience pain while your fingers are building calluses. But here are more suggestions that people on my Worship Guitar Class Newsletter list shared with me.
4. Soak your fingers in vinegar for about 30 seconds, and then dry them off before you start playing.
5. Don’t play right after you have washed your hands. Rub some rubbing alcohol on your finger tips, let them dry, then play.
6. Use Dubbin on your fingers. This is a leather conditioner apparently from Australia. I’m told it keeps your fingers soft and tough at the same time.
7. From a sewing/craft store you can purchase stick on quilters’ thimbles that are made of silicone. They stick to the tips of your fingers. Made in Japan, they only cost a few dollars for a pack of 60.
8. Hold ice on your fingertips before and after you play.
9. Dissolve some Alum in water and soak your fingertips for a few minutes. Dry and play. Repeat for a few days and the “toughness” increases. It’s found in the spice section of most grocery stores.
10. One subscriber shared that he would slide his fingers up and down the strings until they hurt. He repeated this every 10 minutes on and off for three days and after that his fingers all had thick calluses.
My friend’s guitar had very high action with heavy gauge strings. I told her daughter she should try again with another instrument. Look at your guitar first. Take it to a shop and have it checked out. It’s easier to play on ‘easy to play’ guitars.
Once you know that the action is low and that the strings are easy to play, try any of the other suggestions to help your fingers adjust to playing this wonderful instrument!