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10 Ways to Combat Finger Soreness from Guitar Playing ...

By A.J.

Studying the guitar is a blast, there's no doubt about it, but there is, however, one thing any beginner hates – finger soreness from guitar playing. Seeing yourself progress through more and more difficult chords and songs is incredibly motivating and satisfying, but, at one point, your fingers inevitably start hurting so badly that you can't even type right, let alone touch the fretboard. While you can't avoid all discomfort, there are a few tips and tricks you could use to combat finger soreness from guitar playing. Let's have a look.

Table of contents:

  1. Check the action
  2. Go nylon
  3. Relax
  4. Change the gauge
  5. Use apple cider vinegar
  6. Apply rubbing alcohol
  7. Apply ice
  8. Use benzocaine
  9. Slide!
  10. Use your credit card

1 Check the Action

The action is the space between the strings and the fretboard. The higher this space, the harder it will be on your fingers, as you will need more force to press down on the strings. You can adjust the action on any guitar at almost any music store. And, trust me, it will go a long way toward preventing finger soreness from guitar playing.

2 Go Nylon

Start practicing on nylon strings. They are much easier on your fingers, as you don't have to press too hard to hold them down. Nylon has a much softer sound than steel strings, thus it's rather fit for playing classical pieces, but it's great for practicing, even when it comes to other genres.

3 Relax

Many beginners press down on the strings too hard when playing, hoping for a cleaner sound. You need to relax and apply just enough pressure for the strings to firmly contact the frets. To find out what that "just enough" is, simply fret a chord as you usually do and then reduce the pressure just a bit. If it sounds the same, or even better, you've been pressing down too hard – which inevitably leads to finger soreness.

4 Change the Gauge

Guitar strings come in different diameters (gauges). Start with a lighter gauge string set, as it's much easier to play, thus alleviating some of the soreness.

5 Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Soak your fingers in vinegar for 30 seconds or a minute right before and after practicing. This works great, both as a preventive method and as a remedy.

6 Apply Rubbing Alcohol

This supposedly is a trick coming directly from Eric Clapton. Wash your hands and apply rubbing alcohol on your fingertips. After your fingers dry, you can start practicing. The alcohol will dry up the skin and help calluses develop faster, which is exactly what you want if you're trying to avoid finger pain from playing the guitar.

7 Apply Ice

Ice is also a great way to ease finger soreness from guitar playing. Ice your fingers lightly before and after practicing and it will numb the pain.

8 Use Benzocaine

If the pain is really bad, you can also try benzocaine, a topical anesthetic often used in toothache remedies. Apply it to your fingers after playing, but make sure you don't overuse it, as it may lead to irritations.

9 Slide!

Everybody has to love the way slides sound on a guitar. Well, it seems there's much more to this technique than absolute coolness. How come? Well, you know that saying, "fight fire with fire"? Try sliding your fingers up and down the strings until they become sore. Repeat this often throughout the day for 3-4 days, and you will build calluses a lot faster, which, in turn, will help you get rid of that annoying pain. This is not the most pleasant solution, but it seems it works great!

10 Use Your Credit Card

Wait, what? Yes, that's right! Well, sort of. Keep an old credit card in your wallet and, whenever you've got nothing better to do or you're waiting in a bank line, press each finger, in turn, on the card's edge. You already know where this is heading to: building calluses faster – and maintaining them - so that you can forget about finger pain from playing the guitar.

These were just a few simple tips for handling finger soreness. Not all may be for everybody, but they're worth a try. Do you have any tricks of your own you would like to share?

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