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I just started to learn playing the (electric only for now) guitar, and I love it! I've read on a few pages that it was normal for my fingertips (those that I use on the fret board) to hurt in the beginning, but I was wondering whether or not I should be concerned about that. The pain is far from being unbearable, but should I take that as a warning that I may need to skip a day of practice every now and then? Or should I just keep going until my fingertips become less sensitive?

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Its a good thing you're not starting out with acoustic! (the strings tend to be a let stiffer) –  bobobobo Jan 21 '11 at 16:23
    
Yes, that's also one of the reasons I chose to start with an electric one ;-) –  Anthony Labarre Jan 22 '11 at 7:33
    
It's up to you what strings you put on your acoustic. I use 0.010 to 0.046 electric guitar strings on acoustic guitars. –  Kaz Jan 30 '13 at 17:52
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9 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Generally no. As long as they aren't bleeding it's just part of the process of building up callouses for playing. You may experience some swollen finger tips and the skin will get a bit harder. If pain persists for a long time after you stop playing, or if you're bleeding, you might have cause for concern.

There's some honour to be had among fellow players in playing through the pain, for sure. :)

You can minimize the pain time by avoiding things that would soften your finger tips while they're building up the callouses that help keep the pain down. Don't soak your hands or moisturize them. Wear gloves if you're working with water for any period of time (doing dishes, cleaning the house or car, etc.). Try to keep them dry. Don't pick at the callouses.

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Thanks, very helpful! –  Anthony Labarre Jan 21 '11 at 16:14
4  
A guitar student was complaining about learning some Gilmour solos one summer. She was saying, "I could do these bends like a month ago, but now my fingers hurt! I feel like a wuss." I asked her if she'd been spending a lot of time at the pool and she said, "Yes. With my acoustic too. We just swim and jam. Why?" Ha! –  yossarian Jan 21 '11 at 16:30
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Wear the pain as a badge of honour! :) It is all part of building up your hands to be a good player.

Just be careful WHEN you pick up your guitar. For example, don't begin a practice session straight after you have washed the dishes or the car, or come out of the shower, as your fingertips will be soft from the water.

Also make sure that you wipe down your strings thoroughly after playing. Any corrosion or dirt particles left on the string will essentially turn them into rasps that will chew up your fingers.

I would also hold off from practising too many slides or bends until you have built up some basic callouses as they can put a lot of strain on the skin on your fingers.

Good luck, and keep up the practice. One day you won't even notice the pain any more, and your fingertips will be perfect fretting machines! :)

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If the pain at the tips of your fingers isn't unbearable then it is perfectly normal! It will get less as you go on... You also get used to it! If your hand begins hurting however, then it is time to rest a bit...

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You are basically pressing your finger tips down on cheese wire. This is something that you aren't really designed to cope with. It's something we all go through: when we're starting out and when we haven't played for a while. Your finger tips grow accustomed to it and firm up. Keep them out the bath and other situations that may soften them, take a break if you feel you need to and don't worry, your fingers will adapt quite quickly.

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I don't know how you're hurting your fingers, whether it's just callous-building, but it is entirely likely that you're squeezing too hard.

Your discomfort is the first problem, but not the only problem. Remember string-bending. You press more and go sharp. By squeezing too hard, you're bending the string and messing up your intonation.

Also, all the energy you use to squeeze your neck, you have to reverse that action to go to the next. This makes you slower.

So, figure out exactly how hard you need to squeeze and you'll play in tune, you'll play faster and you'll won't hurt.

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No pain, no gain!! No gain, no pain!! ARRRGGGG You should worry more about pain in your hands and wrists. These could be signs of bad posture and form. When just practicing, it is recommended to sit with your guitar classical style.

classical style video

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Several of the answers mention calluses.

I remember bleeding fingers and calluses cracking and splitting.

You'll find that eventually they'll go away and the fingertips won't be hard, won't crack or hurt either. I think it was about five or seven years after playing regularly when I realized mine had changed.

I don't know if it was because my guitars were all set up nicely, or that I'd learned to NOT over-press when I fretted, but my finger tips have always looked normal since then.

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It should not be an issue, as long as you don't start bleeding. THAT's a sign to stop. :p

As long as your fingers feel playable, you should practice. If your fingertips are hurting, do not try and force them to play more - you'll damage your fingers. Callouses build up naturally after a while of playing.

IMHO, callouses and the F chord are the pain for the gain of becoming a good guitarist. ;)

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I'm no doctor, but as long as the pain isn't unbearable, you shouldn't have much to worry about. When calluses develop on your finger tips from lots of playing, then pain should subside.

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