i have been practicing my guitar for over 6 months , i use extra light gauge and also built calluses , but strings still hurt my fingers ! Any tips please ?

  • 1
    Which particular situations and parts of the finger are painful? – topo Reinstate Monica May 17 '16 at 8:14
  • @topomorto fingertips – Someone May 17 '16 at 8:30
  • 10
    I depends on how much you are playing. You can play for 3 years but if you practice 1 time per week it is natural for your fingers to hurt. – papakias May 17 '16 at 8:38
  • 1
    Have you read this? (music.stackexchange.com/a/29842/16897) – Rockin Cowboy May 17 '16 at 23:30

Not knowing what the action is like on your guitar, it's difficult. You need to make the action - the distance between the strings and the fretboard - as low as possible, so the strings don't need pressing far.But not so close that they buzz.

Also, you may well be pressing TOO hard, it shouldn't be necessary to squeeze too much, just enough to stop fret buzz. If this doesn't work, then tune the guitar down a semitone to start with, as this makes the strings looser, so easier to press down. It's a double edged sword, though, as it also makes the strings rattle a bit more.

If things are desperate, you could try nylon strings, which are softer in the fingertips. Or - replace the guitar with a half-decent electric, which will have a better action.

If you need to build up callouses, I believe the action or the way you play are not good. With a well set up guitar, you won't need them.

  • action is 0'6 cm – Someone May 17 '16 at 8:31
  • 3
    6mm seems high. But where did you measure? Try 12th fret, and measure from top of fretwire to top and bottom strings. My acoustics are about 2mm on thinnest and 3mm on the bottom string. – Tim May 17 '16 at 8:40
  • yeah i measured on 12th .. does it seems high on 12th fret ? btw , most people say low action cause fret buzz sound – Someone May 17 '16 at 8:46
  • 3
    Absolutely ! ! Yes, a very low action will, but there's a compromise, and I don't think you're anywhere near with 6mm. – Tim May 17 '16 at 8:48
  • @Eva It really depends on the guitar type and quality. – Bartek Banachewicz May 17 '16 at 12:45

The three things that are likely to cause you pain at this stage are:

  • string gauge: thick strings will require more pressure to fret them
  • pressing too hard: a common problem when learning is putting far too much pressure on the strings. You only need to touch them to the fret (see people like Ritchie Blackmore using scalloped neck guitars, where the string never comes close to wood)
  • string height: the further you have to push your strings to touch the fretboard, the harder it is on your fingertips. When I first started I had a terrible acoustic that had a string height at the 12th fret of over 1cm. Was very good for building my finger strength, but an awful guitar that couldn't play in tune. Now my guitars are between about 1mm and 4mm at the 12th fret, except for one I use for slide guitar that is around 7mm.

String height is a trade-off, as too low will lead to fret buzz, and the optimum depends on your playing style. Hitting the strings hard is likely to give you more buzz, so you'll need a higher action.

If you do decide to lower your action, be aware that you may need to adjust the truss rod - see other posts here on that topic. As Todd mentioned - this is not a job for a beginner, but your local guitar shop should be able to do this cheaply for you.

  • Would you recommend someone who is not as experienced have a professional setup done, rather than try to learn to adjust their own action and truss rod at the same time they are still learning the basics of playing? – Todd Wilcox May 17 '16 at 12:42
  • 1
    Absolutely. Most local guitar shops should do it very cheaply. – Doktor Mayhem May 17 '16 at 12:43
  • I know most local guitar shops SHOULD do it very cheaply... but most don't! More's the pity! – Tim May 17 '16 at 17:12

1) Switch to nylon ("classical guitar") strings. The tension required to tune nylon is less, and the material is softer than steel strings.

Won't work for electric, but if you like or were playing acoustic, ...

2) Switch to a ukulele: super low-tension strings.

3) Switch to bass. Big fat strings.

4) Acoustic bass strings are stupid thick and soft; they're like rubber bands.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user28 May 18 '16 at 4:46

While a light gauge requires less pressure, it is also more cutting, especially if the action is too high. I'm thinking, for example of the difference between a thin versus a thicker, blunter blade--the former will slice more easily.

Definitely see about getting a better guitar, as the action sounds high. A better made guitar will have a flatter neck that is less prone to having spots that buzz, and will support a lower action.

But it is a lot cheaper to buy thicker strings, and maybe worth a try as a stopgap. While they may be a bit more work to press down, they should at least be easier on the finger tips. However, with high action you may be trading the tip pain for a muscle-related pain. And high action will always slow you down and be more difficult to barre.

  • Eva already had thicker strings, and changed them to make it easier to play. – Tim May 17 '16 at 17:13
  • But her complaint is about the fingertips. Fingertips do not have muscles, AFAIK. That is why I'm thinking this is about the 'slicing' feeling. I get it too when I switch from nylon to electric. – Phil Freihofner May 17 '16 at 18:05

Only fret the string with enough pressure to make the chord. I have had students with this problem and I tell them to lighten up a bit on the strings when making a chord. If you push too hard on the strings, your fingers will hurt, no matter how long you have been playing. Once you get use to the new pressure of your fingers Your fingers will feel a lot over time


Firstly - you haven't said if you are strumming an acoustic or rocking a shred-tastic electric; if it is the latter I agree with the previous comments to get the action set correctly - 6mm is high! if you play bass you could try round wound ground down or nylon wound - also check out super slinky strings - Finally there is a super product out there called Fast Fret It cleans and lubes the strings and if you are an improver seems to make a difference to how fast you can shred. Happy twanging.

  • One of the tags is 'acoustic'. This doesn't answer the question. – Tim May 18 '16 at 10:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.