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I play the piano. And I am newly starting to learn guitar on a classical one. I want to play electric guitar after I improve and manage to acquire one.

I wanted to play the guitar left handed, with my right hand on the frets. But I am a right handed person. Today the guitar started to kind of feel right (I mean ok) in this lefty position. The reason I do this is to have develop my left sidedness both muscularly and cognitively, and also have a unique feeling about my guitar playing, and also I have a weakness on my right hand and some right body muscles a bit so I want to develop it. After some practice on guitar as lefty I even feel my right hand has become more dexterous on piano keyboard, which also suffers from the general right side weakness in my body. Normally on piano keyboard I feel my right hand a bit stiffer and less dexterous than my left hand. I also hold the pen with my right hand.

I feel ok with practicing guitar left handed but my only concern is that my right hand is my melody hand in the piano, and to have a nicer piano tone my right finger tips should not get hard or callused by time after pressing the strings on the frets.

Is it a permanent or temporary thing to have this hardness on the fingertips of the string pressing fingers in guitar or other stringed instruments like violin, cello etc.?

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Basically, yes - callouses are your body's protection against damage (that it could incur from pressing hard on the strings, which cut into your flesh)

As you become more proficient, you will learn how to press only as hard as is needed, and no more - this will help a lot, but you will still have harder pads on your fingertips.

Nylon strung guitars require a lot less pressure so you probably won't end up with hard callouses, but you will still have thickened skin.

Skinny electric guitar strings can help, however really thin strings can actually cut quite deeply, so it will depend how you play.

If you are going to play guitar a lot, I wouldn't suggest trying to soften the callouses - you could end up damaging nerve endings in your fingertips over time. Callouses are there for a reason!

  • Can electric guitar strings actually cut the finger? Maybe I've got exceptional flesh, but after hurting my finger and removing the outer skin of part of my middle finger (not nearly as gory as it sounds) I did obscene slides and huge bends to see what would happen (not my proudest moment) and aside from some obvious discomfort no actual damage was done. Again, that is without callouses, even more without the outer skin. – Agustín Lado May 24 '16 at 19:28
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    Oh yes - when I was first starting out I used to bleed so much from slicing my fingers open. That guitar ended up stained with blood - right into the wood :-( – Doktor Mayhem May 24 '16 at 20:40
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Some people's calluses seem to be semi-permanent, but others will quickly lose them after a period without playing. There is some related discussion here.

However, your concern about tone on the piano is unfounded. Piano keys are not so sensitive that the toughness of your skin is a factor; you have to depress them far more than your finger pads would compress by. Loudness is controlled by the force you apply, smoothness by timing and acceleration, etc. Calluses are not a problem in these areas.

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    Calluses reduce sensitivity in your fingertip, though. I guess that could be an issue. – Édouard May 23 '16 at 1:00
  • @Édouard I cannot imagine any way in which it would be. The pressure of actually moving the key will be felt regardless, it's not like you need to feel exact textural details or something. – Matthew Read May 23 '16 at 2:26
  • Really hard skin also can create a click noise when the finger is put on the key. – Alfe May 23 '16 at 14:34
  • @MatthewRead I think my point on piano is founded. We do not play the piano with hard bones that only can adjust the force applied to keys, and the speed to move to other keys. Together with those and to attain them we have feeling sensing fingertips, their sensitivity to pressure is still have control on the parameters you mentioned, which I agree to a measure. Maybe it is better at the same time with this question I ask it separately in a different question for exclusively the piano to have ideas whether it has any effect on player's piano tone. – Selçuk May 23 '16 at 15:29
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    I@Işık Calluses are not hard bones, either. I have no issues feeling the keys or anything else, there is no clicking, etc. – Matthew Read May 23 '16 at 22:13
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If you're really keen on not developing callouses at all, I think the best way would be to soak your fingers in water (maybe with Epsom salts? or just moisturizing soap?) after practicing to let the skin really soften and re-hydrate. Let 'em get prune-y.

Then dry thoroughly, let them un-prune, and apply whatever lotion or handcream you usually use.

Conversely, for those trying to build calluses, do not do this.

  • I don't think that will work. The callouses come from small wounds you create by rubbing skin layers against each other (the same effect which produces real blisters, e. g. from rowing a boat, just much smaller). It is not dehyration that produces the callouses but the body's reaction on the microscopic injuries: It fixes them with stuff much like eschar, and that, actually, is hard. – Alfe May 23 '16 at 14:38
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I am already playing for years and I do not really have this problem. As you are playing a classical guitar, the nylon strings will normally be very soft to your fingers. Electric guitar strings are a bit 'harder', but in the end they are a whole lot 'smoother' than for example typical folk strings. So I won't worry too much in your case. However, do not immediately go for the thinnest electric guitar strings available, since they can be quite sharp in contrast to standard .09s or .10s - which is something you wouldn't want if you really like to 'preserve your finger tips'.

Be sure to check this out so you set-up your gear correctly in order to avoid the problem.

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The fingertips are more intimately connected with tone production on guitar than piano. You're overthinking a lot of things here. Play guitar the standard way round. As your piano playing develops, so will ambidexterity!

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