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I'm self-learning guitar for a year now, I come from a programming background and I am prone to "larval stages" when learning ^_^

My maybe biggest challenge so far is to stop playing when I'm tired or when I feel discomfort in my fingers leading to all kinds of issues including but not limited to developing deep "bone pain" in my fretting fingertips that doesn't go away unless I stop playing for a couple of weeks and let my hands really rest, and this is irritating to both me and my dog because then I go into tin flute or blues harp mania and my dog hates it ^_^

The guitar is really good, a custom made classical guitar, a gift from a friend, I could not ask for better or softer.

Also, I have noticed that when I come back after ~~2-3 weeks of rest that my guitar playing is better than I remember, so I guess resting has an important role in the learning process and I may not be doing myself favors even from this perspective by practicing so hard. But it's easy to overdo things you love ^_^

Obvious answers, taken from any kind of physical exercise regime would be:

  1. have rest days, when you don't play at all
  2. limit the amount and length of session to some reasonable time
  3. relax the fretting hand ^_^ (getting there, getting there)

So, what would "reasonable" be for most students? What's the ~90% standard lesson & home practice time in music teaching? How many rest days a week?

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You don't say how long you're practicing, but obviously you should practice less if you are injuring yourself in the process. From your description, it sounds like you have an issue with your callouses. In that case it probably is preferable to practice less and let the callouses develop over time. I remember my callouses getting hard like rocks when I first started and was playing several hours a day. I also remember that it could be painful. However, now they are not quite so hard, probably because I don't usually play more than a couple of hours a day.

I don't think anyone can give you an actual specific time span to practice because everyone is different, but "less than you've been practicing" seems obvious. Also, while three weeks off makes everything seem fresh when you start playing again, you're missing out on that time to increase your abilities, so preferably you'd find a time span for practice that doesn't require "days off".

"Relaxing the fretting hand" might be a challenge when you're starting out because you may not have developed the strength in the hand to begin with. Again, less time should help reduce fatigue while you develop your strength. (Taking three weeks off probably sets you back in this regard.)

There are also other ergonomic issues that could contribute to your problems. If you're a programmer and use a computer keyboard all day you're using your hands quite a bit if you add in guitar practice.

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    Good points, during last time when I overdid it, I was playing 2h a day in different styles and no "rest days" for a month and a half, maybe two - I thought that my fingers are now strong enough to take that kind of regime. Usually my index finger signals me first when it needs a rest but this time it was the middle finger with no prior warning, I just picked up the guitar one evening and felt sharp, deep pain in the fingertip, so probably not callouses. My mariachi friend tells me I'm too tight when I play, so I'm guessing it's probably that which is the main limiting factor. – bbozo Jan 19 '17 at 10:34
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    I tend to agree that this is probably a tense grip problem. Most of the classical guitars I have played I could play all day long, they are usually pretty soft as you say. – Yorik Jan 19 '17 at 15:07
  • The point about being at a keyboard all day cannot be overestimated. The combination of the two can really put a strain on your hands. I also play a lot of guitar and flute, and so since starting a day job in an office, I now have to pay close attention to how tense my hands are feeling because the two things I do most both put a strain on them. – Some_Guy May 2 '17 at 12:30
  • Try to always, actively put as little strain on your sinews, even when programming. Eronomics are really important for your future, and will help to keep you healthy. On the guitar, actively try to release pressure on the left hand. try to not cramp your right hand. In my exprience, a teacher can help you a LOT with this, so if you find this very hard to do, seek for a few lession from a private teacher and ask him these questions specifically. – Mafii Sep 8 '17 at 9:34
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You have not included enough details about your specific case for focused advice, but you have brought up an important aspect of learning and playing any instrument, not just guitar.

Limiting Practice Time

Professional guitarists, such as Ana Vidovic, obviously practice a lot more than enthusiast guitarists, however they would never practice for anything near 6 hours. There are many stories that have been shared by professional musicians about practicing for too long and then not being able to practice for weeks, much like your story.

This is generally a matter of opinion, but there is no real reason to take rest days, more specifically if you are restricting your practice to a healthy amount each day.

As the previous response rightly suggests, the most obvious answer is to practice less. There are, however, many things specific to your playing which would affect your fatigue.

Technique

The fact that you are self-learning makes me suspect that there are some problems with your technique which are contributing to this problem. There are many different subtle differences in hand positioning, angling, etc., which greatly increase the amount of effort needed to play any given note. There is no real fix that I can provide for this, other than advising that you either find a resource on guitar technique like this, or getting at least one master class from a teacher near you (if possible).

Strength

Besides your technique, as the previous answer also mentions, your hands may not be strong enough to perform the tasks that you are asking it to. This is not something to be self conscious about, as techniques take time to develop.

You have not included the pieces you are playing when this happens, but it is also likely that what you are playing is too technically demanding for your hands at the current time. You may want to consider leaving those pieces for simpler ones, practicing a lot at much slower tempos in order to get lots of practice with less strain, and warm up with exercises in different techniques, such as slurs and tremolo (exact exercises are for a different question entirely).

Your Instrument

It may also be that the action of your guitar is very high, which would also mean significantly more effort in the left hand being put into playing each note. This is very easy to get fixed if this is the case, as pretty much every music store that carries guitars will offer action adjustments.

No matter what instrument you play, your health is always of the utmost importance, especially if your job means that you need you hands. I hope that I have helped you in some way, and wish you the best of luck continuing in the learning process!

  • The breaks are the key part, but also note that the asker is clearly not a professional – Ambluj Dec 3 '17 at 5:50

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