Sore fingers from playing guitar

How To Prevent Sore Fingertips Stopping You Playing Guitar

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Don’t let the song Summer Of 69 come true for you:

“I got my first real six-string,
Bought it at the five-&-Dime,
Played it ‘til my fingers bled,
It was the summer of ‘69”


The lyrics tell the story of Brian Adams learning to play guitar and how (apparently) it made his fingers bleed.

On top of that, if you’ve seen the documentary It Might Get Loud, you can actually see Jack White play guitar until his fingers bleed. Oouch.

Now as cool as that might be and contrary to popular belief, I want you to know that you don’t have to have sore fingers (let alone bleeding ones!) at all when you learn to play guitar.

In this article I’ll show you how to lessen it and even prevent it entirely.

Here’s Why It Happens

When you first begin playing guitar the skin on your fingertips is soft so the pressure of holding the strings down can hurt them. This soreness lasts until your fingertips toughen and form calluses (hard skin) that will protect them against the strings.

Unfortunately, it's a two-fold issue. Not only is it annoying and uncomfortable to play with sore fingers, it will also stop you from playing guitar as much as you want to.

Now as cool as Jack White and Brian Adams are, I don’t think it’s worth going through this sore and annoying stage at all, if you can reduce or even prevent sore fingers happening… which you can.

Here’s What To Do About It

Here are three guitar approaches to helping you and your fingertips out:

  1. Use A Capo

A Capo is a device that clamps on the neck of your guitar to let you easily play in different keys. However, A handy bonus of using a capo is that it holds the strings down closer to the fretboard, which means you can use less pressure to hold them down which will reduces the soreness of you fingertips.

I recommend that you clamp it on the first or even second fret  of your guitar and you’re good to go.

  1. Let Your Calluses Form

You want protective calluses to form on your fingertips as fast as possible. Which means playing for long enough to trigger their formation, but stopping your practice before your fingers actually get too sore to hinder the callouses forming.

Remember: The callouses actually form while you’re not playing, so aim to stimulate them, then get out of their way.

For speedy callouses: play for short enjoyable bursts each day (5-10 minutes is fine), Don’t over do it and any time that you experience soreness, stop for a break.

  1. Don’t Over Grip Your Guitar

Adults beginners often instinctively grip the strings to tightly using far more pressure than is needed, which makes for sore fingertips.

Instead try this little exercise to find the optimum pressure.

  1. Play a note anywhere on the guitar as you normally would
  2. Give a number between 1 and 10 for how much pressure you’re using
  3. Stay in the same fret but move your fingertip closer to the fret wire that is closest to you
  4. Keep plucking the note and begin reducing the pressure gradually until you’re using as little as possible but still getting a clear note.
  5. Give this new pressure a number between 1 and 10

Do this as many times as you need to in order to fix this new habit and along with playing in the optimum position (next to the fret wire) aim to use this reduced (optimum) amount of pressure whenever you play.

Remember you're just one chord away,

– Ian

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