Guitar calluses are something we’ve all heard about. Stories abound about guitarists who played until their fingers bled from the pain of tearing their callused fingertips. However, we also hear of people who develop calluses but don’t have them yet. What’s the scoop?
Don’t worry about tall tales, marketing schemes and urban legends. No one wants to have their fingers and hands severed from playing the guitar.
This is because you must stop playing until your body heals.
It’s difficult enough for beginners to have to limit their practice time due to the tenderness and squishiness of your fingertips. Even though you might only be able to play for 30 minutes, your fingers may become swollen and may have been cut too shallowly the next day.
You should also practice for at least a few days before you start the process all over again. All of these problems can be solved by building guitar calluses, and then caring for them.
There are many tips and tricks that can help you before you reach this point. We will cover how to remove calluses from your hands, care for them, and the stages that lead to calluses developing.
Let’s start with the obvious. We’ll define what a callus for newcomers. Then we’ll get into the meat.
What are Guitar Calluses and How Do They Work?
A guitar callus refers to a thickened layer of skin on the fingers of guitarists who are not constantly manipulating the strings.
As the body’s protective mechanisms kick in to protect the skin from repeated pressure and friction, this area of skin becomes more hardened over time. Callos protect your fingers from pain by reducing the need to feel it. A guitarists fingers with calluses after playing, showing how the protection works
Your neck hand’s fingers know you won’t stop making them suffer from these guitar strings so they begin to build armor to protect themselves. This takes persistence and a lot of patience.
To earn these small badges of honor, you have to endure the pain. It’s worth it. Guitarists have been dealing with this issue since the beginning. However, we also have a few tricks that can help you get over this initial hurdle. Let’s start with this time period.
How to build calluses fast for guitar
We must admit that there are many ways to reduce the appearance of calluses, but it takes commitment. There is no quick fix for this, and nothing will replace the hard work. These are some quick ways to sharpen your fingers.
Less frequent practice sessions – The best way to develop calluses is to keep practicing your guitar and bass regularly. It’s better to play for 10 minutes each time, rather than for 2 hours and then not playing again for several days.
You will learn more quickly if you have shorter sessions. You will end up with blisters if you go too long before you develop solid calluses.
Enjoy Time with an Acoustic Guitar. This might be your goal, but many people only play electric guitar. Most people will adjust the action of their electric guitarist and use light strings. This makes it easier to play.
An acoustic that has steel strings is stronger and requires more force. They also have a higher level of action. You’ll be able to tolerate the strain for long enough and avoid the nylon strings of a classical instrument. This will help you grow thicker skin faster. Steel strings (left three) are coiled around a core, giving a rougher edge than nylons.
Use Medium or Heavy Strings When you are completely new, there are two options. While you can avoid the pain of pressing down on a heavier string with lighter gauge strings, you could end up cutting your fingers because you don’t yet have the protective skin layer.
It is better to press and rub against thicker gauge strings with their bumps and ridges. This will accelerate the growth of calluses. Our Guitar Strings Guide gives our recommendations on string brands and gauges.
Keep your Fingernails Trim You will often see guitarists chewing on their fingers until they become too short. They’ll tell that their fingernails aren’t scratching their fretboard. But the main reason it does is stop you from playing.
Your fingertips are releasing pressure and friction by hitting the strings of the neck. This can slow down the growth of good calluses. It can also lead to unpleasant situations such as slipping and tearing off a part of a nail.
You should use nail trimmers, but don’t chew on your fingernails. You can easily overdo it, and end up with different types of finger pain like ingrown nails or infections.
Reduce Pain – You need to be careful about what you are doing. The idea behind this is that you can reduce some pain with home remedies such as witch hazel or medicine.
This is not something I believe to be the best idea. However, your mileage may differ. A 30 second apple cider vinegar soak may be helpful before and after your practice session. Some will apply a topical anesthetic such as toothache creams while others will take an aspirin.
Rub your Fingers in Down Time– One of the most popular tricks guitarists use is to imitate pressing your fingers into a string on a guitar. Some people will rub their fingers on the back of an old credit card, pressing their fingers against the edges.
Some people will push their thumb into their fingers one at a while. Some people look to the rock-climbing and weight-lifting communities for solutions, as they have the same concerns about callus-building as guitarists. The Planet Waves Varigrip can be used to build calluses while on the move.
Make a fake callus. This can slow down your ability to grow real callus but it can be a quick fix if you are in a pinch and need to quickly get out of a bind.
You can also use super glue to paint on the surface and let it dry. or using products like liquid bandaids. Although it is fast, it is not real. This will slow down your actual progress, so only do it if absolutely necessary. You should also clean your fretboard and strings afterwards. You will find dried flakes scattered about.
Use Rubbing Alcohol Master guitarist Eric Clapton recommends that beginners dry their fingers with cotton balls, rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes.
You can apply a thin layer of this rubbing alcohol several times per day to help dry out the skin and encourage the growth of thick, dry layers of skin.
These are some of the most practical and sensible tips that you will find. But there are many others. People say that they tap their fingertips on any surface they find, but this isn’t the same as a string pressing into the skin. This is a huge part of the trick.
However, it can make your pads thicker. You can get to the point quickly enough if you do all of this without getting too obsessed or using tricks that are too crazy.
WHAT IS THE DURATION TAKEN TO CULTIVATE GUITAR CALLUSES?
This is, to be honest, the question that everyone wants to know because they want to increase their calluses’ growth speed. The answer will vary depending on the person and their activity level.
You’ll notice a faster increase in the time it takes to practice. It all depends on how much you increase your playing level.
However, in general you can expect a timeline like this:
First Week: You can’t avoid the unavoidable tenderness. All you can do is wait. You should practice for at least 15 minutes per day, or 5 minutes per session three times per day. You need patience and persistence to succeed in this area.
Music theory can be studied or you can practice tuning and changing strings. You can even learn ear training and do rhythm exercises with your strumming arm.
Second Week: You will feel the deep, throbbing sensations as well as the sharper pains on the lighter strings. The change will be visible and felt in your fingertips. It will still be painful to feel the meat between your fingers and bone, but it will soon become manageable.
After One month: If you have done everything you should, then you are good to go. This is the moment when you might not think about it anymore. You may feel a thin layer of skin peeling off at the top. However, it will only reveal the new, more difficult callus beneath.
Let it dry and do not pick at it. You’ll have healthy, shiny fingertips that are protected from pressure and friction. Perfect calluses for guitar. They cover the entire fingertip smoothly.
Realistically, you should be able to expect to wait at least three weeks for any calluses to develop. If you practice your hand exercises regularly, you will be in good health within a month. It can take longer if you don’t practice.
If you do all the right things (mentioned above), and avoid the bad (mentioned down below), you may develop calluses in three to four weeks. However, you will not feel any pain for at least two weeks.
How to care for your guitar finger calluses
It’s finally over! Despite all the frustrations, you persevered and now you have the most beautiful guitar finger calluses. What now?
How can you take care of these poor guys so that they do their job and protect you from pain and sensitivity. You have finally earned the right and privilege to play for hours on end. Let’s show you how to maintain that right.
Don’t Push Down Too Hard on the Guitar – Everyone thinks that more is better, and this applies to guitar too. Beginning guitarists have a bad habit. They push down on the strings too hard.
This will cause your hands to become tired sooner and can lead to tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and even the possibility of tearing your calluses. This means that you must stop playing until your fingers heal. You’ll also be losing your calluses.
Relax and form your chords using only the pressure necessary to make them sound good. If you feel your fingertips are aching from the calluses, you may be pushing down too hard.
Do not pick at, bite, or shave down your calluses. Another habit we all have is to pick at the imperfections in our skin. This usually happens on our faces, but it can also happen on our fingers. Your calluses will be a constant reminder of you as you go about your day.
You feel like you want to play with them all the time. You might start to feel that they are ugly and should be groomed. Don’t do it. Leave them be. They are your friends.
If a callus develops or is catching on the strings, you should not file it. This can cause tears so be careful.
If you must file, use a pumicestone to replace an actual file or emeryboard or nail file. And don’t use any electric trimmers, cheese grater-looking things, or any other tools that look like they are for trimming the heels of your feet. These are good candidates for careful filing and smoothing.
Do Not Play After You Have Wet Hands. If you have been in the tub for a long time, worked in the water, or went swimming, your calluses may become softened and your other fingertips might look like raisins.
Even after using hand lotion, this can happen. It is best to not pick up your guitar immediately. You will soon see your calluses start to peel in layers.
If you have already damaged the items, you will still be responsible for their damages after drying. Be sure to wait until they are completely dry before you try again.
Spread Them All Over Your Fingertip Don’t allow calluses to grow on a very small area of your fingertip. They should grow wider and cover more of your fingertip so that you can bend and chord from all angles.
You can spend a few minutes pressing different areas of your fingertips into the strings at the end each practice session to help them grow larger. The credit card trick can be used throughout the day. These calluses are too small and localized. They need to cover more of the fingertip.
You can now just keep your calluses intact and not let them go. You will eventually encounter an episode in which the entire callus attempts to fall off, instead of the top layer flaking. We know how to handle that.
What to do if your Callus starts peeling off
There are ways to fix or reduce the pain caused by a callus that has been peeled off or torn away.
This is not as common as you might think. Be aware of the options to ensure that this does not interfere with gigs, practice, and recording studio trips.
While we mentioned some things to avoid when developing your first set, they are good things if your pain is causing you problems.
You can switch to nylon strings if you are playing a steel string acoustic. They are more smooth and require less pressure. You can also use lighter gauge electric strings until you are ready to change to your preferred size.
If you are just practicing chicken picking or fingerpicking, you can detune your strings one step. Instead of using EADGbe for your strings, drop them to DGCFad. This will lower the tension and force required to push the strings down to the frets.
You are skilled enough and have been practicing for a long time that you don’t risk losing your skills. You can reduce the time that you spend practicing and playing.
It’ll also be good for your fingers. You can also break down your sessions into smaller, but more frequent sessions.
If the callus starts to peel but isn’t completely torn, you can press it down and apply super glue or liquid bandaid ointment. This process can be repeated until the callus is completely gone. However, you will have created a new layer of pad beneath it.
Don’t cut it if you don’t want to. To remove it safely, you can use scissors to make a clean cut. This will prevent any injury to your fingertips and further discomfort.
You can use superglue to glue the guitar back on if it tears in large pieces. Then, apply a bandaid. It will reduce your ability to feel the guitar but can also heal.
You’ll be out of commission for a while. You don’t have to worry about it as long as you know what you are doing. Take it easy until the injury heals enough to allow you to resume your normal activities.
Conclusion: Guitar calluses require persistence
You are in a situation where you want to learn how to play guitar without pain. However, eventually you will need to be able to continue playing painlessly.
We have also shown you how to make calluses for your guitar and how to care for your fingertips once you have built up thick skin layers.
Knowledge is not all. However, we can only guide you. The hard work will be yours. Keep practicing and be patient as your guitar skills improve.