Perhaps the most annoying side-effect of playing the guitar when you are a beginner, is finger soreness. This happens because of continuous fretting of the strings while the skin on your fingertips is still weak and soft, and not used to this sort of behaviour.

Beginners on their first try of playing the guitar, will very much feel this effect straight from the first several minutes, and this makes it very difficult for them to continue playing.

This is a problem that faces every beginner to the guitar, and below I'll be explaining how to build guitar calluses and ease the soreness of the fingertips, so you can have a smoother beginning on the guitar.

Guitar Calluses, How to Build Them?

To help you better understand this topic, I'll give the example of working out and building muscles.

If you go to the gym for the first time and exercise your muscles, when the session is over and you go home, you will feel an extreme soreness of those same muslces you exercised.

Now this is normal, but why does it happen? Because you have exposed these muslces to an amount of work and pressure that they haven't experienced before.

And that pain or soreness that you experience is a result of the muscles trying to adapt to the new state you've put them in.

Guitar calluses is the same in this regard.

When you for the first time expose those soft fingertips of yours to the guitar strings, especially steel strings (acoustic and electric guitars), the skin will behave similar to the muscles in our example above.

You can't avoid this situation, but I can give you a few tips to be able to deal with it better, and develop calluses faster:

Time

This is the natural, standard way of developing calluses. Just like in the case of the muscles and working out, where over time your muscles will adapt to the stress and the pain will be reduced gradually, so is the skin of your fingertips.

The first couple of tries will be extremely painful, but if you persevere and endure this pain, I can guarantee you that you will feel less pain in the upcoming practicing sessions.

Pressing Too Hard

Beginners have this habit of chocking the neck of the guitar and pressing very hard on the strings when fretting.

Learn to develop the right feel to push just enough force down the strings to get an accurate clean pitch. You also don't want to press too softly to not get a buzz sound or no pitch at all.

Type of Strings

The strings here play a big role in both developing calluses and causing soreness. If you can't tolerate the pain then replace your strings with a lighter guage version of the same strings you have. Medium and Heavy guage cause more pain but will result in developing calluses faster. That's why if you can tolerate the pain, and I advise that you do, keep the strings and don't change them.

This is especially true in the case of the steel strings acoustic guitar, where medium and heavy guage strings are very popular and needed to obtain that sharp, loud voice that acoustic guitarists normally aspire to.

The lighter gauge strings are more popular with the electric guitar because they are easier to bend and the electric guitar don't rely on a soundbox to acoustically amplify its voice but rather on a guitar amplifier.

As for nylon strings acoustic guitar (or the classical guitar), the nylon strings are known to be much more friendly on the skin of the fingertips than steel strings, but its wider neck and fretboard makes it more difficult on beginners.

Nevertheless, the less pain caused by the nylon strings is one of the main reasons many guitar teachers advise beginner guitarists to start on the classical guitar rather than the electric or the steel strings acoustic guitar.

The Action

The action on the guitar is the space between the strings and the fretboard.

The longer the distance, the harder you need to press down on the strings to get a pitch.

If soreness is a problem for you, go to the nearest guitar store and ask them to adjust the action on the guitar for you, so the space between the strings and the fretboard is reduced. They'll happily do that for you for a humble price.

Products

This is optional. I, personally, prefer to develop calluses naturally and endure the soreness of the fingertips.

There are a few products out there that you can use to help you endure soreness more easily.

Some people use Apple Cider Vinegar to soak their fingers in for about 30-60 seconds to dull the pain, before and after playing, while others prefer to wipe their fingertips with a cotton pad soaked in IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol), a few times a day over a period of 1-2 weeks to dry the skin and develop calluses faster.

However, be careful there with the IPA, don't over do it because continuous use of IPA on the skin over a long period of time can ruin your skin!

Summary

Guitar calluses is the hardened skin on your fingertips. It's a natural state of the skin after continuous playing and pressing down on the guitar strings.

It's a situation that all beginner guitarists have to face and go through, it is painful and annoying, and one of the reasons why some people give up on the guitar even before they can play their first song.

The best ways to deal with soreness and develop calluses easier, are getting a ligher guage strings, adjust the action on the guitar to reduce the space between the fretboard and the strings, get products like IPA and Apple Cider Vinegar to help alleviate the pain on your fingertips, and just persevere and give yourself enough time to naturally develop those calluses.

Once you have those calluses, sore fingers will be a thing from the past and the pain will disappear permanently.

NOTE: Avoid playing guitar after your fingers have been exposed to water (after a shower, swimming pool, beach, etc) for a long period, because the skin will be very soft and the guitar strings will cut through it easily, to a point where you can even enjure yourself!

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