For beginner guitar players, building guitar callus on the tip of their fingers is a major issue, especially since it implies “pain”.
As well as having less time to practice because of that pain.
You’ve probably even heard horrible advice such as “play until your fingers bleed” as if actually playing the thug and ignoring the pain until you bleed will actually make you a better guitarist!
Pain is, in fact, the signal our body gives to our brain that something is wrong and that the behavior that’s causing it needs to stop.
It’s the reason that the instant you touch something that burns with your hand, your hand bounces back.
And thank goodness for that!
Building guitar callus on your fingers does involve tolerating a very, very, small amount of pain – but this is a far cry from blood coming out of your fingers!
What you really should do is that as soon as the level of pain is not very small, you stop playing immediately.
Now, you might be asking:
“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure this out, but the problem is that I’ll have to stop practicing every time I feel some pain. Like this it will take me too long to learn the guitar”
Except that you don’t need to stop practicing once you feel some pain! You just need to give a little break to the fingers of your left hand without quitting your practice session because the skills you need to develop to learn guitar, involve other areas of your body besides your left hand.
In fact, besides your left hand, there are 3 other parts of your body that have a significant role in learning the guitar.
- Your right hand
- Your ear
- Your brain (Though we rarely think of it, our brain is actually doing 80% of the work when playing guitar).
Thus, the solution to stopping the pain, without reducing your practicing is simple: Build musical skills in some other area.
I do not suggest ear training if you’re still at the stage of building your guitar finger calluses, but learning some music theory basics will make your guitar learning journey much easier.
That said, at this point in your learning curve it is even more important to train your right hand, until the pain in your left hand subsides. Then train both hands again until the pain comes again, so on and so forth.
I think you’ve got the idea, so what I’ll give you in the next part of this lesson, are some things you can do to train your right hand.
Take a look at this exercise (but don’t play anything yet, just follow the instructions below)
The exercise above doesn’t require you to use your left hand at all, since all the strings are played open.
Now do the following things:
- Play the exercise in alternate picking (down – up – down – up etc)
- Play it using only down-strokes
- Using only upstrokes
- Practice 1-3 focusing on the fact that after each stroke, the pick should move as little away as possible from the string, though still hitting it strongly.
- Practice 1-3 with a metronome
You can also play variations of this exercise.
For instance, the following exercise trains your hand to skip strings, a technique you’ll definitely need to develop if you want to become a good guitar player.
Needless to say, you don’t need to do all these exercises in one go. Choose one thing and practice it while your left hand is taking a rest from building guitar calluses on the tip of its fingers.
Conclusion: Building guitar callus is actually a small thing
Though building your finger calluses for guitar may seem like a big thing if you’re a beginner, it’s actually nothing in the grand scheme of things.
If you use this method to grow you the calluses on your finger-tips, you will be gaining other skills that are necessary in the guitar learning curve.
Among others, you will be training your right hand to find the right string at will.
The better you get at this, the less you will need your eyes to look at your right hand.
Where to look is a huge issue for beginner guitar players, since they come into situations where they need to look at both their right hand, their left hand, and the music written in front of them.
Thus, looking at your right hand, is the first that needs to become unnecessary.
And there’s no better time to train your right hand to find its way around than when your left hand finger-tips are taking a little break.
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