One topic that should be part of all lessons for beginners is how to avoid finger pain while learning the guitar. It’s a common obstacle for many people; the discomfort that comes from pressing steel or bronze strings down on a hard wood fret board with your finger tips. Most teachers will tell you it’s just part of playing guitar, but this necessary evil can be lessened considerably in just a few simple steps.
5 Tips to reduce guitar finger pain
Avoid it. When you start learning guitar, or anything for that matter, short but frequent practice sessions yield the best results. Most people get excited about playing at first and keep at it for an hour or more the first time they try it. I’ve known more than one person who practiced till they were sore, quit for a week, and repeated this with the same three chords until they decided guitar hurt too much and quit for good. Practicing 10 or 15 minutes EVERY DAY will keep finger soreness to a minimum as well as increase progress. As you learn more and gain finger strength, the practice sessions can gradually get longer.
Shake it out. Part of the soreness is due to decreased circulation in the wrist and hand, which are working while being held in an odd position that you don’t use except for guitar. Stop occasionally and shake your fingers and hand vigorously to loosen them and encourage blood flow.
Work it out. Hold your left hand flat toward your face as though reading your own future guitar rock stardom in its lines. Curl your index finger forward as far as you can without moving the middle finger. Curl the index finger the same way, then the ring and pinky. Open them in the same order. Repeat moving faster as it becomes more comfortable. This works the muscles and tendons of your hand in a dynamic fashion, and it warms up and loosens the muscles and tendons. Throw in the Vulcan salute and Shaka sign while you’re at it. Stretch your fingers and promote cultural awareness and world peace at the same time!
Rub it. Rub your finger tips lightly on the fabric of your jeans or whatever appropriate, soothing cloth is nearby. Denim is good, corduroy is even better, but any fabric will help. This is another way to improve circulation in the finger tips and rub the tips of your fingers back into shape after being pressed onto strings.
Lighten it. If it’s still just too uncomfortable, you might consider lighter strings. A coated string in extra light gauge like Elixir Acoustic Phosphor Bronze (.010-.047) is much easier on the finger tips. You might even consider switching to a classical guitar. The strings on a classical guitar are much softer and have less tension, therefore they are much easier on the finger tips. A Hohner HC06 Full Sized Classical Guitar
can be found for under $100.
While it’s true you have to suffer for your art, there’s no need to suffer needlessly. Follow these tips and take the sting out of learning how to play the guitar.
It’s easy to play guitar, but bad posture can make it a lot harder!
Most of the problems actually result from the focus we put into learning how to play guitar. We lose track of our body! We concentrate on getting our fingers on the right strings in the sweet spot with enough pressure and the rest of our body is forgotten! This can result in some odd positions. Once during a home recording project (another overly encompassing hobby!) long hours of attention focused on my work resulted in bad posture that did damage to my right shoulder that took months of physical therapy to put right!
Looking at the guitar is a common cause too. To see the strings we tilt the bottom out away from our body and lean over to look down on it. Now your left wrist is twisted and straining and your body is wrapped around the guitar without even noticing! In this picture you can see a very dedicated guitar student contorting her body around the guitar.
One solution is simply to check your position every now and then. Set an alarm on your phone if you tend to get particularly focused. I personally find pain in my back, neck or wrist to be a good cue! When practicing becomes uncomfortable, I adjust my posture. Also, if I repeatedly have trouble playing a difficult bit, that’s when I know need to sit up and reposition my guitar.
Here’s another student sitting up and ready to shred!!!
Good posture makes playing guitar easier!
If you have other questions, check out How To Play Guitar: The Ultimate Beginners Guide!
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No, I didn’t make a typo or try to slip in something sexy to get you to click on the blog. The original quote is “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” from William Congreve’s play The Mourning Bride in 1697. It’s often misquoted as “music soothes the savage beast” which leads to lots of jokes about great violinists being eaten by deaf lions.
It is certainly true that listening to Bach or Debussy can help you relax. Your favorite life affirming pop song or uber deep singer songwriters message (my current fave) can help you let go of a days worth of worry and irritation. But; PLAYING music is way better! The pretty, soothing tones your guitar produces can de-stress you, of course, but while you are playing or especially learning new tunes you can experience and sensation known as “Flow”. The concept was named and first described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. It is a state of mind in which you are totally immersed in an enjoyable learning activity. It is most often achieved by athletes, artists and musicians! You need a skill set (your current playing abilities), a challenge that fits the skill set (new tune) and time and place to focus on the task. When you are totally focused and involved with your practice the world recedes, the stress of the day fades into nothing. You forget to think about yourself and even your feelings.
Don’t force the flow experience; just try to play the tune. If it seems too difficult or frustrating, slow it down (see How To Practice With a Drum Machine) or pick an easier tune. Don’t try to practice for a set time, just let yourself get involved with the process of learning the tune. Later, you’ll know you had a flow experience when you look up and realize how much time has gone by, usually far more than you thought.
Not only does music soothe the savage breast, but it also opens up new ways of practicing Positive Psychology and improving your mental state and your life.
Go to the MoreThanGuitar.com main page to select a new song to start learning!!!
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