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Should a steel- string guitar hurt my fingers after a year?

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(@robbieboy)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 19
Topic starter  

Hi folks,

I guess my post is self-explanatory. When I started out playing guitar about 18 months ago, I used a nylon-string acoustic. But then I tried a steel-string and found that I much preferred its sound. So now I have been playing on a steel-string maybe 12 months or a little more, but it still hurts my fingers- to the point where I struggle to get through even one basic song due to the discomfort. Is this normal? Should I try a different set of strings? Any suggestions? Thanks to anyone who may be kind enough to help.


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(@bkangel)
Estimable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 118
 

I guess my first question would be frequency of playing?

My ex had been playing for 30 years, but his fingers would still be shredded if he took a week or two away from playing.

I find my fingers tips become less sensitive if I manage a couple of short stints every day. Miss a day or two and it's back to the land of ouchies.

Do you know what weight strings you are using, and has anyone else played the guitar who might be able to suggest if the action is too high for you?

(All the advice this newbie can think of )

What I lack in talent and natural ability, I will have to make up with stubborness.


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(@robbieboy)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 19
Topic starter  

Thanks for your reply, bkangel.

I think your first question (frequency of playing) is probably a large part of the problem. I think in recent times there have been more days when I do not practise than there used to be- and I don't do big 'bursts' of practice like I used to. Sometimes I used to sit around and practise for maybe a couple of hours, whereas lately I have been more inclined to practise for 10-15 mins a day (in terms of 'peaks' and 'troughs' of enthusiasm I am going through a 'trough', but trying to be mindful of the importance of at least picking up and playing each day, if only to do a little). So I guess the answer is right in front of me.

I am not sure what weight strings I am using, but I will ask my tutor. On the topic of the guitar's 'action' my tutor (who also does professional guitar maintenance/repair/adjustments) did lower the action a while back so that is probably ok.

Thanks again for replying :)


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(@gosurf80)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 28
 

You might also want to look at the setup of your guitar, mostly meaning how the neck is positioned in relation to the body. Are the strings too high off the fretboard and too hard to press down? If it's a cheaper model, a short trip into a local shop for a set-up might make it more comfortable to play (some less expensive instruments don't leave the factory with the best set-ups).

Changing to a lighter gauge string might be helpful as well. Try some 10's if you need to.


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(@joehempel)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 2418
 

I think it may just have to do with your fingers as well. My fingers have calisas, but they constantly break, and then have to be re-built up, and that's pretty uncomfortable for a while too.

In Space, no one can hear me sing!


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(@clideguitar)
Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 376
 

I find my fingers tips become less sensitive if I manage a couple of short stints every day. Miss a day or two and it's back to the land of ouchies.

If I miss JUST a couple of days my fingertips will hurt also! I try to play at least 1/2 hour a day.

Bob Jessie


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(@jase36)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 247
 

Robbieboy I went through something very similar with my first acoustic. I filed the saddle down a little, my friend adjusted the truss rod, put lighter strings on and still it hurt my fingers . Aftrer 12 months I could take it no more and traded it in, the problem was cured by changing the guitar, I could play for long periods and barre chords became alot easier. Was it the guitar? or just in my head ?

Worrying about the playability is enough to distract you from learning so maybe its worth playing a few different guitars.
I'm not saying change your guitar but it might be worth going to a guitar store and trying a few and see how they feel.

http://www.youtube.com/user/jase67electric


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(@robbieboy)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 19
Topic starter  

Thanks everybody for the helpful suggestions...

I have in the last couple of days changed to lighter gauge strings- this has made a noticeable difference to my 'comfort level' in playing the guitar, although I wouldn't say the problem is solved completely. I still seems to suffer 'fatigue' halfway through a song or piece I am attempting to play from start to finish.

An example of this fatigue (and I don't know the correct name for these chords), but there are chords in which a 'modern style' finger positioning is used. For example, with G: it is played with an extra finger (the third finger) on the third fret of the B string. With E minor: it is played with normal position for the first two fingers, but with third finger on third fret of B string, and fourth finger on third fret of bottom E string (hope that makes sense). Tunes such as Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)", and "Wonderwall" by Oasis use these type of chords. I definitely experience fatigue trying to get through these tunes, and this fatigue compromises my chord changes, which are not too bad.

I think I mentioned that I have had my 'set-up' adjusted by my tutor (i.e. lowering the action etc) so I am confident that my guitar sound and plays the best it can for a 'budget guitar' (I won't say where I bought it, but what I will say is that it was purchased from a retail outlet at which it would be simultaneously possible to buy milk and bread). With this in mind, I may just follow the advice from jase36 and go try a better quality steel-string at my local guitar shop and see if it feels more comfortable. Thanks again one and all!


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(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 833
 

Are you pressing too hard? Lots of beginners press too hard - sometimes called the "vulcan death grip". If you press too hard that can hurt your fingers and tire you out quicker.

Try pressing lighter. As you are holding a chord shape let your fingers relax until you just start to get buzzing. Then press just a little harder until the buzzing goes away. If you normally press harder than that then you are pressing too hard.

I used to press too hard (as all beginners do) but over time my grip has become lighter. Doing some drills like above with the chords can help.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


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(@perducci88)
New Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 1
 

Thanks everybody for the helpful suggestions...

I have in the last couple of days changed to lighter gauge strings- this has made a noticeable difference to my 'comfort level' in playing the guitar, although I wouldn't say the problem is solved completely. I still seems to suffer 'fatigue' halfway through a song or piece I am attempting to play from start to finish.

An example of this fatigue (and I don't know the correct name for these chords), but there are chords in which a 'modern style' finger positioning is used. For example, with G: it is played with an extra finger (the third finger) on the third fret of the B string. With E minor: it is played with normal position for the first two fingers, but with third finger on third fret of B string, and fourth finger on third fret of bottom E string (hope that makes sense). Tunes such as Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)", and "Wonderwall" by Oasis use these type of chords. I definitely experience fatigue trying to get through these tunes, and this fatigue compromises my chord changes, which are not too bad.

I think I mentioned that I have had my 'set-up' adjusted by my tutor (i.e. lowering the action etc) so I am confident that my guitar sound and plays the best it can for a 'budget guitar' (I won't say where I bought it, but what I will say is that it was purchased from a retail outlet at which it would be simultaneously possible to buy milk and bread). With this in mind, I may just follow the advice from jase36 and go try a better quality steel-string at my local guitar shop and see if it feels more comfortable. Thanks again one and all!
Robbie, i'd just like to help you out a bit! those chords that you dont know the names of, well the G chord is just a plain G chord, you play it the CORRECT way that many people don't even know of! :)

the E minor chord with the extra 3rd fret on high e and B, thats called an Em7 (E minor 7th)

another two chords that sounds amazing with those two, are the normal D chord or a Dsus2 (D suspended 2nd).. very simple just add your fourth finger on the High e's 3rd fret. (hammerons and pulloffs sound cool on it) and the last one is called a Cadd9 (C with added ninth) and to make that chord, do your G as you described.. but move your first and second finger, each down one string.

should look like this:
Cadd9
e -3
B -3
G -0
D -2
A -3
E -0

Anyway, All the power to you Robbie!

PS who cares where you bought your guitar, music is music.. you dont need to prove to anyone that you enjoy making music by buying expensive instruments! :)

Peace out dude!


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(@wattsiepoops)
Reputable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 271
 

Pressing to hard, high action, heavy strings. Its all been mentioned.

One thing that hasn't thought is that everyones fingers are different. It takes different people different amounts of time to build up calluses. And depending on the stylr you play, they can be ripped to shreds often. Lots of slides and hammers will wear down your calluses.

Just keep practacing, the pain will lessen and eventually go away..... Or you'll just get used to it.

David Watts
Takamine G-Series - £229
Fender STD American Telecaster (Cola Red) - £849
Vox 15watt AMP (Valve pre amp) - £129
Acoustic/Electric Rhythm and Lead (Occasionally) Southport Elim Youth Band
Former Aftershock 24/7 Rhythm Guitarist (Band split)


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(@moconno1)
New Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 3
 

Sometimes you can't force calluses. The key to effectively building them up over time is to play every day. If you put your git down for even a few days at a time your calluses are never going to fully develop.

Mike O
Rock-Tips Liquid Callus Builder
http://www.Rock-Tips.com


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(@mmoncur)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 168
 

Try playing really, really quietly.

I know that sounds strange - it's your PICKING hand that controls the volume - but when I tried playing quietly for a while (in a hotel room while my wife was asleep) I discovered I was putting much less pressure on the left-hand fingers. After that it was pretty easy to train myself to play "quietly" with the left hand while the right hand plays loud...


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(@ballybiker)
Reputable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 494
 

TIP
place a capo at first fret then tune to standard tuning. the guitar will then be dropped in both tuning and string tension, to play your wonderwall now place capo at 3rd fret instead of 2nd...with the capo as a new nut you should find the action much lower too...so much easier to play...this will work on any high action cheapo guitar.

regards

what did the drummer get on his I.Q. test?....

Drool

http://www.myspace.com/ballybiker


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(@boynamedsuse)
Active Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 12
 

Try playing really, really quietly.

I know that sounds strange - it's your PICKING hand that controls the volume - but when I tried playing quietly for a while (in a hotel room while my wife was asleep) I discovered I was putting much less pressure on the left-hand fingers. After that it was pretty easy to train myself to play "quietly" with the left hand while the right hand plays loud...
Thank you for the idea. I don't have problems with a lack of callouses, but my fingers and thumb do get tired after (say) 1/2 hour. Perhaps this would help train my fingers to use just the right amount of pressure. :)


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