"My fingertips hurts" when playing ukulele / guitar / mandolin / violin / cello

I hear time to time some new students who tells "It hurts when I play my instrument".

It could be guitar, ukulele, cello viola, alto, double bass; any stringed instrument for the matter.

If it hurts, playing will shift quickly from being a pleasure to being a chore.

It shouldn't be like that.

To keep playing music a fun and pleasant, here are some tips to reduce/remove the pain;

I used to say one thing.

"If you practice everyday at least 10 minutes, it won't hurt anymore after a couple of weeks". (see {{15:How much to practice}}).

I got my first real six string

Bought it at the five and dime

Played it til my fingers bled

Was the summer of 69.

Bryan Adams

Through time, your skin will thicken just a little bit, forming a stronger skin at the tips of your fingers. Surely but surely, you'll build a mini natural shield that will protect you from pain.

Work in progressThis article is being written. It may not yet reflect our standard of quality.

You may have a question about music or ukulele.


Contact us and we'll be happy to anwer your questions.

The more often you practice the less it will hurt

"If you practice everyday at least 10 minutes, it won't hurt anymore after a couple of weeks". (see {15} ).

Through time, your skin will thicken just a little bit, forming a stronger skin at the tips of your fingers. Slowly but surely, you'll build a mini natural shield that will protect you from pain.

It's called a calluses .

In other words, calluses are formed on the skin when that part of skin is frequently rubbed or pressurized. These calluses are solid patch over your skin which doesn't let the strings hurt your fingers.

How long until my finger aren't soar when I play?

In other words, how long does it take for calluses to form?

It varies. It generally takes from 2 to 4 weeks to form.

Obviously, the more often you play, the quicker it gets (2-3 weeks).

Attention, it doesn't mean that you should play as long as possible. But as often as possible.

Your skin will need a couple of minutes to get a little bit better, and a couple of hours to "get repaired".

Also, it will take more time for some instruments - the harder and thinner and more tensed the string (like metal strings for electric guitars), the harder should the calluses become.

Get your fingertips' skin build up their armor stronger : get your calluses to form quicker

Practice more often.

If you play once a day until your fingertips hurts, it's great.

But if you play multiple times during the day until your fingertips hurts, it's better.

For instance, you can play in the morning, then later when you come back from school/work.

You can also play until your fingertips hurts. Go on a break. Play again until your fingertips hurts. Go on a break. And do that multiple times.

That way, your fingertips will form calluses quicker.

Pause/break

You probably don't feel the pain before playing 5 minutes.

So just practice the other hand instead. If you feel the pain in the left hand, do some exercises for your right hand, like strumming.

Ask your ukulele teacher to give you some right hand exercises if you need new ones.

That way, your left hand's fingers will go on a break for a while. After having done these exercises, you can go back to using your left hand again.

The more often you practice the less it will hurt

It's as simple as it gets, the more often you practice, the less it will hurt.

Each time you play, you are progressing. AND your finger's skin get stronger!

You've got another hand!

Having your fingers from your left hand soar?

Why would you stop practicing?

You can have some fun with your right hand! You do many right hand exercises.

When feeling some left hand pain, do right hand exercises

You can do strum exercises, or do fingerpicking exercises dedicated to the right hand.

Ask your music teacher for such exercises, s/he will be happy to help.

Or ask me :)

Would you like a new ukulele teacher? Get in touch with me now.

Take the fingertips challenge!

The fingertips challenge is the following one:

That's it. Every day, a little bit. Everyday a little bit more.

Write down the time you've played each day. See your progress.

You can even let me know in the comment how long you have managed to play before having your finger soar:

Take the fingertips challenge!

Take it easy when pressing down your fingers

A light touch will typically give you the sound you want.

Harder pressing creates a greater strain on your hands and may ultimately lead to muscle and/or wrist issues.

Here is a simple experiment.

Press down hard a finger from the left hand, and play the note.

Now, continue playing this note again and again. While doing so, slowly, little by little, apply less pressure.

Before getting a "buzzing" note, a note that isn't as clear as expected, you will see that you don't have to press that much on the string to have a clear sound.

Test out where you can put your finger : just before the metal bar (the fret) on the fretboard is where I recommend to place the finger.

Practice your fingers' positions, shapes, pressure.

All in all, take it easy to press down your fingers, you don't need to press that hard to have a clear sound.

A light touch will typically give you the sound you want.

I can help you further in your musical progress, as I give ukulele lessons.

Would you like a new ukulele teacher? Get in touch with me now.

Nails!

Keep your nails short

As mentioned in {2#Left hand's nails} . it is advised to keep your left hand's nail short. One of the reason is to avoid the absorption of the pressure by the nails, as that would put strain on your fingers.

Adjust space between strings and fretboard

On some instrument, you can adjust the space between the strings and fretboard so that you don’t have to push down as hard.

You can't do that on each instrument. For example, it's pretty rare to be able to do that on ukuleles.

If you don't know how to do that, you'd better ask your local instrument shop for some advice on how to do that.

Don't Give Up

Every music player will struggle, feel discourage, and skip one day of practice. Then another. Then another.

But always remember why you started.

Is it the cute sound of the ukulele? Or do you love playing some specific tunes? Maybe it relaxes you.

Whatever it is, don't stumble and stop at the first roadblock.

Practice every day, and you will get through the difficult times. And you'll enjoy even more playing music.

Maybe you need a little help in your journey, and of course I could help you achieve that. . Maybe there's something a tat wrong about the problem itself, or maybe I could help you tackle it in an easier fashion.

But be sure you continue no matter what.

Don't play with your left hand if your fingers are...

Don't play when your fingers are wet

When wet after a long bath, your skin is like a cheesecake: soft. If you use a knife, even if it's a plastic knife that is not sharp at all, you'll be able to cut your delicious cheesecake.

Don't play when your fingers wrinkly wet.

Don't play when your fingertips are damaged

Maybe you've had a scratch last time you went hiking with your uncle. Maybe you played your instrument for hours on the second day you had it.

The point is that now, your finger is damaged. Your skin needs time to recover.

Don't play until it's completely healed. Otherwise it could get painful. You may even slow down the healing process.

Tune it down: loosen the strings

It really hurts and your kid don't want to play a minute of ukullel because of that?

OK, let's go hard balls on that: let's tune your ukulele one tone down, one tone lower.

So instead of being tuned G C E A (G4 C4 E4 A4 to be precised, see {13#TODO} ),

it will be: F A# (or Bb) D G (F4 A#4 (or Bb4) D4 G3)

It will be easier for your kid to start with.

After 3-4 weeks, once your kid get a little used to playing, tune it normally.

You can also loosen your string one tone. It will sound lower . But it will be easier for your fingertips.

To tune it down a tone, you'll need to use your tuner (or your tuner app) with the "" mode, and not the "guitar"/"ukulele" mode. Here are the notes that you'll want to tune it to:

Ukulele:

Guitar:

You can also ask your music teacher to help you. I admit loosen the strings from your instrument to reduce sore fingertips would sometime come to them as a surprise.

After a month of practicing (almost) everyday, your fingertips won't hurt anymore. You can now tune your instrument normally.

Is your ukulele/guitar the problem?

A few decade ago, I tried myself at mandolin. It was fantastic: I loved the sound, and its doubled five strings were tuned very similarly than a cello. And as I've played maaaany years of cello younger, it would make mandolin easy.

There was an old mandolin by my grand parents, and they were happy to let it to me. I tried exercises, scales, music sheets by myself. I bought myself a book. All was good.

But I didn't see myself progressing as I wished. It was harder that anticipated to press down the strings.

A few months went buy, then a few years, and I tried my luck again at this instrument I have forgotten for a while.

I took a music teacher then. After all, trying by myself hadn't been that successful.

After having seen my mandolin, the music teacher told me that it was too old. Too old, and that it couldn't be repaired.

The fretboard get bent over the years, and the strings were too far off.

I was obviously sadden... But imagine I would have got a teacher earlier? Imagine if I would had professional advice earlier...

Anyway, the point is simply that sometime your instrument might be the problem. It's very often not, but you may want to ask someone else about that, to get another opinion.


But the more you know about what your fingers do when you shred, strum, or pick, the more you can do to prevent pain and potential injuries such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome that can accompany guitar playing.

What causes fingers to hurt when playing the guitar?

Leave a comment