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How to Build Guitar Calluses | Play Pain-Free in 2022

Did you know famous guitarists often glue their calluses back on before a show if they’ve come off somehow?

These areas of hardened skin are a must if you want to be a serious guitarist. In terms of how to build guitar calluses, they are best developed via regular practice to allow you to play without any pain. 

Tips For Building Calluses Quickly

  • Don’t wash your hands with warm water
  • Play for short bursts when you start out
  • Use thick gauge strings
  • Press your fingertips on other surfaces when you dont have your guitar

Escape the Pain

So you just got a guitar and want to get right into the action. Well, you might be a little disappointed to find out that your fingers will really not like this new hobby of yours for some time. 

Our skin is too soft to play the steel strings on acoustic guitars without hurting. Of course, this does not mean that it is impossible to play the guitar You will just have to harden the skin on your fingertips so that you can start playing the guitar without experiencing any discomfort. 

In this article, I will be showing you how you can effectively develop guitar calluses so that you can play the guitar with ease. 

How to Build Guitar Calluses by Picking The Right Guitar

To develop guitar calluses, you will need a few things. First of all, you will need to select the right guitar. Remember that not all guitars will be a good option to develop guitar calluses. 

This is because the strings' material matters a lot. Electric guitars have thinner strings that are not ideal for developing calluses. They can even make your soft fingers bleed.

For the best results, you should start with acoustic guitars, this is because of the thicker strings that are used on acoustic guitars. These thicker strings develop the calluses faster and allow for more prominent development. 

Once you have developed your calluses on acoustic guitars, you will feel much more comfortable while playing on guitars that use thinner strings like electric guitars. 

Now that we know which kind of guitar is best for developing calluses, let’s get into the techniques you can use.  These should effectively get the result you need. 

We’ll also look at how you can maintain your guitar calluses over time.

Play Your Guitar More Often

As a rule of thumb, the more you play your guitar, the harder your finger skin becomes, and the less you play your guitar, the softer your fingers get.

Next time when your fingers start hurting, picture it as your fingers adapting and getting tougher. With that in mind, embrace the pain and keep on playing your guitar. Keep at the front of your mind that you will be able to comfortably play for longer in your next session.

At the start, practice for short periods of about 5-15 minutes at a time 2-5 times a day, depending on how often you can pick up your guitar. This will also impact how quickly you learn guitar.

If you play for a while then take a long break, you may not remember anything you learned, and you can forget about building calluses!

Longer Can Be Better, but Be Careful

Once they start to form, the key thing is to keep playing as long as possible and not put the guitar aside just because you feel uncomfortable. 

Think of it as the gym for your fingertips. When you first start working out and hit that 20-minute mark, you want to lay down peacefully and call it a day, but your trainer comes in and starts telling you to push yourself and hit that 1-hour milestone. 

You might not complete the full workout on the first try, but you will get there sooner or later if you keep pushing yourself.

In the same way, if you keep on playing the guitar, you will notice that the pain starts decreasing. 

Although playing more is better, don’t play so much that you break your skin

That’s a sure-fire way to slow down callus build-up and may even make you quit guitar.

Press the Strings Down with your Fingers

How To Build Guitar Calluses

Another great way to build calluses is to press the strings down with your fingers for at least a cumulative period of 20 minutes each day. You don’t even have to play chords.

This is a great way to quickly get calluses on your fingers and is extremely helpful for guitarists who have discomfort with specific strings. 

Let me quickly explain how calluses form in the first place and then you will understand why this technique is really helpful.

Basically, calluses can occur anywhere in your body. Wherever you have skin, you can develop calluses. It is the thickening of the external dead part of your outer skin and is caused by repeated friction over a period of time. 

Therefore, pressing the guitar’s strings with your fingers is a great way to develop calluses in a short span of time. Here’s how you can go ahead and follow this technique:

  • Sit comfortably in the position that you normally adopt to play guitar.
  • Start with pressing the strings on your fingertips and keep on pressing them until it starts hurting. Push yourself and keep pressing the strings as long as you can.
  • Now, take a step further and start pressing the strings using the sides of your fingertips. This helps make the sides toughen up in case they have a use in your notes.
  • Repeat this process every day for at least 20 minutes and you will soon start noticing the results. Using this technique, it would take you approximately a month to build calluses should you do it consistently the right way.

You can also use other solid objects instead of guitar strings. Any solid object that you can touch with your fingertips would work. For example, you can use the wire of your headphone or better, an aluminum wire.

A Icture Of A Dented Finger Tip And A Headphone Cable To Show How To Build Guitar Calluses By Pressing On A Card Thin Object.

As you can see in the picture above, I have pressed my headphone’s wire a couple of times and it almost has the same effect. The point is that you can use any solid object as long as it fulfills the criteria. But then again, the string is the best option you have got because ultimately, you are training your fingers to get used to them.

Callus Development

Now that you know the mechanism behind building calluses, let me take you a step further and tell you exactly how you can get calluses on your fingers in a short span of time. To give you a spoiler, the quickest way isn’t pressing the strings all day long. That would only lead to bleeding and you wouldn’t be able to play guitar for weeks. 

Here’s how you can safely develop calluses on your fingers:

Start from Baby Steps

A great thing to do is to just take a few minutes every day, play a couple of songs, and if it hurts to play, feel free to walk away and pick it up a little bit later or pick it up the next day. You don’t really need to play it all day long until your fingers bleed.

The key to building calluses is consistency and never missing your practice session no matter what. It takes a little bit of time. Play it every day or at least a couple of times a week, and it will build up over time. However, if you want to give it an extra boost, I recommend you play it every day or even better, a couple of times a day.

Pro-tip: keep your nails trimmed because long fingernails could make an extra mess, and make your journey more painful.

Practice like a Rock star

Being a beginner, I assume you are not one yet but adopt the mindset anyways. Dive deep into it and keep track of your timing. If you see any improvement, it should only go up, and the learning curve should play its role.

The thing with a guitar is that it intrigues almost anyone, but right after playing the first song, many would give up, hang the guitar in their room and never pick it up again. Don’t be that guy! 

Instead, keep in mind that it will be tough, and if you want to elevate your guitar game, you have to become tougher. Give your best shot in every guitar session, and once you develop calluses on your fingers, you will be happy as larry with your guitar learning.

Keep doing your lessons and nothing can hold you back.

Maintaining your Guitar Calluses

Here’s what you really need to understand. Building calluses is not an easy task, but once you get calluses on your fingers, you would no longer need to repeat this process as long as you keep practicing the guitar. Therefore, avoid taking long breaks, and even if you are not in the mood, play it for the sake of preserving your calluses!

Building guitar calluses is one thing but maintaining them is another kettle of fish. If you lose the calluses, your fingers will start feeling the pain again every time you play the guitar. 

You don’t want to go through all of that again!? Great, here’s what you can do to maintain your calluses.

  • Practice regularly: You won’t lose the calluses ever if you keep on practicing regularly or at least twice a week.
  • Don’t play the guitar with wet hands: When your hands get wet, especially when you apply soap or they get wet in detergent with warm water, the calluses become soft. If you play the guitar with soft hands, the chances are that you will lose the calluses. Therefore, avoid playing guitar when your hands are wet or soft.
  • Have extra strings: Ideally, you should have a backup of essential guitar accessories, and the string is a must. Don’t make the mistake of not having extra guitar strings

    If one or more of your guitar’s strings break and you don’t have an extra, it could take you a while to find and set up the string, which would compromise your practice, thus resulting in losing your calluses.
  • Have a nail trimmer in your gig bag: Biting your nails can lead to damaging or ripping off your calluses. So be careful.
  • Nail care vs calluses: Your nails have a lot to do with calluses. Once you develop calluses, you will notice that if you grow your nails or you trim them down more than you normally do, it will hurt every time you play guitar, and it can also lead to damaging your calluses. 


Therefore, nail care is extremely important for guitarists. You should cut down your nails to a specific point to keep your calluses intact.

Even though your hands may become a bit yellow and you may not like those pale marks don’t try to cut them short with a knife. The calluses are your badges of honor that will serve you well while playing the guitar. So, keep them intact and don’t lose them even if you want to enjoy playing guitar pain-free.

Keep on Callusing

To wrap it up, you can simply build calluses by playing the guitar more often or applying friction to your fingertips. 

The best way to do that is to repeatedly press guitar strings with your fingertips until it starts to hurt but not to the point of bleeding! If you do that frequently over a period of time ranging from 20-50 days, you will get calluses on your fingers, and you will no longer need to worry about the pain every time you play guitar.

Next, you need to maintain those calluses in order to avoid going through the boring development phase again. There is a simple recipe to do that.

Play your guitar regularly and avoid taking long breaks. Preferably, you shouldn’t go guitar-free for more than three days. Moreover, keep your nails in shape and avoid playing guitar after you have soaked your fingers, such as doing dishes, laundry, etc.

If you take care of these, you will never have to experience the pain again and will enjoy every bit of playing your guitar. Have questions? We would love to answer your questions in the comment section.

Author

  • How To Build Guitar Calluses

    My "day job" used to be teaching but I decided to give that up to play music full time. I have gigged all over the world playing in bands or as a solo act since then. I still have a passion for teaching others anything related to music. Writing content for InciteMusic.com gives me an opportunity to combine my love of music and education.

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