Callus - Building Calluses

I've received a lot of questions about shortcuts when it comes to creating calluses.   As far as I know, there aren't any.  That's one disadvantage when first learning how to play the guitar, especially a steel string acoustic.  I remember big red grooves in the ends of my fingers after practicing that really HURT! Unfortunately, the only way I know to form good hard thick calluses that will last is just keep practicing.  Eventually you will have killer calluses on the ends of your fingers.   I remember it took me about a year to get a good callus on the end of my pinky.

PS. The only time I think about my calluses now is in the winter.  The ends of my fingers seem to be more sensitive to the cold now.

Bob, Gman ( o )==#

A tip from Eric Clapton supposedly: rub your fingertips with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol three (3) times a day for a week or two for a beginner or someone who hasn't played for a while.  This will dry out the skin and help calluses build very quickly.  I tried this after not playing for about a year and it worked for me.

Donated By: Jef DeMarie

I read tip 67 about building calluses and it reminded me that many of the stores I have visited that sell rock climbing equipment sell an item to help build calluses.  It looks like a coin, a little smaller than the palm of your hand.  It is metal and has concentric metal ridges on it.  Put your thumb on one side and squeeze your fingertips over the ridges on the other side.  It builds calluses in no time and it fits right in your pocket.

Thanks for the site!   Nat

I use an old credit card to harden and maintain calluses. Hold the card across the palm of the hand and press each finger in turn into the opposite edge. Great when reading or sitting traffic queues!!

Great site by the way, Paul

I remember an old trick my first guitar teacher told about toughening up my fingers.  He said to put a tablespoon of ALUM into a glass of water, and soak my fingers in it for 20 minutes a day. The Alum can be bought in most 
grocery stores.

Thanks, for your website.
George Lane


Tip from Portugal,

I believe the best thing to gain calluses is playing a lot, but if your finger tips are very sore from previous practice on the steel string, you should go lightly and if possible play nylon string for a day.  That way the calluses will build and not be destroyed.

I had a very hard time building calluses and one little trick I came up with was that every time I was dealing with water at home (dish washing, car washing, bathing etc. specially with hot water) I would use some rubber doctor type gloves (thin gloves).  It works because immediately you can pick a guitar and play.

Pedro Araujo

Hey, gman--

I found your website this evening and have enjoyed what I've read so far. I've been playing steel-string guitar for about 50 years, 40 of those years professionally. I'm contemplating a month-long trip to Central America next year and that would be the longest time away from a guitar since 1965. So I've been thinking about what to do about keeping my calluses. Years ago I wrote an article for GUITAR PLAYER about calluses (damned if I can find it right now) and I did some research on the subject. A lot of people had ideas on the subject but the skin docs I talked to claimed there were only two ways to get and keep calluses: pressure and friction. However, I also came across some pretty interesting suggestions: one person said that old-timers used to jab the ends of their fingers against a wood stove! One dermatologist explained that the discomfort you feel when you're starting to play is what signals the brain to produce keratin, the substance that eventually turns into a callus. He suggested that playing until it hurts and then quitting for a day or two might be the fastest way to get your tips in shape--but this was just a theory (calluses are on the very low end of consideration for the medical profession). The best advice I got was from a cello player who said he would keep a cheese cutter in his pocket--the kind with a wire stretched over a roller. He'd just press on it for awhile when he didn't feel he was getting enough practice time.

Great site--keep it up!

Tim Burr

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