5 Tips to Make Playing Guitar Less Painful
Let's be honest, learning to play guitar can be pretty painful on your fingers and hands. The question I'm asked the most by beginner guitarists is, "how can I make playing guitar easier on my fingers?" I've put together a list of ways you can make playing easier on yourself and with less pain!
1) Use Lighter Gauge Guitar Strings
Strings are all different sizes. The sizes are referred to as "gauges" and are often marketed as 'heavy', 'medium', light, etc. It's possible that your guitar is currently strung with heavy gauge strings. The lighter the string gauge, the easier it is to press the string down. If you're not sure how to change your strings, often music stores will only charge about $15 plus the cost of the strings. I recommend D'Addario brand strings for acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and electric guitar.
2) Lower Your String Action
"Action" refers to the string height. How far are your strings from the frets? Ideally, you want to get the string as close to the frets as possible without hearing any strings buzzing when you play. Lowering the string action will require you to exert less force to press the string down, thus less finger pain! (More about string action).
3) Trade Your Acoustic for an Electric
Learning to play guitar on an acoustic has its benefits, such as the fact that you don't have to haul around a heavy amplifier and cables. However, learning guitar on an acoustic can be more challenging because the string gauges and action are typically greater than with an electric guitar. If you're not willing to give up learning guitar, but your fingers are killing your vibe, consider trading your acoustic in for an electric. ESP/LTD make inexpensive and great beginner electric guitars (Click here to shop ESP/LTD guitars).
4) Tune Your Guitar Down a Step
Guitars are typically tuned to 440hz. This is the standard tuning in Western culture. Tuning the guitar like this will result in the strings being tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E. But, if you're someone who's saying "playing guitar makes my fingers hurt," you can tune your guitar down a whole step which will make the strings more slinky because there is less tension on the string itself. Think of the effect that loosening a rubber band would have - some thing. To tune your guitar down a whole step, you want your strings to be tuned to D-G-C-F-A-D instead of E-A-D-G-B-E. Here's a video on how to tune your guitar down a whole step (Click here to learn how to tune your guitar down a whole step).
5) Practice Everything in the Middle of the Neck.
The majority of the things beginner guitarists learn are on frets 1, 2, 3, etc. It turns out that it's more difficult to play on that part of the neck for two major reasons. Firstly, there is more tension on the string the closer to the nut (1st fret area). For example, think of a trampoline...the closer you get to the outside edges of the trampoline, the more tight the canvas material is. The added tension of the strings at the first few frets makes it more difficult to press the strings down. Secondly, the frets are spaced further apart at the first few frets. This spacing can add a needless level of difficulty that detracts from focusing on pressing down on the strings hard enough to getting a clean sound. Instead, do this...practice the same material at frets 7, 8, and 9 which will make the string easier to press down and also where the frets are closer together. If the tuning bothers you to no end, then consider using a capo - if you're modulating from the natural open position of the guitar to frets 7, 8, and 9, then you will want to place your capo on the 6th fret (this will give you the same 'sound' that you'd normally be used to hearing if playing in the open position, relatively speaking).