Pain in your fingers can be quite frustrating. In this guitar lesson, I will explain the one bad habit that is responsible for a lot of this painful finger syndrome and show you one overlooked but important way to overcome this problem.
Some Ideas That Can Help
There are many ways to deal with this problem. Things like using lighter strings, adjusting the action of your guitar, or practicing for shorter amounts of time. All of these can help, and I still recommend them.
Here’s a link to a video where I talk about these:
All of the methods I talked about in that lesson are still valid and useful. But sometimes it’s not enough.
Overpressing Notes When Making Chords
Overpressing notes when playing chords is the habit that is most to blame for sore fingers from the guitar. On the surface, it seems like a simple thing to resolve… just don’t press so hard.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The key word here is “habit”. Once you develop a bad habit, it is not that easy to just stop doing it. I’m going to show you a tried and true system to overcome this bad habit.
How This Habit Came Into Being
There are a lot of things to remember when you first learn chords on the guitar. Firstly, you need to remember where to put your fingers. Secondly, you need to place your fingers in just the right place, not too close to the fret but not too far either. Thirdly, there is the position of your thumb, your wrist, making sure you are relaxed, etc. It’s a lot to juggle.
Because it’s difficult to get everything just right, most people compensate by pressing really hard on the strings to get a clean sound. Ideally, as you progress and get your hands and fingers on the right positions and right angles, you’re able to not press as hard. Unfortunately, that is not usually the way it works. This is because you now have a habit of pressing really hard to make it sound good.
This not only creates sore fingers, but it is also more strenuous and you get tired faster. In the worst cases, it can create serious problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. The solution to this is to create a new habit of pressing the strings with just the right amount of pressure.
Understanding How Much Pressure Is Needed
Let’s identify exactly how much pressure is needed to get a clean sound and no more. Grab your guitar and put your finger on the third fret first string. Press down and pick the string and make sure you get a clean note. Then lighten up on the pressure slowly, and see if that still sounds clean.
Keep doing that until you find that exact balance of minimum pressure that provides clean sound.
Now let's try to find that balance or “sweet spot” on different strings. Go slow and play with the pressure to find that edge where you press just enough to get a good sound.
Exercise: Stage 1
Building on the experience from the previous experiment where we found that sweet spot of pressure we’re going to expand this into an exercise.
Start with the sixth string open and then place your index on the first fret. See exactly how much pressure you need to get the note to sound right. Then move on to the second fret on the sixth string, with your middle finger. We then go to the third fret on your ring finger and find that sweet spot there.
Repeat the same process on the fifth string, fourth string, and so on, making sure you cover all strings.
Exercise: Stage 2
Now we’re going to do the same but without stopping. In other words, try to feel exactly what the pressure sweet spot is before plucking the note. Once you pluck it, move on to the next note.
Make sure you move slowly and focus on a relaxed hand, light pressure, and producing a good sounding note.
Doing these exercises will really help you change that habit of pressing too hard on the strings.
Make sure that you are focused when you do them and try not to rush. Practicing them for a few days will set you on the right path to playing guitar more effectively and comfortably.