Sore Fingers Playing Guitar? – Helpful Tips To Ease Your Pain

Sore Fingers Playing Guitar?

It’s inevitable. When you first learn guitar your hands will probably not just go along with your will without putting up a good fight. You will probably work muscles in your hands that were long thought extinct!

If we jump back to the real world, you are probably here because you found this out the hard way (like most of us). That means you really need some helpful tips to alleviate your pain. You got Sore Fingers Playing Guitar, and now I will help you make sure they are a thing of the past.

Relax – It The Key To Everything!


When playing the guitar the hardest thing to do is relax. Everyone tells you it the right thing to do and you know this but to actually do it is another story! You have to practise this and even say it out loud every few minutes until you get the message through to your hands.

Tensing up your fingers, your hands or any part of your body is a great way to sabotage all your hard work. If you want speed, relax. If you want good technique, relax. If you want, good to play clearly and precisely, relax!. What I mean by relaxing is that you should just apply enough pressure to clearly play the required notes. No More, no less.

You don’t need to squeeze your hands or fingers extra hard to play the notes and in fact, this can hurt your progress because your hands will fatigue faster and learn bad habits.

Correct Technique – Pain Be Gone!

The best way to make sure you are not suffering unnecessarily is to get your technique in order. We will focus mainly on the hands but in general, when playing the guitar you can play in two positions:

  • Classical Position: The guitar is placed on a raised leg at an angle (I would say 45 degrees is the most common).
    • The thumb of the fretting hand is placed in the middle of the neck and the fingers curl around for the fingertips to reach the frets. This makes it easier to reach the Low E string and also to stretch and play wide scales and notes.
  • Casual Position:: The guitar is generally placed horizontally.
    • The thumb usually is usually closer to the top of the neck and can be used to mute certain strings. The thumb can float down to enable easier reach.

Making sure to use proper technique can make sure that you are not putting unnecessary strain on your finger or hands.

Cut Your Nails! – But……WHY?

Long Finger Nails

This one may be a shock to some of you out there so I thought I would get it out of the way quickly! Your fretting hand will be used to play notes and chords. Whenever you play said notes or chords you fingers form different shapes but most often they will “curl” and your nails will be pointing towards the fretboard.

It will now be easy for you to see why having long nails can be troublesome for you! They can stop you from curling your fingers enough to fret the notes with your fingertips.

It is also worth noting that some styles of guitar, like classical, are traditionally played with long nails (on the strumming hand). Here the nails sort of act like guitar picks producing a sharper sound compared to using fingertips.

This does not mean that if you have long nails you cannot play the guitar! It will be a bit more difficult to play certain chords as your nails will keep scratching against the fretboard (which is really uncomfortable, trust me!),  but I am sure you will find a way around this, right?

Push Through The Pain – Tough Love.

Push Through The Pain

It may seem mean of me to say, but maybe you just have to suck it up and push through the pain! I am not saying be reckless and play until your fingers bleed or anything, but perhaps you just need to give yourself some time. Your fingers will get used to interacting with the strings and your finger and hand muscles will get strong enough to play.

This may not seem like the most helpful advice but as long as you are not hurting yourself to the point of not being able to use your hands or fingers you should be good to go. Remember to start with a little bit every day and work your way up to longer sessions (like 30 minutes), don’t be afraid to take a break to heal if you have been overzealous.

Remember that the guitar is supposed to be fun! Take your time and as hard as it seems to be patient with yourself.

What About Finger Exercises? – You’ll Do Some Anyways!

Finger exercises could mean anything from doing physical exercises or simply playing the guitar with proper technique. An example of this would be things like learning chords. Different chords require different shapes and therefore different grips. This means exposing yourself to a variety of chords means that, your hands will learn to adjust to all those positions.

Playing stretching exercise like using the index finger and the pinky finger, and playing on the 5th and 9th fret is a good stretching exercise. Moving up and down the fret helps you build coordination and finger strength while stretching.

Change Your Guitar – If You Can!

Electric Guitar

If you are absolutely fed up and feel like your guitar hates you and is hurting you on purpose, perhaps it is time for a new one! I have played the guitars that are so difficult to play I almost felt like I had never played the guitar before. I think that electric guitars are easier to play for a number of reasons. Even entry-level electric guitars can make your troubles disappear.

The reason is that electric guitars usually have lower gauge strings ( not as thick as some acoustic guitars). They also tend to have lower actions ( the strings are closer to the fretboard). Putting these two properties together you wind up with thinner strings which require less force over a shorter distance to be fretted.

There may also be acoustic guitars with narrower necks, but most of the ones I have seen have thicker necks than electric guitars.

In other words, it is easier to play!

Have Patience Young One – Do Yourself A Favor

The most important thing to remember is that learning the art of guitar takes time. A consistent effort every day is better than A bulk session. What I mean by this is that it is more beneficial to play 30 minutes every day, rather than not play for two years and then spending 10 hours playing on one random day and then wondering why you can’t play the guitar.

Sore Fingers Playing Guitar? NO? GREAT!

I Hope this post has helped you in some way and as always, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, feedback or suggestions below.

Later Aligator!





10 Replies to “Sore Fingers Playing Guitar? – Helpful Tips To Ease Your Pain”

  1. Hi Renton! 

    Thank you so much for this blog post! 

    Sore fingers was one of the main reasons that I could not practice longer than I did when I started learning to play the guitar a few years ago… I had a lot of free time back then…

    I don’t believe in continuing when in pain… mainly because I was learning the guitar for pleasure, so what’s the point of suffering? Hahaha! Logical, right? 

    I wish I had your tips back in the years… I shall keep them in mind if I start again. 🙂


    1. Hi Nathalie! Thanks for the comment. I think you are right in saying that it should not hurt too much when playing guitar. The pain should only ever be slight discomfort to mild pain never more. In fact more pain is an indication of an error. Possibly over eagerness to force your hands to learn faster than they are ready for.

      Guitar should be enjoyable and it doesn’t take very long for your hands to adjust prociddd that they are given enough time to become accustomed to playing guitar. I hope that you do play again as once you get past the initial discomfort, it is a brilliant instrument to enjoy!

  2. Thanks for sharing this as i actually have a friend who is part of a growing band, he is their lead guitarist and always complaining about his finger. Now i know what that means thanks to your detailed explanation.

    You have done very well with this article and I will go ahead and bookmark this for future reference. I was going to ask what if you change your guitar does it help with the pain? Then i saw where you have covered that as well and I am glad and quite enjoyed reading this. 

    Thanks for sharing such helpful article.

    1. Hi Richard! I am glad you have decided to bookmark this page. I will be adding a lot more content here and I think it will be very useful. Te pain you feel on guitar is usually very brief because your hands will adjust to the forces they are exposed to.

      Every now and again you may feel some muscle fatigue, but like bodybuilding tis is your muscle repairing itself and growing stronger, so some rest will sort you out. 

  3. Nice article Renton. You definitely nailed it. And majority of guitar beginners normally quits. The silly reason is? Their fingers hurt. 

    I am a guitar player the same as you. So, I know playing guitar is very hard. You made a helpful article to at least lessen their pain in playing and you actually advice them to relax which I never knew about. Normally, when I play I am playing like Kirk Hammett. Which I can afford to play now because I didn’t give up on playing. 

    The one topic that also captures me is to play the electric guitar. You are right. Electric guitar is way more easier to play than acoustic. Beginner’s tend to play acoustic first because they thought that was a norm. Really, acoustic guitar is harder to play.

      Again, great article!


    1. Hey Enman! Thanks for the great comment! I think you are right. Many beginners think they have to start with acoustic before they can lay electric. The truth of the matter is you should be practicing on the guitar you want to be playing. If you end goal is to be a great electric guitar player then ply electric from the start.

      I think most people do this because of the fact that it is harder to play acoustic. This means your hands will have to become stronger so moving to electric becomes  lot easier.

      It is great that you can play like Kirk! In fact one of my two favorites are Enter the Sandman and Nothing else Matters.

  4. Hi Renton, I can quite believe how sore ones fingers get when playing the guitar. It is so thrilling to watch someone who is a good guitarist playing well, but we who don’t play don’t realize the hours and hours of hard work that go into becoming proficient players.

    I absolutely love listening to guitar music and watching them play, I especially can’t get over the speed with which some of them play. My husband and I love to watch the Gaither music and they have some really great musicians. I must say they must have gone through plenty of plasters on the way to getting that good.

    1. Hi Jill! It really does take time to become good at guitar, but I suppose the same could be said for anything that is important to you, right? It is truly wonderful to pick up the guitar and just let your fingers free!

      I know for sure that all good guitar players will remember getting those calluses and muscle pains while your hands adjust to the guitar. It is almost like a rite of passage!

  5. When I first started playing the guitar as a twelve year old it was the fingernail side of things that caught me out. I can remember struggling with simple enough open chords on the first three frets and bugging out with the amount of mutes and rattles I was registering – my dad simply pointed out ‘cut your nails mate’. 

    I do remember using a sort of finger strengthener with springs – a plastic mechanism that you pushed down on when your were watching the TV etc. Do these still exist and if so, are they any good for strengthening the fingers and getting rid of pain?

    1. Hi Chris Your dad sounds like a very wise man. He was definitely right about having shorter nails on your fretting hand in order to make you playing easier.

      You do get  variety of strengtheners for fingers and grip strength and they are pretty good. You have to be consistent with them though. Personally I just learned from playing guitar because the best way to train for something is to do that thing right? If you want to be a good swimmer you have to swim.

      The same thing applies to guitar. It is difficult at first but once you make it a habit and get your practice in, it doesn’t get easier, you just become stronger! I think those hand strengtheners are good for whenever it is not possible for you to be playing your guitar, perhaps at school (if its allowed) or at work or on holiday.

      They will strengthen your muscles, but you must also expose your muscles to the correct shape for the chords so that you can programme your muscle memory.

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