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Sore Fingers? Make Your Acoustic Guitar Easier To Play

Got Sore Fingers?

This is the number one complaint from beginner guitar players- having to deal with sore fingers. This happens when they start practicing regularly, and typically those guitarists are playing steel-string acoustic guitar. 

It's not as much of an issue with guitarists playing on a nylon string or electric guitar, because of the different kinds of strings they use. 

Just to be clear I am talking about the fingers of the left hand. The left hand is the hand with the fingers you press down into the strings, and the middle strings will cut into your fingers, and they will make your fingers sore.

What Can You Do To Help It?

Now, there are several things you can do about this which I will go over, and you can explore which option works best for you.

Change The Strings

Changing the guitar strings is one way to help the pain is to put lighter strings on your guitar.  

I would recommend starting off by putting extra-light acoustic guitar strings on your acoustic guitar. They are thinner, but they still sound good.

Another option is to put electric guitar strings on your guitar.  They don't sound as good, but you can put thinner strings on that way, and of course, you can always build up to thicker strings.

Another possibility is a type of string called “silk and steel”.  This string is a hybrid-type of string that is in-between a steel string and a nylon string, and it goes on the acoustic guitar.  

It has a softer sound and a softer feel.  Some people don't like the sound, and it might not be the overall sound-solution for you, but it is a good stepping stone to get to the thicker strings on the acoustic guitar.

Adjust The Action

Another guitar setup possibility is to adjust the action of your guitar.

What I mean by adjusting the action is that you are going to adjust the height of the strings so they are closer to the frets on the neck of the guitar. This will make it easier for you to push the strings down.

Now there are several steps in adjusting the action of a guitar, and it involves making the nut of the guitar lower, the bridge of the guitar lower, and the neck just the right angle.

Complete Guitar Setup – File Down The Frets

Another guitar setup option is to file down the frets so they are evener.

The trick is to get the strings as low as possible without buzzing anywhere up and down the neck.  You want to be able to press the note and have it sound nice and clear, and to not hit one of the frets higher up.

This is tricky, and I recommend getting a competent guitar repairman to do a complete guitar setup.

If you are mechanically inclined and have a reasonable tolerance for risk, you can learn how to do it.  Check out videos on Youtube.  There are some good videos I have seen on there.

The risk involved is that if you file the nut too low or the bridge, you are going to have to go out and get a new one.

You can actually over-tighten that metal truss rod in the neck of the guitar to the point you even break the neck on your guitar. 

This is a really tricky option that I would not recommend.

Tough It Out

The last resort is to play your guitar with sore fingers until they get tough.

Now they will actually get tough.  It usually takes about three or four weeks, and some people can just work through it.  

The trick is to find that place where if it is holding you back from practicing, do what you need to do to get easier strings on the guitar.

If you can keep practicing and wait until they get tough, then go for it.  

There is nothing wrong with that, and once you get calluses on your fingers, or thicker skin rather, you really won't have to worry about that much anymore in the future as long as you keep playing.  

If you stop playing for a while you might have to go through that process of building calluses again.

In summary:

  • Change The Strings
    • Lighter Strings – Extra Light
    • Electric Guitar Strings
    • Silk & Steel
  • Adjust The Action
    • Lower Bridge Saddle
    • Lower Nut
    • Even Out Frets
    • Adjust Truss Rod
  • Options for Adjusting The Guitar
    • Competent Repair Person (best)
    • Learn to Do It Yourself

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  1. Hi, this is one reason why I don’t practice as much as I would like. I am going to go to my guitar guy and try the silk and steel strings. Thanks Anne

    1. I feel exactly the same way. Because whenever I try to play guitar it al
      Ways bothers me that I have such a hard time with my fingers being so sore!

  2. When I got my Big Baby Taylor it came equipped with elixir phosphor bronze strings but my fingers are so sore from pressing too hard for the correct sound. Any suggestions? Do I need lighter strings?

  3. Just got a new Fender FA series acoustic/electric. First time for me on steel strings.

    Ant tips would be appreciated. Having a tough time with the steel strings. Thanks in advance.

  4. Appreciated the detailed advice on the different options for sore fingers. I cannot see myself sacrificing good sound for thinner inferior sounding strings, so with your encouraging tone, I have decided to tuff it out and work toward developing callouses.
    I know nothing comes easily when one is of a certain age, but persistence may pay off. At least I hope so.
    Thank you Tomas, you’re the best.

  5. Hi Tomas
    Here you give a very interesting note right at the beginning: you are talking about the left hand.
    My problem is mostly my right hand. That's also why I think it had to do with my work: as I am right handed I clean with that hand. For several weeks I have been using more my left hand. Helped already a lot.
    The "buzzing exercise" in the next video is nevertheless helping a lot to have a relaxed hand. Was a very good tip.

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