There are some dangerous ways to get a little entertainment- sky diving, mountain climbing, and even playing the guitar safely at home. Newcomers to the guitar will find out the hard way that fingers and hands will certainly become callused, and may experience a little pain and tenderness to the touch as a result. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help speed up the process.
Figure 1 - You won’t have the best looking hand in the world- but it can play a mean guitar!
Calluses are thickened or hard parts of a certain area of skin. This is a result of rubbing, or pressure, and no doubt they have been experienced before on feet or hands. The thing about playing the guitar is, most pople don’t already have hardened fingertips- specifically the index finger. As a newcomer begins to play more and more guitar, it will become more apparent that fingertips may feel tender. This can even affect guitar playing, and it is best to wait the tenderness out and wait for skin to harden. Taking a few days away from the guitar will help skin develop- and let you play much longer and harder the next time.
Not everyone likes the idea of hardened finger tips. For instance, feeling in the fingertip will essentially be gone. The extra hardened layer of skin will make soft materials invisible to touch- such as silk or skin. For these people, there are alternatives that will most likely make them look more foolish than desired. From taping fingertips, to putting on band aids- to even using enough lotion to make your parents wondering what you’re doing with all of it. However, most people settle with the idea, and of course still have the plucking hand to experience soft ouch (of course, if a plectrum is used).
Looking to bypass the grooves, puffiness, and red flushing of the fingertips? There are a few tricks of the trade to get calluses to form faster. Soaking fingertips in rubbing alcohol for a minute or two each day will dry out the skin on fingertips- and will make calluses form much faster. Interestingly, rock climbers have the same need for calluses- and have a device to build them much faster. This device is small, ridged, and is meant to be scraped continually against fingertips. If desired, they can be bought at most hobby shops, but a makeshift device can be used as well (sandpaper would be unusually efficient).
Figure 2 - Whoever said playing the guitar was easy needs to rethink that statement!
Ultimately, building calluses takes practice and patience. Some harder to get calluses, such as the pinky finger, can take months or even a year to develop. The process can’t be bypassed completely, however, and red, puffy, fingertips should be expected for newcomers. If all else fails, get a little help from everyday objects such as rubbing alcohol or sandpaper (be careful- you don’ want to cause damage! Gently rubbing sandpaper is good enough). With a little luck and determination, you too can achieve the calluses of a professional.