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Thread: Calluses....

  1. #1
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    Calluses....

    So i have been haveing guitar lessons for quite sometime now and my guitar teacher has given me a a rift to learn wich involves a lot of repeating bends on the G string while holding or barring the B & the high E string " i think chuck berry was 1 of the first to play in such a way but thats a diff story..
    well after 1 month of practicing this rift every day i have noticed that my middle finger and the finger next to my pinky has become realy tuff, i mean the whole tip of both fingers is 1 whole calluses wich is a good thing indeed and i have noticed that when i do hammer ons and pull offs it seems so much easyer than before when my tips of my fingers was more softer.....

    So my question is this: In order to do hammer ons and pull offs its not necessary the technique as such but more off tougher more robust hard calluses on the tips of your fingers..
    I am not no expert as i still have trouble with my pinky for as the tip is a lot lot softer and there for a lot harder to pull off and hammer on with equal tone.
    I dont have a guitar lesson until next week and have been thinking how to toughen up my pinky and am thinking well maybe i should just keep tapping on the edge of a credit card in order for that to develop gd amount of calluses dureing my working day?? or there must be a real gd rift to learn in order to use the pinky in such a way that i will get gd tuff calluses on it and in turn will benefit me for when i do hammer ons a pull offs.. Am i right in thinking in such ways????

    thank you for your replys in advance always

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoBbIe G View Post
    So i have been haveing guitar lessons for quite sometime now and my guitar teacher has given me a a rift to learn wich involves a lot of repeating bends on the G string while holding or barring the B & the high E string " i think chuck berry was 1 of the first to play in such a way but thats a diff story..
    well after 1 month of practicing this rift every day i have noticed that my middle finger and the finger next to my pinky has become realy tuff, i mean the whole tip of both fingers is 1 whole calluses wich is a good thing indeed and i have noticed that when i do hammer ons and pull offs it seems so much easyer than before when my tips of my fingers was more softer.....

    So my question is this: In order to do hammer ons and pull offs its not necessary the technique as such but more off tougher more robust hard calluses on the tips of your fingers..
    I am not no expert as i still have trouble with my pinky for as the tip is a lot lot softer and there for a lot harder to pull off and hammer on with equal tone.
    I dont have a guitar lesson until next week and have been thinking how to toughen up my pinky and am thinking well maybe i should just keep tapping on the edge of a credit card in order for that to develop gd amount of calluses dureing my working day?? or there must be a real gd rift to learn in order to use the pinky in such a way that i will get gd tuff calluses on it and in turn will benefit me for when i do hammer ons a pull offs.. Am i right in thinking in such ways????

    thank you for your replys in advance always


    Hey there,

    This reminds me of something funny I did when I was 13 and planning to acquire a guitar. To prepare my fingers, I used an hard-boiled egg slicer to mimic guitar strings in order to form calluses.

    To stimulate callus forming you want to do things that will irritate the flesh, but not break, burn, or bruise it. Blisters must be avoided as that will only slow down you down. So make sure you take rest that is needed to not over-do things.

    Just as a reminder, bends should not be made with a pinky. So to bring the callus up to speed you will want to do two things:

    1. Pull-Off Snap

    This can be done on any string, but for our purposes the highest gauge string will be preferred for it's larger mass and rough wound texture. An acoustic guitar would be nice for the added tension, but electric is fine.

    Fret the low E string, at the 5th fret with your first finger, take the pinky and hammer-on the 8th fret. Then, while making sure the index finger is firmly planted on it's fret, execute a pull off with the pinky.

    If the 5th fret is too much of a stretch for the pinky this riff can be moved higher or lower depending on comfort zones. Our goal here is not stretching.

    This will not be a subtle type of pull off, it will be more like you are pulling the finger tip over the string until the string's tension is enough to snap out from under the finger.

    The pinky tip should be slightly angled so that the side opposite of your thumb is providing pressure on the string. As you are squeezing downwards during the pull off, let the string bend as little as you can without straining your finger. The motion of the pinky tip will be towards the ground and should cause the string to snap as the flesh of your finger rolls over and releases the tension.

    You will know you have done this right because the pinky's tip should be on the fretboard touching the next string when the string snaps out from under. Also you will hear the anchored index finger note is loudly sounded, almost like it was plucked.

    This is great to practice for your case because it really irritates the layers of skin and will definitely result in calluses. Just make sure you do not strain or hurt anything, stop immediately if you do. Soreness of the finger tip is fine, but not enough where a blister could form. Be careful.

    2. Fret the largest unwound string with pinky and slide up and down the neck repeatedly as fast as you can without causing a friction burn. The finger's collision with the frets will do the work on this one.


    I can't think of anything else to specifically target a pinky callus.

    The snap-pull off is a great sounding technique to practice, it is a very expressive maneuver. Practice applying vibrato on the note that is anchored after the snap, try slow and fast vibratos and the key to making it sound really tasty is initiating the vibrato right after the snap so that the note's sustain is preserved.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoBbIe G View Post
    So i have been haveing guitar lessons for quite sometime now and my guitar teacher has given me a a rift to learn wich involves a lot of repeating bends on the G string while holding or barring the B & the high E string " i think chuck berry was 1 of the first to play in such a way but thats a diff story..
    well after 1 month of practicing this rift every day i have noticed that my middle finger and the finger next to my pinky has become realy tuff, i mean the whole tip of both fingers is 1 whole calluses wich is a good thing indeed and i have noticed that when i do hammer ons and pull offs it seems so much easyer than before when my tips of my fingers was more softer.....

    So my question is this: In order to do hammer ons and pull offs its not necessary the technique as such but more off tougher more robust hard calluses on the tips of your fingers..
    I am not no expert as i still have trouble with my pinky for as the tip is a lot lot softer and there for a lot harder to pull off and hammer on with equal tone.
    I dont have a guitar lesson until next week and have been thinking how to toughen up my pinky and am thinking well maybe i should just keep tapping on the edge of a credit card in order for that to develop gd amount of calluses dureing my working day?? or there must be a real gd rift to learn in order to use the pinky in such a way that i will get gd tuff calluses on it and in turn will benefit me for when i do hammer ons a pull offs.. Am i right in thinking in such ways????

    thank you for your replys in advance always

    I would not worry at all about building up any calluses. Just practice each day, and the tips of all your fingers will inevitably build up that thicker tougher skin anyway. It's quite unnecessary to do any more than that.

    The little finger is almost always the weakest for anyone. That's just a fact of human evolution. But if you want to work on the strength and accuracy of the little finger, and you want to practice pull-off's and hammer-on's (ie "legato"), as well as other important techniques like alternate picking, then one of the best sources of exercises and practice is the well known book Speed Mechanics ... just practice the first few pages of exercises in that book.

    But more generally on all of this - far more important than any calluses or worrying about any weakness in the little finger (which we all have anyway), is to practice with classically correct technique in both hands, ie correct position and correct fretting in the left hand, and strict alternate picking in the right hand (eg, it's essential to be disciplined about using correct technique if you practice from something like Speed Mechanics) ...

    ... ask your teacher to be really clear and precise with you right from the start about how to use correct fretting & positioning in the left hand, and strict alternate picking in the right hand (if he does not know about that, then Iíd change your teacher asap!). Because years down the line you will eventually realise that correct fretting and picking technique is vital if you ever want to play well. Thatís 100x more important that any consideration of calluses or non-guitar exercises for the little finger.

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Calluses and strum patterns seem very important to new players. My advise is to let them happen correctly. Seems like your calluses are on the finger tip, and that is the correct spot. Why is that important? The tip of the finger takes up the least space - so you are fretting correctly and getting good solid notes.

    Let it happen and enjoy the ride.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoBbIe G View Post
    So i have been haveing guitar lessons for quite sometime now and my guitar teacher has given me a a rift
    "riff"
    Quote Originally Posted by RoBbIe G View Post
    to learn wich involves a lot of repeating bends on the G string while holding or barring the B & the high E string " i think chuck berry was 1 of the first to play in such a way but thats a diff story..
    well after 1 month of practicing this rift every day i have noticed that my middle finger and the finger next to my pinky has become realy tuff, i mean the whole tip of both fingers is 1 whole calluses wich is a good thing indeed and i have noticed that when i do hammer ons and pull offs it seems so much easyer than before when my tips of my fingers was more softer.....

    So my question is this: In order to do hammer ons and pull offs its not necessary the technique as such but more off tougher more robust hard calluses on the tips of your fingers..
    Not really. Tougher skin on your fingers is important, but (as the others say) will happen naturally and steadily.
    What goes with that is strength and speed in the fingers.
    All 3 things (toughening, strength, speed) will come the more you play. You don't need to do specific exercises for any of them, just keep playing anything and everything. The more different things you do, the more organic and natural your whole technical skill will become.

    It's difficult to know sometimes what people mean by "calluses", but - as Malcolm says - it does seem as if some beginners get obsessed with them. What you DON'T need are hard lumps of dead skin on your fingertips. They will eventually peel and drop off and you have to start all over again.

    Personally (I've been playing well over 40 years), my fret hand fingertips are barely distinguishable from my picking hand. The prints are just a little smoothed out, and the skin is certainly less sensitive.
    As a beginner, I do remember getting painful blisters, and the dead skin would peel, leaving tender new skin beneath - and I'd have to stop practising till it healed. But eventually the new skin (and the existing unbroken skin) got tougher and less sensitive - without callouses ever developing.

    YMMV of course. I'm just saying thickened callouses are not essential.

    Quote Originally Posted by RoBbIe G View Post
    I am not no expert as i still have trouble with my pinky for as the tip is a lot lot softer and there for a lot harder to pull off and hammer on with equal tone.
    Again, that's down to lack of strength, not the softness of the fingertip. Of course, if the skin is too soft, it's painful to exert the necessary strength! - which is why I say it all goes together.

    Good exercises for the pinky - away from the guitar - involve strength and accuracy of impact. Try drumming with the fingertips on a desk or table top, making each finger tap with the same force - obviously focussing particularly on the pinky.
    The edge-of-the-credit-card idea may help the finger(s) get used to pressing strings (rather than just flat surfaces), but don't overdo it. Don't seek to develop callouses. IOW, don't damage the skin if you can help it.

    When playing the guitar, use the pinky as much as you can for normal fretting. Eg, anything you're used to playing with fingers 1-2-3, try doing it with fingers 2-3-4 instead.

    As Ian says, make sure your instructor is checking your hand position, and ask him if you're not sure. Correct hand position is absolutely critical, to give you the best foundation for improvement. Your journey has to start from the right place .
    Ask him to suggest some pinky exercises if you're concerned about it.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    "riff"
    Not really. Tougher skin on your fingers is important, but (as the others say) will happen naturally and steadily.
    What goes with that is strength and speed in the fingers.
    All 3 things (toughening, strength, speed) will come the more you play. You don't need to do specific exercises for any of them, just keep playing anything and everything. The more different things you do, the more organic and natural your whole technical skill will become.

    It's difficult to know sometimes what people mean by "calluses", but - as Malcolm says - it does seem as if some beginners get obsessed with them. What you DON'T need are hard lumps of dead skin on your fingertips. They will eventually peel and drop off and you have to start all over again.

    Personally (I've been playing well over 40 years), my fret hand fingertips are barely distinguishable from my picking hand. The prints are just a little smoothed out, and the skin is certainly less sensitive.
    As a beginner, I do remember getting painful blisters, and the dead skin would peel, leaving tender new skin beneath - and I'd have to stop practising till it healed. But eventually the new skin (and the existing unbroken skin) got tougher and less sensitive - without callouses ever developing.

    YMMV of course. I'm just saying thickened callouses are not essential.

    Again, that's down to lack of strength, not the softness of the fingertip. Of course, if the skin is too soft, it's painful to exert the necessary strength! - which is why I say it all goes together.

    Good exercises for the pinky - away from the guitar - involve strength and accuracy of impact. Try drumming with the fingertips on a desk or table top, making each finger tap with the same force - obviously focussing particularly on the pinky.
    The edge-of-the-credit-card idea may help the finger(s) get used to pressing strings (rather than just flat surfaces), but don't overdo it. Don't seek to develop callouses. IOW, don't damage the skin if you can help it.

    When playing the guitar, use the pinky as much as you can for normal fretting. Eg, anything you're used to playing with fingers 1-2-3, try doing it with fingers 2-3-4 instead.

    As Ian says, make sure your instructor is checking your hand position, and ask him if you're not sure. Correct hand position is absolutely critical, to give you the best foundation for improvement. Your journey has to start from the right place .
    Ask him to suggest some pinky exercises if you're concerned about it.

    I would like to add that a Callus is simply a hardened patch of skin, and it does not mean that there are pieces peeling off or uneven dried out patches.

    Usually a seasoned player has like you said, normal looking finger tips that are actually quite resilient and leathery-hard. These are calluses.

    But even seasoned players experience peeling and callus shedding, Stevie Ray Vaughan would super-glue shed pieces back onto his fingers. I have also seen a video where John McLaughlin pauses mid-phrase to bite a hunk of skin off his finger, it looked huge when he spit it out. The audience cheered, hehe.


    The epidermis contains several layers, with the palms and finger tips containing a largest amount of the outermost layer. All of these superficial layers will end up becoming callused if you play consistently over a long period, but beginners will sometimes have peeling that exposes a tender portion that is still soft and tender.

    Like Jon said, peeling will only set you back.

    Do not play guitar after taking a shower or with wet finger tips. Don't pull them off or pick at them, if a piece starts to come off use nail clippers to delicately trim it so the raised tag does not pull more up.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rguitar87 View Post
    I would like to add that a Callus is simply a hardened patch of skin, and it does not mean that there are pieces peeling off or uneven dried out patches.

    Usually a seasoned player has like you said, normal looking finger tips that are actually quite resilient and leathery-hard. These are calluses.
    Good clarification, thanks.
    Quote Originally Posted by rguitar87 View Post
    But even seasoned players experience peeling and callus shedding, Stevie Ray Vaughan would super-glue shed pieces back onto his fingers.
    That's believable, but suggests extreme levels of playing, and a very aggressive attack. SRV famously used heavy guage strings, of course, and clearly played in a hard manner.
    Quote Originally Posted by rguitar87 View Post
    The epidermis contains several layers, with the palms and finger tips containing a largest amount of the outermost layer. All of these superficial layers will end up becoming callused if you play consistently over a long period, but beginners will sometimes have peeling that exposes a tender portion that is still soft and tender.

    Like Jon said, peeling will only set you back.

    Do not play guitar after taking a shower or with wet finger tips. Don't pull them off or pick at them, if a piece starts to come off use nail clippers to delicately trim it so the raised tag does not pull more up.
    Good advice.

    To sum up, the heavier and harder (and longer) you play, the more likely you are to develop hard skin patches, with the attendant problems (peeling, catching, etc).
    With a lighter (or medium) touch, such patches may not develop at all. Naturally the skin will toughen and grow less sensitive, but it can be a gradual process, with no obvious visual signs.
    I would not say my fingertips are "leathery hard". But then I probably have a fairly light touch (heaviest strings I use are 11s on my acoustic) and I don't play for many hours a day.

    The point being, the calluses (or rather their depth and character) are a result of how you play. If you need thick ones, then your playing style will lead naturally to that.
    Last edited by JonR; 09-15-2012 at 10:03 AM.

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