Today I want to address something important.
It’s a common sort of email I get from folk who are new to my teachings.
Here’s an example of an email I got the other day.
See if you can spot the issue…
“I haven’t played in years. I’m going to take some time to practice chord changes and toughen up my fingertips before I begin. I also bought a stand so my guitar will be able to call to me daily. Your program is what inspired me to start again! Thank you!”
There’s some good stuff there and not so good stuff.
First, the good.
This new student has got a guitar stand.
That is great and something I recommend everyone have.
Leaving your guitar on a stand within arm’s reach can inspire you to pick it up more often and practise more…
…Even in just little mini-bursts.
I love mini-bursts of practice as when I’m learning something new, I find it really helps to play through the piece for a minute or two, multiple times in the day.
This works far better for me than one long session.
I would never do these mini-bursts if my guitar was packed away in a case at the end of every practice session.
Anyway, that’s the good.
Now, the bad.
It’s that little bit about “toughening up the fingertips”
Ah, I hate that phrase.
I’ve said it before but I will say it again and I’ll probably say it 1000 more times in the future.
The fingers do NOT need toughening up.
…And you definitely shouldn’t wait for them to toughen up before starting playing.
You will literally get zero benefits from not practising and toughening up the fingertips.
I’m not sure how you would go about toughening them up anyway…
Maybe travelling to Iceland, walking for hours to find the highest volcano, and grinding your fingers up and down some ancient volcanic rock for hours on end.
(Definitely don’t do that, my Icelandic friends).
To me, saying you want to toughen up your fingers before you play guitar is like saying you want to eat ten tubs of ice cream before you start running.
It’s pointless at best and counterproductive at worst.
What will happen is you will have to burn off those ice cream calories with the running…
…Just like you’ll have to get rid of the bad habit of pressing too hard with the guitar.
What I always say to students is, make sure you use the lightest touch possible.
Fret a note and press as lightly as you need to make the note sound clear – but no harder.
You may be surprised to know I used to have calluses on my fingers many, many years ago, but once I realised you don’t have to press hard, the calluses started to quickly fade.
They simply were not needed.
I should send out reminders of this stuff daily.
If having more reminders of the basics sent out to you on a more regular basis will help, then let me know – I’m happy to do that, but I never want to sound like a broken record.
Let me know though.
Anyway, the course this student was talking about is the Fingerstyle 101 video course.
If you get it, spend 20 minutes or so today on Part 1. It covers this and many other important technical details of guitar playing that many people miss.
Have a great day…
P.S. I’m off for a bowl of mint chocolate chip. Ice cream is enjoyable – sore fingers ain’t!
P.P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.