Building guitar calluses is one of the most important parts of learning to play the guitar. It should happen fairly early in your journey.
But if you’re not seeing the results you expect or finding the pain a lot take then keep reading. We’ll look at how long it takes to build guitar calluses on average, what you might be doing wrong and what you can do to help.
How Long does it Take to Build Guitar Calluses
To answer very directly: if you play consistently every day then after roughly a month you should have strong, thick calluses. They will protect you from the pain of playing and allow you to do so for prolonged periods.
As you play more your calluses will grow thicker and larger, encompassing all of your fingertips. But a month should be enough to get you playing pain free.
Building Callus Timeframe
If you want an overview of the sort of timeline you can expect for building your calluses then it should roughly follow the below:
Expect your fingers to hurt. A lot. In fact you will probably struggle to keep them on the strings for any length of time at all. This is normal though and you just have to keep persisting.
After one well you probably won’t be feeling any less pain but you might be getting more used to it. Aim to keep practising for 15 minutes a day at least. If that hurts too much then break those 15 minutes into 5 minute chunks and spread them across the day.
By the end of the second week the pain will be less and less noticeable. The throbbing and stinging will have reduced and whilst it won’t feel comfortable yet, you will definitely feel the difference.
You will also start to see your fingertips changing a little too – expect the skin to look cut up and rough.
After a Month
With one month of consistent practise under your belt the pain should have virtually gone. In fact you might even have forgotten about it entirely and be too focused on playing and learning.
Your fingers will still look pretty beat up. Lots of peeling and flaking skin as the calluses form but that’s normal and will soon settle down.
All of the above is working on the basis of you putting in the consistent playing and practise that is necessary. If you’re only playing for 20 minutes once a week then it isn’t going happen that quickly (or at all!)
Tips for Developing Calluses
If you want to try and speed up the process then there are a few extra things you can do. It may not make a huge difference but any way to avoid the pain has got to be worth a shot, right?
- Use heavier gauge strings – the thicker the string the quicker the callus will build. So play on heavier gauge strings and you’ll get better calluses faster.
- Play the acoustic guitar – acoustic guitars use much thicker strings too. You could learn on just an acoustic or alongside the electric to help boost your callus building.
- Bend, bend, bend – bending requires more effort and uses the tips of your fingers more than regular playing. So make bends part of your practice routine and it’ll speed up your callus building.
- Use other items – you can practice building calluses even when you’re not playing the guitar. Take something like a credit card and just push the edge if it into your fingertips.
- Apply rubbing alcohol – if you put rubbing alcohol on your fingertips it will dry the skin out and should, in theory, prompt the body into producing more keratin in the fingertips that make the calluses.
What NOT to do
You should avoid doing the following as it will severely impact the speed and quality of your calluses (and may stop them developing altogether).
- Don’t peel or pick at them – when they’re new your calluses will peel a little themselves and generally look fairly bad. They will also rub against things and be noticeable. But you need to resist the urge to pick and peel them. All you’ll do is set yourself back and mean more time (and pain!) before you get full calluses.
- Play with wet hands – water makes the skin on your hands and fingers soft. If you start playing with wet, softened calluses they will get turn, shredded and ruined. Make sure your hands are dry before playing the guitar!
- Press the strings too hard – if you press too hard you’ll do more damage than good. The guitar only needs a light touch and the more you dig your fingers in the more likely you are to develop problems. These can range from something as minor as tired muscles to more serious like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Taking care of your fingers is often overlooked but is equally as important.
Callus Building Tools
There are tools available to help build calluses faster. They work a little like the suggestion above to try using items such a credit cards in between practicing.
However I have never tried them and can’t vouch for their effectiveness.
What I do know is that the tried and tested method of practicing and playing the guitar works. Stick with that and you shouldn’t need extra tools
So, if you stick to practicing properly and avoid the things mentioned above the all being well your calluses should be well developed in around a month.
Whilst that may seem like a long time in guitar terms it really isn’t. But it is definitely worth the effort and time as having full, strong calluses will make your playing and progress much simpler.