Personal Care Tips

Personal Care Tips

Hi, all!

Being a guitarist, I’m always plagued with calluses on my fingertips which are often pretty thick and prone to peel from time to time.

A friend who used to be in gymnastics told me to use an emery board to smooth down the calluses. This apparently keeps the calluses smooth and durable but prevents the mass exudos of dead skin. I guess it’s similar to the lava rock thing my wife uses on the bottoms of her feet.

Surprise — I learned something new!

I was curious if there are other tips or tricks people use to help keep themselves in prime shape for playing.

Paul

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Re: Personal Care Tips

Well, I have the opposite problem in that sometimes the tips of my fingers are too soft.

This is partly because

a) I like to swim a lot

and

b) In the summer or warmer weather my hands perspire quite a bit.

I overcome this with more practice to ensure callouses develop and, a few years back, invested in a dish washing machine.

So, you could always take up swimming or try washing the dishes by hand. 😉

Re: Personal Care Tips

I used to have that excuse for getting out of washing the dishes on nights when I had a gig!

Here’s another - if you have a heavy instrument - banjo, accordion etc, try to avoid using a strap to take the weight - rest it on your knee and avoid back and shoulder strain

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Re: Personal Care Tips

I dont know how to protect your callouses, I would guess the pummice stone (i learned something from the better half too 🙂 ) would work.

However, if i ever find my fingers gone soft before a session, i put a little bit of super glue on the tips of my fingers, this does the same job, although it does hinder your sensitivity but thats nothing a couple of pints of Guinnie wouldnt sort out. 🙂

John B

Re: Personal Care Tips

An emery board, or better yet one of those four-way nail buffing boards, will indeed help keep the calluses from turning to hard leather and peeling off. The buffing board is also great for nails, if you’re a fingerstyle player.

Which I am, and I have kinda thin nails so I’m always working at keeping them in shape for playing. In 40+ years of playing with nails, I’ve tried every trick in the book (and several that’ve never been written down) for keeping them hard and strong. For me, what works best is a particular type of superglue, usually reinforced with a piece of silk fabric. The particular details are important (type of glue, type of silk, method of applying and annealing the glue, etc.), but I won’t go into that here unless somebody asks.

For years, I was bothered by sweaty hands – my own, I mean. Not so bad as to be a freak, but enough to annoy me while I was playing. The solution is (Duh!) anti-perspirant deodorant – the white stick kind. Just rub a small amount around on the hands and fingers and rinse with water.

If you sit to play the guitar, you’ve probably been bothered at some time by the guitar wanting to squirm around while you play. Go wherever car washing supplies are sold and buy some of that imitation “shammy” cloth (chamois). Cut a piece to fit between the guitar and your thigh and it’ll never squirm again.

Re: Personal Care Tips

A few years ago I flatpicked for a bluegrass group, and we worked almost five nights a week — gigged three, practiced one, and there was usually a jam session at a park or someone’s home on the weekend.

To make the guitar brighter, I switched to a very, very bright phosphor bronze string by GHS, going through 5 or 6 sets a week. I had never played out more than twice a week, max, and for the first time I watched my fingertips turn Halloween-green — completely and totally green, like I had painted them.

The callouses would peel off daily, like layers of an artichoke. To anyone not familiar with what a guitar can do to the fingertips, it must have looked like a disease or something out of a B-movie! The neck left callouses on the palm of my left hand, strings left them on the heel of my strumming hand, I had them on the pads of my fingers, below the kuckles, and so on. Interestingly enough, I met my girlfriend with fingers like that… It never bothered me too much, i just pulled them off and really didn’t have time to think about it before they’d grow back again.

Around then I also had some tests done for the doctor, requiring a pin-prick on the fingertip — so there I am with the nurse who looks at this ghastly hand, draws a breath, utters something like ‘Oh my..’ but proceeds to poke my left index finger for blood. ‘Nope..’ I said, ‘it ain’t going to work that way, I’m a guitar player, you’ll have to try the other hand.’ Of course she does the left anyway. No go. So she tries another finger on the left hand. I said, ‘you’re never going to break the skin with that little thing, I’m a guitarist and I have callouses there…’ but she does it again! Four cartridges totally wasted before she tries the right hand, and bam, that one works on the first try.

Anyone ever seen that television advert with BB King, plugging the blood sugar thingie, complaining that he doesn’t want the doctor poking his fingers? Well it’s a sham!

Re: Finger "tips"

For your nails… use a nail file, preferably diamond grit, which doesn’t rip the nail (which is actually related to hair, and prone to splitting) like other nail care items do, and file in one direction only. For your callouses, you’ll find the more you play, eventually they’ll stop forming, and the ends of your fingers will have pads slightly harder than your fingers. Until then, use the file to keep the edges of the callouses flush with your fingertip. For both nail and fingertip repair (cuts, etc), crazy glue thing is a good temporary measure, sealing out moisture and presenting the world with a smooth surface. But seriously, wait for it to dry before you do pretty much anything.

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Re: Personal Care Tips

Diamond file, yes. Good for shaping the nails. For smoothing the edge to get a nice smooth surface, use the buffer thingy.

Re: Personal Care Tips

All cool tips! I had teh same problem with a blood-taker who insisted on poking one of my left fingers…again and again. All they got was a little red dot under the callus.

But I was more curious what things other people do…besides tend to calluses… Are fiddlers prone to such things as crooked elbows or kinked wrists? Being a woodwind player as I grew up, I know I had problems keeping an instrument going after an hour or so and had to do things like take up chewing gum to build strength and endurance in my jaw muscles. What are some of the unique problems you face as a button box player and how do you overcome them?

Somewhat intellectual curiosity, but these discussions come up in our sessions between songs from time to time. I’d like to be better informed.

Paul

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Re: Personal Care Tips

in the UK, they take the blood sample (just before a blood donation) from the back or side of the finger - no callus there, and less likely to introduce an infection.

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I find that if I leave them alone, the outer layer of the callus peels off periodically, keeping it from getting too thick.
If you are filing fingers, I think there is a risk of getting carried away, and having the ache of underprotected "newby fingers."

Re:

I stretch the fingers backwards (as well as the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and low back) to release tension and improve flexibility before playing. Not that you’d notice the difference.

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Re: Personal Care Tips

I play the guitar nearly every day for practice and between sessions and gigs I am playing out anywhere between 4 and 8 times a week. I simply let the calluses be. If they get too ragged then I trim them with a cuticle trimmer. Yes Al, I sometimes go too far with the trimmer and have one or two “newby fingers” for a little while. However the pain from a faux pas such as this is easy to control with just a bit more whiskey.

To me the emery board or pumice stone sound like great ideas and the missus is always going on about me using them instead of the trimmer. She suggested wetting the board or stone. Maybe one day I‘ll give this a try. Herself also suggested I go for a manicure but I just can’t see that happening any time soon, please God. I keep telling her she is welcome to arrange a manicure for me with the mortician, just no bright colors.

Peace,
Ed

Re: Personal Care Tips

I have heard it said that bodhran players have thick skins (not the goat variety either).

Re: Personal Care Tips

An old boyfriend of mine was a conga player—-his entire hands were calloused, palms, finger pads from palm to tip, everything.

Re: Personal Care Tips

I’ll see how the fingers do after a couple of months of giving this technique a try. I have managed to clip my nails just a tad too close at times and pay for that for about a week. I can easily see it would be easy to go too far and thin them down to almost nothing.

I’ve not had an issue with the calluses becoming too thin…except for the one time where I lopped one off as I was cutting up lettuce for a salad. *ouch* Older daughter joked about the evening’s salad becoming a true "chef" salad. 😉

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Re: Personal Care Tips

A good trick is to wipe a little rubbing alcohol on the fingertips every so often. I use it to get the rosin off my strings so I usually do both at the same time. Its used to toughen skin to prevent bed sores in old folks homes. I needed to do it alot when I started playing, but now the problem isnt lack of callouses but the whole peely finger thing.

Re: Personal Care Tips

a famous violin teacher once warned against using files on calluses—for fear of damaging the nerve endings, and thus sensitivity of fingertips.

not sure if that advice applies to low-brow fiddlers and guitarists; just throwing it out there.

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Re: Personal Care Tips

"An old boyfriend of mine was a conga player……."
kennedy, I refer you to Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The newlywed cowboy kept his left hand in a glove at all times so it would be soft and smooth to his bride’s liking………..

Re: Personal Care Tips

Hey… I play alot of heavy metal and recently I’ve found that if Im playing a palm muted power chord progression and sliding between chords the ‘sliding sound’ is almost abrasive and makes the riff sound horrible could this be down to my calluses being to thick and is there anything I can do?