When you first start to play the guitar, the tips of your non-strumming fingers grow callused. You might be wondering whether or not this will make it harder to play other instruments, like the piano.
Guitar calluses can affect your piano playing, but not in a negative way. They can improve your finger strength and flexibility, allowing you to reach all the piano keys. They can also enhance your grip, so you’re able to play comfortably on various types of keyboards.
Many people don’t understand why they get guitar calluses and how they can actually improve their ability to play instruments. In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about guitar calluses and why it’s a good idea to build them actively.
How Guitar Calluses Enhance Your Piano Playing Skills
Believe it or not, guitar calluses can positively affect your piano playing.
In fact, some frequent piano players develop calluses from piano playing itself– without any guitars in the equation.
Here are the three main ways that calluses can affect your piano playing:
- Your Grip Can Be Firmer
Having callused fingers can make both guitar and piano playing more precise because they allow you to be firmer with the way you press the strings (or keys).
From my own experience playing both guitar and piano, I’ve noticed that my calluses prevent my fingers from getting sore from constantly rubbing against the keys of my piano.
Calluses provide an extra level of protection that can make your piano-playing a lot more expressive with a lot less finger pain.
- Your Technique Will Improve
Many professional pianists claim that their calluses help them perform better. Some enthusiasts note that the firmer contact points offer more control on the key strokes, so your playing sounds more natural and harmonic.
This can also allow you to further develop your technique because it can help you play with various volumes and a more controlled tone.
- Your Hands Will Be Strengthened
Because calluses allow for more periodic guitar playing, you can reap the benefits of that increase in practice. Repeating the often strenuous hand movements required for playing the right notes and strumming can actually strengthen your hands and make them more flexible as well.
Increased hand strength will benefit your piano playing too; when you’re able to press more firmly on the guitar strings, you’re building the same muscles that are used for piano playing. Pressing firmly on the piano keys is important for tone, volume control, and the overall sound you produce while playing.
Tougher fingertips can help you control your piano keys better. Since your fingers are a lot more rigid when callused, they aren’t as smooth or slick. This means that your calluses might actually help you maintain a better grip on your piano keys. This is especially true for modern keyboards because they are made from such a varnished material in contrast to traditional ivory (or faux ivory) keys.
What Causes Guitar Calluses?
Every beginner guitarist will eventually grow calluses. If you play any string instrument, they’re not just unavoidable— they’re necessary for good technique.
Guitar calluses are caused by your fingers pressing against the instrument’s metal strings. The repetitive act of irritating the skin on your fingertips will cause them to harden, and is your body’s way of defending your hands from experiencing as much pain as possible.
Because the act of playing the guitar requires a lot of repetition and friction between your fingertips and the strings, calluses are your body’s way of providing you with an extra level of protection so you don’t get blisters.
More Benefits of Guitar Calluses
Many beginner guitarists will have lots of complaints when it comes to guitar calluses. They can initially cause quite a bit of pain, especially when you’re practicing the instrument consistently.
However, there’s a reason why your body produce them in the first place. Here are some benefits that can come with having guitar calluses:
- They protect your fingers from getting blistered. This is crucial, because guitar blisters can lead to a lot of pain and even infections.
- They make guitar playing more comfortable. When you have that extra level of sturdiness and protection on your fingertips, your hands will be armored from the pain that might come with playing the guitar.
- Guitar calluses make it so you can play for more extended periods of time. Though it’s essential to avoid excessive practicing while first building up your calluses, developed and well-maintained calluses will serve as a tool that can allow you to play the guitar for longer without needing a break due to finger pain or peeling skin.
- You can focus more on your playing. When you’re not worrying about how much it hurts to play your instrument, you can focus less on the pain and more on the actual playing part. Increased focus will benefit your technique, style, and overall performance.
- You can practice more. With well-developed calluses, you’re not only able to practice for more extended periods of time; you can actually practice more frequently as well. There are so many benefits to consistent instrument practice, including (but not limited to) increased concentration, enhanced memory, and better hand-eye coordination.
How To Grow Your Guitar Calluses
Maintaining your guitar calluses is vital for both guitar and piano playing.
However, taking good care of your hands can be a bit tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll discuss some habits you should make and break for the best possible hand care and guitar playing.
Good Habits for Growing Guitar Calluses
Here are some things you should do if you want to grow calluses quickly:
- Practice frequently. Frequent practice can condition your skin to the act of playing guitar, and will help toughen your fingertips.
- Play the acoustic guitar more. When I was first getting into playing the guitar as a child, my dad wouldn’t get me an electric until I first learned on an acoustic. When you practice more on an acoustic, your fingers grow more robust and will develop calluses easier because the strings are a lot thicker than those found on electric guitars.
- Use callus building grips. You can actually purchase grips that imitate the act of playing the guitar, so you can build your calluses when you don’t have an instrument on you at the moment. These grips often come on keychains for convenience and can be an excellent tool for growing and maintaining your calluses.
- Cut your nails. Long nails make it hard to press on the strings, but they also relieve pressure from your fingers. This means that it’ll take a lot longer to grow calluses and you won’t have that extra level of defense, leaving you at risk for broken nails, infections, ingrown nails, and other painful side effects.
Now that I’ve talked about habits to make, I’ll talk about habits to break.
Bad Habits for Growing Guitar Calluses
Just as there are good things to practice while growing guitar calluses, there are also quite a few things that you shouldn’t do.
Here are some things you want to avoid when trying to develop guitar calluses, because they can slow the process and make you lose valuable progress:
- Avoid excessive water exposure. If you want to grow your calluses in a timely manner, you should avoid exposing your hands to water for extended periods of time. This can make your skin softer and essentially less tough.
- Don’t play right after showering, bathing, or swimming. If you play right after doing one of these activities, your skin might be soft enough to break when your fingertips press against the strings of your guitar. When this happens, you can develop blisters and even infections if those blisters are exposed to bacteria.
- Try not to go too long without playing. When you go for too long without playing your guitar, your skin will start to heal and grow softer. When this happens, you’re basically moving backward in your callus-building progress.
- Avoid long practice sessions. Believe it or not, long practice sessions don’t help build calluses; they create blisters instead. Practicing frequently is important, but shorter practice sessions make it easier to grow calluses quickly without causing too much pain or negative progress.
Taking care of your hands is one of the most important parts of guitar playing. With proper care, you can grow your guitar calluses efficiently and use them to improve your technique. Your hands will surely thank you for cutting these bad habits out of your practicing routine.
Beginner guitarists might define their developing calluses as a nuisance, especially when they’re first starting to form. They can be obnoxious and even painful, and this might make it a little difficult to play the piano at first.
However, your piano playing will be just fine with proper hand care. In fact, it might benefit from the protection, focus, and comfort that your calluses will eventually provide.
So don’t give up the guitar quite yet— just keep playing, and watch your technique grow.