Playing the guitar can take its toll on your fingertips, particularly when you’re in the formative stages of learning the instrument. It’s common for guitarists to experience soreness on the ends of their fingers when applying pressure to the strings and fretboard.
Guitar finger protectors claim to reduce the strain on your fretting hand and ease any pain that may occur from playing for long periods.
If you’re considering investing in a set of guitar finger protectors, the information in this guide will help you to determine whether they are worth it.
Should You Use Guitar Finger Protectors?
If you’re in the early stages of learning guitar and are experiencing a lot of soreness in your fingertips, guitar finger protectors can offer temporary relief. However, it’s better to rest your fingers and play without protectors as much as possible, as this will cause the skin to become tougher.
Potential Benefits of Guitar Finger Protectors
Pressing down on the strings to make chord shapes or play single notes requires a considerable amount of strength. If you apply too little pressure, the notes will decay quickly and sound muffled.
All guitarists experience discomfort in the initial stages of learning the instrument. The process can be quite painful if you are using heavy-gauge strings, or have sensitive fingertips.
Wearing finger protectors can provide you with some much-needed relief in these early stages of learning guitar. Here are some of the ways that they can benefit you.
The more you play guitar, the more robust your fingertips will become. This is because of a process known as callousing, where the skin is worn away slightly due to friction, then grows back tougher after a short time.
It’s perfectly common for your fingertips to become sore when you first start playing, or when you play for a long time.
However, it can be frustrating when you desperately want to practice and enjoy playing guitar, but the pain prevents you from doing so. That’s when guitar finger guards can be highly useful.
By wearing a set of protectors, you’ll prevent the sore points of your fingertips from coming directly into contact with the strings.
Longer Practice Sessions
The most frustrating thing about experiencing soreness in your fingers is that it prevents you from putting in the hours to improve your abilities.
This can be particularly annoying when you’re making lots of progress at the beginning of your guitar-playing journey when the most gains are made in a short space of time due to muscle memory quickly improving.
One could argue that using guitar finger protectors will allow you to practice without pain, while the skin on your fingers is healing and becoming more resilient.
If you’re serious about developing your skills as a guitarist, you’ll likely want to play for at least a couple of hours per day. Initially, these long practice sessions will take their toll on your fingertips.
Using guitar finger guards may make it possible to squeeze in extra valuable time so that you can improve your technique more rapidly without having to wait for the soreness to subside.
Drawbacks of Using Finger Protectors
We’ve established that there are some undeniable benefits to using guitar finger protectors, but like with all tools, there are some potential downsides.
Many guitarists would advise against using them, for a variety of reasons. I never felt the need to use guitar finger protectors when I was starting, or at any other point during my development.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t offer any benefits to you, however. Every guitarist is different and you should make a decision based on your requirements. Here are some of the common arguments against using guitar finger protectors.
Picking Up Bad Habits
Perhaps the biggest risk involved with using finger covers for guitar is that you could become too dependent on them.
The protectors are often made from silicone, rubber, or some other robust synthetic material. This material allows you to press against the strings without feeling any contact on the skin of your fingertips.
Initially, this may make playing chords and notes much easier as there is less pressure required, and the friction is minimized.
When you take off the finger protectors, you may find that playing without them seems much harder. This could stunt your development and speed rather because suddenly you have to press harder to get a sound out of the strings.
Guitar playing is as much about feeling as it is about sound. We learn to apply the right amount of pressure to create our desired sounds, and wearing finger protectors may interfere with the development of this vital association.
Pushing Through the Pain
Although the soreness caused by playing guitar can be uncomfortable, it is very unlikely to be harmful in the long term. The pain is a sign that your fingertips are becoming calloused and better equipped for guitar playing.
The more you can push through and play despite your fingertips hurting, the quicker the callouses will form.
Experienced guitarists who have been playing for many years have hard layers of skin on their fingertips, so they rarely experience pain when playing. Getting to this point should be your aim.
If you use fingertip protectors for guitar, you are simply delaying the inevitable. There’s no way to get good on the guitar without experiencing soreness in your fingers – so it’s arguably better to get it out of the way and allow them to become tougher.
Playing for a couple of hours a day will lead to callouses forming in a matter of weeks, or around two months at the most.
If the pain is bearable, you should consider limiting the use of finger protectors so that you can get the initial discomfort out of the way and enjoy playing without any soreness much sooner.
In the rare case that your fingers are very sore from playing, or you break the skin, you should rest until you can play without it being too painful.
Are Guitar Fingertip Protectors Effective?
The only way to know whether guitar finger pads will be beneficial to you is to test them out. Every guitarist’s fingers are different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
It’s safe to say that guitar finger protectors are effective at preventing your fingertips from coming into contact with the strings. They can therefore prevent blisters, soreness, and other inevitable discomforts that most guitarists have to experience.
Nevertheless, it’s debatable whether these accessories are necessary and beneficial, even if they do what they are designed to do.
If we look at the most innovative guitarists, such as the likes of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, or BB King, there has never been any mention of them using guitar finger protectors.
Perhaps that’s because most accesories weren’t available in the days when those iconic guitarists were learning guitar, but it proves that they aren’t necessary to build exceptional chops on your axe.
Resting Your Fingers
Besides using guitar finger protectors, it’s important to rest in between playing the instrument, especially if you’re doing so for long periods.
Having rest days will allow the skin on your fingertips to recover and harden, and you’ll likely find that the pain subsides by doing this.
Or, if you have a high pain tolerance you can battle through the blisters and continue to improve your skills. It all comes down to personal preference.
If you’re considering purchasing finger protectors for playing guitar, it may indicate that you are using strings that are too thick for your fingers to handle. Playing lighter gauge strings will reduce the amount of pressure you need to play a note.
It’s much more common for bass guitarists to experience soreness when playing because the strings are considerably thicker than those used on an electric or acoustic guitar.
Electric guitar strings are easier to press down than acoustic strings, and it’s very unlikely that using finger protectors is necessary when playing an electric. Likewise, nylon strings are quite easy on the fingers, so you probably won’t need protection when playing classical guitar.
Steel-stringed acoustic guitars are the main culprit for causing soreness, and therefore you might find guitar finger protectors beneficial if you are spending a lot of time playing this type of instrument.
Do You Need Guitar Finger Protectors?
Whether you need guitar finger protectors depends on your personal preference. I’d recommend resting if your fingers become sore rather than relying on o these accessories.
Every guitarist experiences some discomfort when they start out learning the instrument, or when they play for extended periods. This isn’t too much of an issue, as the pain will go away as callouses form and your fingertips become hardened to it.
There’s no harm in testing a set of guitar finger protectors to see if they work for you, but I would advise against using them too often as this may affect your playing technique and potentially slow down your development.