Monday, September 19, 2005

oooooooo The Pain!

While flipping through my favorite guitar magazines I often notice that during interviews with “Pro” guitarists that these “Pro” guitarists love to brag about how they used to “Play the guitar until my fingers bleed”, as if this is something to brag about.

Listen, if it hurts, Stop!

Sure, it might sound cool to your cronies at the lunchroom table when you tell them how you were playing the guitar so hard and for so long that the blood actually rand down your hands and covered your fret board in a ¼’ thick ooze. Maybe you could even bring in some of the rusted strings with your dried flesh hanging off of them. Chics would surely dig that. “Look guys, I’m such a great guitar player that I’ve ruined my hands and won’t be able to play for a week.” Um, wow.

Yes, rookie guitarists will most definitely feel uncomfortable as they press their little pink digits unto the steel strings for the first time. That is to be expected. Truly, many a newbie has grimaced his face in pain as he tried to play his first F chord. There is no argument to the fact that sometimes we will experience uncomfortable situations as we learn and experiment with new ideas on the guitar, however it shouldn’t hurt.

Listen, if it hurts, Stop!

Honestly, this is important. If you feel a painful cramp in your thumb as you try and squeeze your fingers against the fret board, STOP! It’s possible that if you ignore that pain in your thumb/hand that you can permanently damage the muscle. If you damage the thumb muscle you will never have the strength and agility that other guitarists will have. It will cripple your playing ability for life.

This thumb cramping issue was brought to the forefront by my classical guitar teacher. Classical Guitar students will often find themselves frozen on the neck stretching their fret hand fingers beyond belief trying to play a difficult new chord. The fret hand can become cramped; a painful knot feeling in the lower thumb muscle is the warning sign. If you feel this pain, STOP. Take a break. Shake it out and relax the hand for a few minutes, then try again.

I promise, you will build up plenty of strength by going slow and avoiding these painful muscle injuries. You will do far more damage than good by ignoring the pain.

As for the “Bloody Fingertips” that “Pro” guitarists often brag about; never, ever, never, play with bloody fingertips. It can be easy for experienced guitarists or rookie guitarists on a roll, to be so focused on playing that they simply do not realize that their fingertips have started to bleed. Most often the bleeding occurs under the fingernail as a result of the skin separating or cracking from the extreme pressure. If your fingertips start to bleed, stop playing, properly clean the wounds and call it a day.

The guitars fretboard is a heaven for bacteria and germs. That’s just the way it is. By continuing to play with an open wound you are inviting the bacteria into your body. Your fingertips will grind the old dead skin, oil, and rust from the strings, bacteria, germs, all into your open wound. If the fingertips become infected, you’re done playing for weeks, and you will loose far more ground as a player than you could have possibly gained. It’s even possible to get blood poisoning this way.

Like an athlete, you need to take care of your body. Like a surgeon, your hands are extremely important. Go slow, never play through the pain. If something starts to hurt, take a break, and then try again. The process of trying, then taking a break, is what will help you gain strength and dexterity.

Now go east some pea’s and get back to practice.