Taking care of your classical guitar hands

Today I helped my friend move house. Boxes, couches, tables, chairs. Hand killers.

There are so many occasions where I have either done something reluctantly or not at all because I was afraid of damaging my hands. While non-guitarists/musicians will most likely understand that you are opting out of an activity because of your precious digits there are those times when many an eyebrow will be raised at your less than gracious excuse.

Moving house is just one example of a potential nail breaking situation. I went through a long period during my early conservatory days trying to find a sport that wouldn’t damage my hands or break a nail. The obvious ones that were crossed off the list first were rock climbing, basketball (which I still get roped into every once and a while), rugby, and martial arts. In a quest to find guitar friendly sports I went through quite an extensive list of increasingly obscure sports. The most embarrassing moment came when I retired from a club fencing tournament because I had snapped my thumbnail off. Hardly a Zorro moment.

In the end, I have ended up playing soccer for the past five years and when I get near a beach I will surf, but to be honest, even in these hand safe activities I have still had the odd mishap now and then. In addition, there have been many instances where I have damaged my hands (swinging on a rope in a waterfall was one of the more stupid ones) and promised myself that ‘it will never happen again, next time I will just sit out’. But yet again, after helping my friend move, I find my hands throbbing and sore.

So the question is, where do we draw the line?

Any daily activity could end up damaging our hands. Should we simply sit idly by with our hands in cashmere gloves, denying any over-zealous hi fives? Or is it foolish to deny a more ‘normal’ lifestyle because of our paranoia?

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6 Responses

  1. Stephen Bonner says:

    I worry about the very same things, and being a seller of heavy construction equipment, you can imagine the rolled eyes I get days crawling over machinery. It is what it is, and some things have to be fore gone.

    What do you do to soften the rough finger tips on the left hand? I use lots of lotion but wonder if there is other relief.

  2. Vince says:

    I worry about my nails but I will not miss out on experiences for the sake of a nail. I wear a good golf glove when necessary (I do not play golf). I do, however, practice Kuk Sool martial arts, exercise regularly, and am very active in general. Occasionally, I loose a nail but It grows back. …and have lost a nail zipping up my pants until I started using the other hand (not joking), so getting worried loosing a nail is a fools errand if the result compromises your life experience.

    Being careful is appropriate, anything else is a bit excessive. …and you would be surprised a how acute your feel becomes when playing without a nail for a short time.


  3. MPR says:

    I used to be as careful as a surgeon with my hands, making sure I didn’t do anything that would cause my nails to chip or break. Then one day I was closing my refrigerator door and my nail caught on a panel that was a part of the handle. It caused a nice rip at the top and a chunk came out because of it. Great. Now I get to look forward to a ping-pong ball nail for the next month.

    It was then I realised that no matter what I do, there are nail-killers lurking everywhere. I now just let whatever will happen to happen. I guess that’s why they call them accidents; nothing can be done about it once it happens. Just be mindful of the nails and wear gloves when doing harsher tasks.

    Most problems happen when the nails are caught on something. This can be reduced substantially if one gets rid of the definition between the nail and the fingertip. Simply taping the fingertips up works great for this. I like to use fingertip bandages because they stay on much longer.

  4. gordon meurin, calgary says:

    Yo, a persistent problem. Since I took up the classical and flamenco guitar several years ago as a retirement love, some of the things I’ve learned to protect both hands. 1. When handling suitcases while traveling, movings boxes, etc. I wear a pair of cheap work gloves (hardware stores, etc.) that goes a long way to avoiding broken nails. 2. I’ve learned to do a lot left-handed to avoid the accidental right hand nail break (fridge doors, etc). 3. I tried artificial nails but couldn’t get good tone. Now I use 2 Sally Hanson products; a base coat of Age Correct, and after it dries, a coat of Triple Strong. I find if I get a chip, the top coat chips and doesn’t tear away a piece of the nail, like one coat used to. Change once a week. Secondly, I only cover 1/2 of each nail. I’m not concerned about aesthetics like a woman’s nails and this allows my nails to grow in exposed to air, and they’re stronger than is covered by polish or an artificial nail. Re the rough left fingers, yes to a good hand lotion, but you’re pushing too hard; try practicing with a lighter touch close to the frets.

  1. August 23, 2011

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