Badfinger: In the music world, it's the name of a '60s band once touted as the next Beatles. But for guitar players, especially beginners, a bad finger or bad fingers can be an unpleasant side effect of playing the guitar. Strumming the strings can become painful, especially for those who haven't yet built up calluses to protect their sensitive digits. That can result not just in sore, painful fingers, but also shorter sessions. Painful fingers can also cut down on a guitarist's accuracy and slow down his or her speed.
Finger Pickin' Good
Of the two main types of guitar strings, nylon and steel, nylon strings are considered the easiest on the fingers. Many musicians love nylon strings for the warm, soft and mellow tones they produce as well as their soft feel. They are often the strings of choice for classical, flamenco, folk and jazz guitarists.
Although they are harder on the fingers, steel guitar strings have their adherents too. Ideal for rock, country, blues and pop, steel strings can produce a crisper, brighter and somewhat harsher tone than nylon strings.
But just because you want to play the blues doesn't mean you want steel guitar strings that will give you and your fingers the blues. That's why Strings and Beyond is here to help with some tips and recommendations for steel guitar strings that are easier on you and your fingers.
If you have decided you want to play with steel strings, making a careful selection can help protect your fingers. That means looking at how the strings are manufactured as well as other aspects such as design and materials. Their size and shape will also factor into how strings feel on your fingers.
Finally, you should accept the old athlete's motto: no pain, no gain. No matter how finger-friendly your guitar strings are, you will have to build up some toughness and calluses on your fingertips if you are going to be seriously using them to jam on those long, late-night sessions that often can stretch into the wee hours of the morning.
Steel String Solutions for Sore Fingers
Here are some tips on exactly what to look for when choosing steel strings that will be easier on your fingers:
- Size Matters
When it comes to keeping your fingers feeling fine, the thickness of your guitar strings matters. Basically, the thinner the strings, the less resistance and pain they will give to your fingers. Generally, very light guitar string gauges ranging from 0.008 to 0.005 will be easiest on the tenderest digits.
- Get in Shape
Steel guitar strings come in different shapes, which can also affect their finger feel. The steel inner core is usually wound with a layer of metal on top. In general, flat-wound guitar strings will give the least resistance to your fingers as you play. Round guitar strings have a more uneven surface and will be harder on your fingers. Of course, half-round strings will be somewhere in the middle, finger-wise.
- Guitar Type
The type of guitar you are playing will have an effect on your fingers as well as the sounds you are producing. In addition to playing mellow music, classical guitars will be the kindest to your fingers because they often have nylon strings. Electric guitars will be a little tougher on your fingers with their metal strings. But thanks to their pickups and amps, electric guitars require less pressure to play and produce volume. Thus, they can use thinner strings, which will give your fingers a bit of a break.
Acoustic steel string guitars can sound really great in an accomplished guitarist's hands. Ideally, though, those hands will have 10 fingers armored with some serious calluses to stand up to the challenges of the metal strings and the music played on these wonderful instruments.
- Different Varieties and Brands of Guitar Strings
Just as no two sets of fingerprints are alike, no two sets of fingers or the musicians who own them are the same. Some folks just have tougher fingers. It could be they were born that way, or perhaps they have developed thicker skin on their hands and fingers by performing manual labor, like farming, logging and other work outdoors. If you are a tenderfoot - or rather, a tender finger - your finger pads are likely to be softer and more delicate. So depending on your situation and daily activities, you will likely have to experiment to match your strings with wherever you fall on the finger-toughness scale. And of course, it's not all just about the comfort of your fingers; guitar strings that give you your best sound should be a top priority. You will also want to think about durability and cost.
Some guitar strings to consider might include D'Addario EJ15-3D phosphor bronze extra-light acoustic strings. You might check out Ernie Ball Earthwood extra-light 80/20 bronze strings too. D'Addario XT light acoustic guitar strings have their proponents, as do Elixir 80/20 bronze acoustic guitar strings. For strings that are as soft as silk on your fingers, you might think about D'Addario EJ40 Silk and Steel folk guitar strings. The silk used in the metal helps impart a silky-smooth feel. Other potential choices for those with sensitive fingers include La Bella Vapor steel strings and Martin phosphor bronze strings.
Strings and Beyond Is Here to Help
The number of guitar strings on the market can be truly mind-boggling. We know the choices out there can seem overwhelming, especially for beginners. You don't have to make the decision alone. Contact us via our toll-free phone number or send us an email for friendly assistance from our knowledgeable, musically inclined staff. We can help you get your hands on some finger-friendly strings.