Building And Maintaining Calluses
Building Calluses – Calluses are the goal of most guitarists or any string player. They protect the fingertip from the action of guitar strings, and actually make it easier to fret notes. In case you don’t know what a callus is, it is a thick, tough, dead layer of skin which covers and protects the layers underneath from repeated stress.
Eric Clapton said that the best method he finds to build calluses is to swab rubbing alcohol on the fingertips two or three times a day until the skin dries out and the calluses are thick enough to protect the fingertips. After that, the treatment can be repeated periodically to maintain them. The other, harder way to build calluses is to simply keep playing, and eventually you will have nice thick calluses.
Maintaining Calluses – Once you’ve got ’em, what do you do to keep ’em? Well, this part is easier: just keep playing’. Play for about the same amount of time each day (preferably at least 40 minutes), and your calluses will stay thick. Once in a while a layer will flake off, but this is normal and you shouldn’t worry about it. Just keep playing to make sure you replace what you are losing. Also, make sure you limit the amount of time your hands spend soaking in water. Water destroys calluses, so try taking short showers or wearing rubber gloves when doing dishes. Also, after soaking your hands, don’t play until the fingers have completely dried (approximately 1 hour or more).
What can you do if you can’t play for a while? You could use rubbing alcohol as mentioned above once a week to help maintain the calluses. You could also try pressing your fretting fingers on the rim of a soda can; this will simulate the pressure of the strings, but you’ll have to do it for quite a long time if you aren’t playing. Another idea I’ve heard is that rubbing your fretting fingers on rough surfaces will help maintain your calluses.