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zen and the art of callous maintenance


The Fonz

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okay, so as most of you know i have gotten back on the instrument after three years away. the vast majority of my playing has been in the past month and a half. i'm glad to say that i'm now better than i was. my chops are pretty much back and my ability to play melodically has actually improved.

 

but i'm still having one major problem: the callouses on my picking hand. after a week or so of heavy playing the blistering went away and the really thick callouses developed. yay. now, ever few weeks when the callouses get acceptably thick, the good kind that sound like coins when you drum your fingertips on a beer bottle. then huge, ugly, painful blisters develop UNDER them. i wind up lancing them (which is tremendously difficult with cast iron callouses over them) and then the hard callouses start to flake away causing the unpleasant to watch carving away with a pocket knife leaving realtively soft skin underneath. the cycle then begins all over again. minor blistering turning into satisfactory callouses and then blistering underneath which completely scuttles any attempts at developing callouses. occasionally the remaining callous will tear away exposing raw skin underneath and then i can't even wash my hair without throbbing pain.

 

currently i am at the pre blister stage and my fingers are still a bit tender from last nights rehearsal. as you can imagine this is a bummer. i hope i'm not coming down with leprosy. any suggestions?

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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:D occasionally i do. at rehearsals when my torn up fingers are leaking and bleeding but we just HAVE to nail that new arrangement, i grab my little purple buddy. warning: side effects may include harsh trebly overtones and fingernails-on-the-blackboard reactions from the guitar player.
Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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I had this problem when I would go through phases of playing very little (under 10 hours a week) to playing A LOT (like 30+ hours a week). I found that the more I played, the less likely it was for me to get those annoying blisters UNDER my callouses. When you play a fairly consistant amount, your callouses are more leathery than hard.. which I'm sure you are aware of.. but ultimately, you want to develop that leathery callouse on your picking hand. It's the love, baby.

 

Oh yeah, and right now I'm playing more than I think I ever have in my life (As far as hours per week go). Between learning Yogi material, my gigging band rehearsal schedules and gigs... I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 hours a week of playing. SO another job, but one I actually love doing. :D

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Ouch!! Have you tried easing up on your attack? Also, in my experience you never want to let your calluses get too hard. I like mine medium hard, but if they get too hard they crack and break apart. And, you can accidentally rip them off if you catch them under the string.
I have no homepage.
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Well, due to medical reasons, I was forced to not play for the past several months. I think it's been 6 months since I've really played. When I picked up the bass a few weeks ago to try out a new band, I thought I was in for the agonizing pain. To my amazement, the only thing that happened was the sore fingertips, even after 10 hours of playing in 2 days. I thought I lost my coveted callouses, but, they were still there! I guess playing everyday for 4 or 5 years did them some good. Of course, if I go blind, I won't be able to read braille.......

 

I guess my point to this is, well....ya gotta play through the pain, just ease up a little. When it gets too unbearable, whip out the dreaded pick and sludge through it. I've also been known to dab a little Anbesol on my fingertips when it gets bad. The only problem is you can't feel the damage being done, so I don't really advise doing this often. Let the pain subside a little before playing again, and then ease into it. Then, play as much as you can to build them up again.

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Callouses, like most things in life, are best served when handled with moderation in mind.

 

Some folks here have already mentioned using a pick. I would agree.

 

I'm not a BIG fingers player, but I play my bass fingerstyle about 10 hours or so a week. The rest of the time, I use a pick. In my Brit-pop band's average 12-song set, I play four or five tunes with my figers. The rest is all pick. When I play guitar, I only use a pick.

 

I guess the point is that I switch back and forth often enough that I never have problems losing my callouses or hurting my fingers. I've also managed to EQ my rig so that the difference between the two sounds (pick vs. fingers) is not radically different.

 

So again... if you wanna talk "Zen," the key is to find the balance, grasshopper.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I use a pick only enough to make sure I can aquit myself without embarassment should my hand get run over by a rampant dinosaur.

 

Seems like callouses that don't get built too far too hard too fast seem to live better without shredding or blistering. But when I think I'm in for a pummeling after a period of being too easy-going, rather than let macho abuse take over I just reach for the superglue gel.

 

But I'm playing sissy strings - compressed rounds - which sand your 'tips down maybe half what roundwounds do (though the tension is higher for any given gauge).

.
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well, i don't play all that hard. i have the biggest rig in the room which helps keep me from having too.

 

generally what i've been doing at rehearsals lately is playing ala jamerson. when one finger starts to bother me, i play with the other. the other happy benefit of that is when i do actually use both fingers, i've gotten sick fast. imagine bonham with a double pedal...

 

so much for my hand modeling career.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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I'm thinking maybe you're playing too hard.

 

How loud is your amp? Are you using compression? I know that can be a sound to itself, but it will enable you to not dig in quite so hard ( using a mild compression ratio) but still keep the volume loud and consistent.

 

I don't use compression, but I don't have to play that hard either. But the few times I've had to (working with a real loud drummer and my amp just couldn't keep up), I wished I had some kind of compression that would let me ease up a little and save my fingers, but still keep the groove going.

 

Hope this helps.

I'm trying to think but nuthin' happens....
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OK, I'm sorry, this is off topic, but it's been bugging me a wee bit (not a friggin' huge bit, laddy, but a wee bit (hi, chad! :wave: )). There is a distinction to make here:

 

"callous": adjective, meaning insensitive, indifferent to the feelings of others, etc.

 

"callus": noun, meaning an area of skin hardened by friction.

 

We now return to your normally scheduled, anal-retentive-jackass-free programming, already in progress. ;)

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Well, this is too weird. As I've mentioned here before (all too often, no doubt), I play lefty because an injury rendered my left hand basically not able to fret strings effectively.

 

The skin on my left hand is generally more tender than that on the right. I also don't play hard because I don't feel I have the same control if I do. All that being said, I've never had blisters on my plucking fingers, and I play all the plucking time :D .

 

Perhaps easing up on the ol' attack MAY pay off, E. Good luck!

 

 

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You want weird? I've been playing bass exclusively for over 15 years, slap, fingerstyle, 2 hand tapping, etc. and I have yet to build up any major calluses at all. Playing mostly round wounds or compression wound rounds, on a variety of basses, in a variety of styles, and still, fingertips just slightly firmer than the norm. Even after 4 nights a week, every week for a year, touring and wrecking myself every other way.

The main constant in my playing, though, throughout the years, has been to play with a softer touch. Even when slapping, it's not about hitting the bass hard, as much as it's about hitting it well (or on some days, hitting it at all.)

I have seen these calluses on bastid's hand, and they are not for the faint of heart to witness.

Yo, E, I think that playing with a softer attack is probably your solution, as well. Or just get that Sadowsky Tokyo already. You'll want to play nice with that one... :)

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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i really wish it was an issue of simply laying back on the attack, but i actually learned how to do that in high school. you can't play with feel unless you have some wiggle room for dynamics, and you can't have wiggle room for your dynamics if you're playing like you're hunting deer with a compound bow. want to be louder? turn up the 4 bizzilion watt amp that you bought because you're a bass player and therefore a gear collector.

 

what i want to know is if anyone else has had a problem like this and what can be done for it so i don't have to spend a day away from the instrument recouperating or having to drop out of that 5th hour of rehearsal because my fingers hurt.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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Well, what I've done in this situation, other than what I've mentioned earlier, is to us my 3 and 4 fingers more if I'm riding the root (that sounds bad) and only using 1 and 2 on the more difficult passages. When I start to feel the tingle, I switch fingers around and use Super Glue, if it's available or I break out the pick. Then, I use a little ice when I get home or take a beer break. All the ice does is ease the pain. It doesn't help the blisters. I also try to lance the blister before it gets too big and I nver peel the skin off. I just let the blistered up skin serve as the top layer of the new callus. I hope this helps out.
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I see this callus problem brought up variously here & on the guitar forum.

I'm always bewildered.

Since the first year I began playing I've never had a problem (right or left hand) even following sometimes extended periods of not playing.

I can't believe there's anything really different about my skin or technique...it makes me wonder if the comments about playing too roughly may be correct.

Also, I'd avoid any of that cutting/trimming business---that can't be healthy!

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As I mature into a more "well-rounded" musician (under the influence of ya'll), I am always thankfull for my speed/thrash/punk/metal days... I can poke a callused didgit through drywall... :D I've been cutting back playing lately though because of my dayjob, but I still try to play a couple hours each day. I do notice a difference in my sound. I'm becoming such a "softy". ;) Anyway, my point... How many times a day do you wash your hands? Do you stay in the shower till your hands are pruned? My wife-to-be is almost compulsive about washing her hands... Sure it makes her hands soft and womanly, but I don't think it will help you out much(unless you REALLY want that hand modeling job ;) )... Also, youve mentioned that you regulate your attack, but are you always using the same part of your fingertips? If you move where the string contacts your fingertip around, you could be delaying the whole callusing(sp.) process... Also, believe it or not, but make sure you are eating healthy, or taking vitamins, I think it helps a little bit. If all else fails, try superglue! :thu:

"Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of Congress

... But I repeat myself."

-Mark Twain

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/63/condition_1.html (my old band)

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When I was getting blisters a friend suggested soaking my fingers in vinegar.I soaked them for about ten minutes a day for about a week and I haven't had blisters since.And fyi I play with a pretty hard touch and use stainless steel strings and still haven't had any problems since the vinegar and that has been sevreal years.
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Way ot as well

 

So how is it sandy?

 

I got deep into the chataqua of quality and one day i sat it down...damn that was atleast 6 months ago now and its just hard to pick up again with out remembering exactly what he was saying...and i do mean exactly.

 

Anyone else ever read it or have comments?

 

And ive never had picking hand problems, being a 3 finger player...is that normal?

 

And what is good, Phaedrus,

And what is not good---

Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

 

-------

findley(------CALDONIA CALDONIA

WHAT MAKES YO THICK HEAD SO HARD!

Double what we got o mr. roboto

 

Double

Double

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What I said earlier; building the calluses slower versus thrashing your fingers out on both sides of the forming skin layers is going to build better calluses. Just like painting: do thinner coats that dry faster and more evenly repeatedly, and you get a better finish. Get in a hurry and Bad Things Happen.

 

The guys that say they have no calluses: that surprises me. Get to playing a style of music that pumps some adreniline in front of a bunch that wants to party and it seems like the hands get some pummeling. Not talking relaxed groovin' here - or practicing the same music you'd play for those people, because somehow the hands are just not getting the same demands made of them ; }

 

I can't comment much on standup except for the few minutes I've gotten to push one around, it does seem like it requires some physical toughening ; }

.
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Yup, greenboy, I have done the hardcore pummeling thing, as well as the mellow groove. I can't explain it. And I played URB in college too.

Just another thing that makes you go hmmmmm.

It may have sumpin' to do with what Jason said, about moisturizers, hand washing, and general health (drinking enough water? Sure helps your skin when you do...)

But, what the hell do I know? I don't even have calluses... (sigh...sob...) :)

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dunno, Wraub,

 

my current set of calluses are not obvious visually because they've been built without having any blisters or shred damage along the way. If I touch one of them it is a lot more subtle than ones I've had in the past when they didn't get built as well.

 

Having done some hard outdoor blue collar stuff in the past, cold, moisture and repeated drying cycles can sure do the skin on the hands in. Right now I'm not doing anything special for my hands, no moisturizers etc.

 

After the winter is under weigh and over I'll maybe have more to say on that. Because I can't remember whether all that gigging around here with all that sub-zero load-in and -out had any real effects ; }

.
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At the studio where I work, we get a fair amount of players through, and it do seem to vary quite a bit. I have seen a couple guys who are so callused they barely have finger whorls, and others notably less than that, but still pretty beat up.

The bastid's fingers are some of the most beat up I've seen, that's for sure.

It just goes to show you... If it's not one thing, it's another. It's always something.

 

And I have also heard the thing about vinegar, more than once. But never tried it, 'cuz of my aforementioned callus lack.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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As a player that has no callus "breakdowns", after reading some of GBoy's comments, I have these further comments, FWIW.

 

I've played guitar since preteen years & bass since early 20s (so that's over 20 years)...& at times pretty intensely. Greenboy suggests a certain methodology for building & maintaining calluses that may work; as I said, I've not had any problems so I can't comment on that but it leads me to wonder if my lack of problem in this area might be from early & regular playing (compared to those who started later) & to again suggest that those with repeated problems in this area might examine their techniques---you can play ferociously without beating your hands to heck.

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"The guys that say they have no calluses: that surprises me. Get to playing a style of music that pumps some adreniline in front of a bunch that wants to party and it seems like the hands get some pummeling..."

 

I know where you're coming from, GB, but I actually do put in some pummeling from time to time; Wed. night, for example, I played 4 hrs. straight at a jam because I was the only bassist. Naturally, being at the service of all those self-indulgent guitarists, we played chorus after chorus of whatever (e.g., "Wipeout", believe it or not) neither of my hands suffered any ill effects whatever.

 

Nor do I burn thru strings like some people do, my sweat doesn't seem to be as deleterious to strings as some. I think there may be physical differences that work for or against us, depending... "Child of Unwed Parents E" may have skin that does what he's describing more easily than say, mine. Trying a lighter attack couldn't hurt...

 

 

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Mike Findley

 

I'm liking it alot actually. I'm using it as inspiration for a cross country motorcycle trip i've been dreaming about. All i gotta do is actually get a motorcycle.

I lost some time once. It's always in the last place you look for it.
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Thats great sandman.

 

It actually inspired me to consider the teaching profession.

 

Remember on youre cross country trip to wear some nice gloves because the grips on that bike will eat up the inside of youre hands, causing callus's? if i spelled that right.

 

And remember also that rice rockets aren't for the long haul, you need a bike you can get comfortable on.

 

:thu:

Double what we got o mr. roboto

 

Double

Double

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