It's a long time since I played a stringed instrument and within half a week of taking up the banjo I developed blisters on the fingers of my left hand, especially my middle finger. I've been soldiering on in a little pain for a week but they don't seem to be going.
Any advice on how to heal them quick and/or keep practicing. I'd rather keep practicing than stop and wait.
Thanks for any advice and wisdom.
Keep playing until the bones pop out.
That livens up the tone a little bit.
Eventually you will get nice calluses and wont need to use an oven mitt when baking.
An old fashioned remedy is campho phenique -- you just put some on your blisters/sore fingers and it tends to deaden the pain and help with the healing. I used to do that right before a long jam session and it helped me be able to pick a lot longer without pain.
Other than that, try fretting a little easier, softer, not to hard. You shouldn't have to press down hard on a string to get a good, clean, clear tone. If you're having that problem, then either your banjo needs to be set up right or perhaps you're fretting in the middle between frets instead of as close to the fret as you can without touching it.
If none of that works, try shorter practice sessions with time in between for the fingers to stop hurting.
You can cut small round pieces of masking tape and stick them on the ends of your fingers to increase practice time. I did when I was first starting to learn and was obsessed with practicing. I do like Knows Picker's advice too!
Superglue, a couple of layers. let first harden then apply another.
There is a medical form of superglue, called "New Skin." it comes in a tiny bottle, available over-the-counter at any drug store. Purpose is to protect small cuts and abrasions while they heal.
Put that on your fingertips as Mr. Larry suggests. Lighten up your touch and check your banjo, as Ms. Sherry suggests. Maybe back off a bit on the practice time, as I'm suggesting.
If you have actual blisters, you are WAY overdoing it. Don't want to do more damage to the skin while it is healing.
Edited by - Alex Z on 12/01/2020 10:25:11
Fwiw, not a "treatment," but rather a retired farmer's pre-blister toughening-up technique..... during down (?) time [eg. TV time, or when waiting in the vehicle while my wife was in a store], I used my retired farmer's jacknife to medium-lightly "peck/poke" the fingertips [sometimes with the edge of the blade, sometimes the tip]. Dunno whether it was more beneficial physically or psychologically, but .... no blisters.
Lighter gauge strings and /or lower action may help
If you play "Helter Skelter," you're actually required to scream "I've got blisters on my fingers!!!"
Except for a period when I was going through Chemo (healing took longer then, and that was the only time I got actual visible bruises in my fingertips), it has usually taken me 10-14 days of regular playing to go from sore fingers to decent calluses for guitar/mandolin/banjo. Yes, it hurts, especially when your fingers are already sore and you keep pushing them against metal strings, but it really doesn’t take long to get the calluses if you keep playing. (If it's any consolation, I think getting calluses with dual-course mandolin strings is more painful than getting calluses with relatively low-tension single banjo strings.) Hang in there!
Edited by - Doug Brock on 12/01/2020 13:30:07
It has been a while since I was in that situation, but I remember well wanting to play when my fingers screamed stop. One strategy I used was to choose to practice something that didn't use the bad finger. Practicing right hand stuff for a change up for example, gives your fingers a break. You will also find that you don't require as much pressure on a string as you might think. Try lightening up on your fretting a bit. Anyway, it won't take long, and you'll have calluses like steel.
Take a day or two break. Then go at it again. It it gets unbearable take a break again. Within a week or 2 they will never hurt again, assuming you play frequently.
Just try shorter sessions few times/day, like 10-15 minutes. You can do less string tension also with 3 tricks, lighter gauge strings, tune down half step, lower action at the bridge or shimming neck.
this stuff might help, i use it for dry skin but it hurts if your skin is actually cracked okeeffescompany.com/products/working-hands
You have to let things heal. I once had a broken pinky on my fret hand and it was taped to my ring finger for support. Stupid inpatient me couldn’t wait so I would slip out of the support so I could at least play some-things. My doctor scolded me (who listens to doctors?) and it took twice as long to heal as it would have. So just let it heal naturally or at least use medication on the blisters to try and heal them up before you do harm.
I remember when I Just began playing and taking lessons. I told my teacher, " I have to stop, my fingers are killing me! " She replied, " Rite of passage- Play it again " LOL
Edited by - Appalachian on 12/05/2020 10:57:45
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