If you have ever watched a guitarist like Kirk Hammett play and noticed tape on his fingers, wonder no more! If you thought it was tape, you are right! In fact, certain players use it on their hands and fingers. But why?
Most guitarists with many years of experience would say it’s not necessary and shouldn’t be used. But not every guitarist uses the same techniques or plays the same type of music.
A player who uses an electric guitar as their primary instrument will perform a lot different from that of a person who is into classical acoustic. So if you are experiencing pain or cut yourself because of your style, then you may want to learn how to tape your fingers for guitar playing.
How To Tape Your Fingers For Guitar Playing
When applying tape to your hand or fingers, make sure to use a type that reduces friction. Apply it to areas of your hand or fingers that become affected by cuts or blisters when playing.
A couple of wraps will normally be plenty. Applying too much may limit hand movement, and so use only enough to protect your skin from abrasion.
Why Do Guitarists Tape Their Fingers?
First, let’s explore why putting tape on your hand or fingers might benefit you as a guitar player. There are a number of reasons why a player would consider using it on their strumming hand or fingers.
- Sore Fingers
- Cuts and abrasions
- Dry or cracked skin
- Guitar pick support
- Finger nail support
- Hand Protection
Because guitarists practice every day, your hands, fingers and nails are prone to wear or damage depending on your style. Finger picking can be very rough on your nails.
Classical players can benefit by taping their fingernails during practice routines. For example, playing scales can wear down your nails, especially your thumb.
By applying tape to the nail, it can save it from wearing away quickly. There are many players who use it for their fingernails because it prolongs them. Nails take time to grow, but will wear away much faster when playing guitar.
There are also metal music guitarists who have rather rough techniques that cut up or damage their strumming hand when playing. Lots of palm muting and aggressive strumming will open wounds quickly.
To protect yourself from this, tape can be wrapped around your knuckles or areas of your hand that take damage from playing guitar. Your hands are important when you are a guitarist, it’s important to protect them, at least during practice routines. It’s okay to Tape Your Fingers For Guitar Playing.
Should You Use Tape?
Putting tape on your hands is not universally accepted by guitarists. There are many guitar teachers who will suggest against anyone learning to play, putting it on your fretting fingers for example.
And we agree, you should work on developing calluses on these digits as fast as possible. Tape on your fretting hand fingers will only form bad habits and interfere when you’re playing.
Finger tape can be beneficial however for your strumming hand, and this is where you are more likely to see players use it. Again, if you are experiencing issues when playing on your strumming hand, you should consider using it regularly.
Cutting yourself on your strumming hand is common depending on your style, and so if this happens regularly, taping can benefit you. Some players also use wristbands to help add comfort and support.
If, however, you are cutting your hands and your music style isn’t quite that aggressive, you may want to change the way you are playing. Perhaps you need to work on strumming differently to avoid cutting or hurting your hand or fingers.
Maybe your guitar needs to be inspected to see if there are any sharp points that are making it hard on your hands when you play.
When To Use Tape On Your Fretting Fingers
You can use tape on your fretting hand fingers periodically when perhaps you have a cut and want to continue practicing without making it worse. Or when you are working on calluses, your digits are too sore to play, but you want to continue working. In situations like these, we would suggest you use tape on your fingers.
But not for regular playing when your finger health is good.
If there are no issues with your fingers except for a bit of soreness, continue working on building calluses. Even if you have to take a break for a day while they are forming, this will benefit you more as a player moving forward.
Do Guitar Finger Protectors Work?
This is another solution to sore fingers that has appeared on the market. And while it’s a good temporary idea to relieve pain, they should only be used short term.
You can use silicone finger protectors, when you are getting started and don’t have calluses yet. But once you have gone through the sore finger period, it’s recommended that you no longer use them.
They do create issues with accuracy and will make it harder to learn if you use them every time you play.
Homemade Finger Protectors For Guitar
New players go to great lengths to try and keep playing when the finger pain is too great! This is awesome as your passion to keep playing is strong. It’s very easy to want to go through your house looking for ways to construct homemade finger protectors.
But the truth is, it is hard to find something that will work better than tape or silicone protectors. Most items are too bulky to try and play the strings. They will only interfere and make it too difficult.
And so we suggest that you reply on tape if you have it. Something decently thick that will hug your fingers tight. This way you can still play the strings and not have the tape interfere too much. This will also help alleviate some pain.
Easy Steps to Apply Tape For Guitar Playing
If you have decided that tape will benefit you as a player, here are a few steps to help get started.
For Your Fingers
When taping your fingers on your strumming hand, use these tips:
- Get yourself some finger tape for string based instruments.
- Locate the area that you want to protect.
- Tear off a piece of tape; apply only enough tape to wrap around your finger once and overlap for good adhesion.
- Play the guitar and adjust the position and amount of tape if necessary.
For Your Hand Or Knuckles
If you have decided to try tape on your hand, perhaps because of soreness from palm muting or cut knuckles, try these tips:
- Locate the area of your hand that needs to be protected.
- Cut a piece of guitar finger tape to wrap around the area of your hand 1.5 times.
- Make sure the tape overlaps a good amount to prevent it from falling off.
- Make sure it is not too tight
For Your Fingernails
Players who finger pick using their nails will benefit from these tips:
- Locate the nail that wears most often on the playing edge.
- In this case you may want to use brown packing tape as it is quite thin.
- Cut a small piece and stick under the nail.
- Fold over the playing edge of your nail and stick it down to the outside of your nail.
You can find a detailed tape application method here by a classical guitarist.
Artists That Use Finger Tape
There are many guitarists that use finger tape. It’s never a substitute for good calluses on the fretting fingers, so build these up naturally.
Kirk Hammett is a guitarist that uses it on his hand. He wraps it around an area of his hand that gets tender from playing. His technique involves some palm muting and contact with the guitar on his strumming hand that gets tender. So to prevent this, he uses tape.
Manuel Barrueco, a classical guitarist, uses tape on his nails to prevent wear during practice. This is not done during live performances, however, and is only used when practicing.
When looking for advice on something like using finger tape for guitar practice, you will see many players suggest not to use it. I believe that there is simply a misunderstanding in this area, as most people will assume you mean on the fret hand.
We, too, do not suggest using it on the fretting fingers unless they are injured. But when it comes to preserving things like nails for picking and knuckles for aggressive strumming, we say go ahead and Tape Your Fingers For Guitar Playing.
Why do guitarists put tape on their knuckles?
Guitarists tape their knuckles to prevent cuts or abrasions from forming when strumming. Some players are more aggressive than others and as a result they injure their knuckles. So instead of adjusting their technique, they use tape to prevent friction between their knuckles and the strings.
When you are quite passionate about your music style, it’s easy to injure your hands because of the extra force exerted. Most players do this, especially during performances for audiences.
Do guitar finger protectors work?
Yes, guitar finger protectors do work. When you are just beginning to play, your fingers will be very sore. These protectors can help alleviate the pain in order to keep playing. But we suggest that once the pain goes away, you should stop using them.
Keep using them when the pain is too great. As you continue to use them in cycles like this, the pain will eventually stop. But we do not suggest these be used long term.