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Avoid Guitar Finger Cramps

classical guitar stretches

Do you fingers ever cramp up or hurt while playing guitar? You're not alone, especially if you play classical guitar. 

For many guitarists, avoiding finger cramps is a way of life. For classical players, the very nature of the instrument puts you at risk. Proper form requires extending your left hand fingers to their limits and rapidly plucking with your right hand. After awhile it can start to hurt a lot if you're not careful!

Here's some tools to help you minimize and hopefully avoid getting finger cramps as you're practicing all those classical guitar Sor studies in the curriculum here. If you take some time to incorporate these into your practice routine, it should help to at least alleviate the temporary pain and also it can prevent more serious injuries down the road.


Stretching is your greatest weapon in the fight against cramping. You should get into the habit of stretching before each practice session - and throughout each session, especially if you start to feel the early sensations of a cramp. Keep in mind that while stretching the hands and fingers is crucial, you will also want to utilize stretches that target your arms, shoulders and back as well, since proper posture is an important element of mastering the classical guitar.

For anyone studying classical guitar online at ArtistWorks, Jason Vieaux has an excellent lesson outlining a series of stretches that you can work into your practice sessions here.

Taking Breaks

If you start to feel the sensations of cramping, a simple way to avoid a worsening cramp is to take a five to ten minute break. Try to incorporate regular breaks into your practice session to give your hands a rest and a chance to recuperate, especially if you are in the midst of a two hour practice session. While taking a break, gently shake your hands out and let them loosen up a bit to increase blood circulation before diving back into your practice.

Massage Your Hands

Speaking of circulation, massaging your hands is an excellent way to increase the blood flow to your hands for practicing. Additionally, massaging your hands after a practice session is a great way to stimulate your hand muscles and nerves in a manner that will rebuild and strengthen them for future playing.

classical guitar stretches

Be Aware of the Law of Diminishing Returns

The law of diminishing returns is a term used in economics that refers to the “point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.” This may sound like a bunch of unrelated jargon, but applying it to your guitar playing is a great way to help you avoid finger cramps and prevent serious injury down the road.

Essentially, the idea is that if you find yourself in a position where you are trying to work on a certain passage repetitively but are not making progress (or indeed getting worse), there is no shame in moving onto a different section of a piece, taking a break, or ending the practice session there. Sometimes, especially during longer practice sessions, you will hit that “point” where the energy you are inputting is no longer producing a positive output. Forcing yourself to move forward in this situation can lead to some serious cramping that you will most certainly regret!

Diet and Exercise

As much as this is a cliché, maintaining a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine will do wonders for you if you’re trying to avoid serious finger cramps. When your body is in good physical shape, your blood circulation and overall dexterity are improved - and both are essential components in avoiding cramps.

To conclude - by regularly stretching, massaging, taking breaks and staying healthy, you will be in the best possible position to avoid some seriously painful finger cramps.

classical guitar stretchds

Do you play classical guitar? Be sure to check out these free sample lessons from ArtistWorks teacher Jason Vieaux!

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