Sore fingers and blisters – what can help?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    renate-kvalsvik on #155871

    Hi everyone
    I’m having trouble with blisters and soreness on my fingertips. I’ve been learning to play the harp for two and a half years, and still my fingers hurt so much after only a an hour or so of playing that I have to stop after about two hours of practising because I’m unable to go on. I thought my skin would harden eventually, and it has, but evidently not enough to keep the blisters away.
    Can anyone advise me on how to treat these blisters so that they will at least be better by the next morning? Any specific products won’t help me much as they probably aren’t available in my country (Norway).

    Karen Johns on #155872

    Hmmm….maybe you are overdoing it? When your fingers start to hurt like that, I think you should stop and give them a break, and then after a half hour or so try to play again. When I first started to play my fingers hurt a lot, and even today if I played for two hours straight I would probably have sore fingers.

    As far as products that might be available, if you can find any shea butter that might help. It’s pretty greasy though, and is something you’ll want to apply overnight. It really helped a friend of mine whose fingertips would split due to playing the harp.

    Also, what type of tension do you have on the strings? Is it high tension? High tension strings can be a little tougher on those fingers, as well as wire strings. Maybe try playing a little lighter on them? You may not get the full volume, but as long as you follow through with good technique that should be OK. I have found when I’m deep into practicing I tend to pluck the strings rather strongly (especially if I’m frustrated with a passage). This can make my fingers hurt too.

    I hope this helps a little :-)


    renate-kvalsvik on #155873

    Thanks for the advice, Karen.

    I think the tension is quite high. At least when I compare it to the pedal harp I use at my lessons.
    Shea butter was a good suggestion, and easy to get hold of, too. Expensive, though. But it smells good 🙂
    I will try to break up my practising, too. It’s just a bit difficult because I’m both a student and also have a part-time job + harp practise to fit into my schedule. Also, it’s hard to stop when I’ve only played for one hour or so.
    Thanks again!

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #155874

    Are these surface blisters or under your callouses? Do you play loudly all the time? You cannot play beyond the point that creates them. They have to heal, and you need to smooth your skin with fine sandpaper, and condition it with lanolin-containing products, such as moisture balm/bag balm. It is made for cow udders. Or you can melt together equal amounts of Vaseline and lanoline. When your skin has healed, then gradually increase your practice time, always mindful of what your skin can tolerate. Do not play loud all the time, and don’t play glissandi with force until you have built up your skin. Do not expose your fingers to a lot of soap, like washing dishes.

    renate-kvalsvik on #155875

    The blisters are under my callouses. I vary my playing a lot, so I don’t play loudly all the time. Actually, most of the music I play vary from piano to mezzo forte to forte.
    Although I do get blisters and soreness, my skin rarely cracks, and when it does, it smooths down again fast, but the skin on my fingertips where my fingers pluck the strings is really hard. Will it eventually be hard enough that I don’t get blisters?
    I will try to moisturize my hands regularly when I’m not playing, especialy after washing my hands.

    Karen Johns on #155876

    I’ve done quite a bit of research on different ingredients in lotions and what they can do to your skin. In fact I make my own lotions, and that is why I suggested the shea butter. Not to stray too far off topic, but…..
    Stay away from petroleum-based products such as Vaseline & mineral oil. They create the illusion of softening and protecting your skin, when in reality they actually “wick” the moisture out of it. This perpetuates your problem and does nothing to heal it. Kind of like putting a band-aid where you need a tourniquet. So check the ingredients in your moisturizers. The ones that are at the top of the list are of the highest concentration. Most moisturizers list water as the first ingredient, followed by oils. Anything with -cone or -xane in the list should be avoided as well. These ingredients are silicones, and effect the skin much in the same way as petroleum.

    Ok, done with the straying…if anyone wants to know my sources for this information (other than my own personal experience) PM me and I will send you the links and you can check it out for yourself. I hesitate to post these here because of the off-topic nature.

    Hope your fingertips feel better! :-)


    patricia-jaeger on #155877

    Renate, Mildred Dilling recommended tincture of myrrh, a clear liquid that any pharmacist could provide for you. I have not needed it myself because violin study came before harp and many years of my fingers pressing on the ebony fingerboard made them strong. When I began to get some splits in the tips of thumb or index finger from harp playing, however, an application of an over-the-counter antiseptic called Polysporin, covered by a band-aid at bedtime, usually meant the splits were healed by morning. Also, be careful not to remove too much fingernail when you are filing them down, but just enough.

    renate-kvalsvik on #155878

    Thank you so much for the tips, everyone. I’ll see what products I can find, and try to only practice one hour at a time, then take a break.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #155879

    It is my understanding that lanolin is the closest thing to our natural body oils. I find that moisture balm/bag balm works well, as it contains lanolin (which probably counteracts the vaseline) as well as an ingredient to prevent cracking.

    renate-kvalsvik on #155880

    Thank you, Saul. I’ll see what I can find.

    Mel Sandberg on #155881

    Renate, Sunrider has a product called

    renate-kvalsvik on #155882

    Thanks, Mel 🙂 I’ll check it out.

    HBrock25 on #155883

    The best stuff I’ve found is GurneyGoo, just put it on about an hour before you play or you’ll just make a mess!

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