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If you play guitar long enough, it’s almost inevitable: You’ll cut or otherwise hurt a finger not long before you need to play.
That leads many players to wonder how to play guitar with a cut finger.
One solution is using a bandage, but some players find bandages cause dexterity problems and suggest using cyanoacrylate glue — commonly called super glue — to close up cuts. One thing to keep in mind is to be careful not to re-injure your finger while playing, which will set the entire process back.
Let’s look at what you can do if you need to play guitar with an injured finger, as well as when it might be best to just let your wound heal before playing.
Can You Play Guitar With A Cut Finger?
The issue of when to avoid playing is worth tackling first. That’s because the impulse, especially for younger players, is that you always need to play no matter what.
That’s generally commendable. It’s how you get better — the desire to play, even when it might cause you some pain, is a lovely image of dedication to the instrument.
But don’t go too far down the romantic path. Tony Iommi became a legendary heavy metal guitarist despite losing the tips of his fingers in an industrial accident, but for players, taking care of your fingers and hands is important to being able to play long term.
That means being smart about when to play and when to give yourself time to heal.
In general cuts that go deeper than the first few layers of skin are worth keeping an eye on. If you can get the cut to close, then you’re probably safe to play as soon as you can stand to press down on a string with it.
If the cut is deeper than just the epidermis, or if it is too ragged or irregular to keep closed, then you should probably take several days off of practice, potentially as long as a week, depending on when the cut starts to heal.
The main reason to be careful, especially with deeper cuts, is the potential for infection. Guitar strings pick up oil and dirt from your fingers, which in turn pick that dirt up from all over.
Dragging an open wound over a dirty surface is a recipe for an infection, which could further delay your return to playing.
There are some things you can do to avoid infection, though. First, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before starting to play, which, really, you should be doing anyway, just to make your strings last longer.
Second, use an antibiotic ointment on the cut to prevent infection and to promote healing.
Sometimes, though, you simply have to play. If you have a show scheduled, for example, it’s understandable that you don’t want to cancel it for a cut.
In a case like that, you should consider canceling or postponing the gig if you have a cut so deep it needs stitches or one that requires medical attention to stop the bleeding.
How To Play Guitar With Injured Finger
If you have an injured finger but need to play guitar, the two most common suggestions are using a bandage or using super glue to close up the cut. We’ll look at bandages shortly, but let’s start with better healing through chemistry.
if you search for how to treat a cut on the internet, you’re guaranteed to see one suggestion above all others: super glue. No matter where the cut is or why you need it to close up quickly, the internet is quick to tell you that super glue is the best choice.
There is some truth to that. If you’ve ever gotten super glue on your hands, you know it makes a quick, strong bond to skin and can be very difficult to remove.
It also works as something like its own callous, offering the area that’s tender a bit of protection while the cut heals up.
Cyanoacrylate, the chemical used to make super glue, is also used to make surgical adhesives, which makes sense. But while super glue can work to close up a cut, it isn’t necessarily the best choice out there.
That’s because cyanoacrylate can have a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with some materials, causing serious burns. Such problems aren’t common, but they’re definitely a concern, and as mentioned above, the last thing you want to do is to cause more harm.
After all, serious burns are going to prevent you from playing a lot longer than just a cut would. There are a few things you can do to avoid that, though.
First, don’t use any unfamiliar kinds of glue when it comes to healing cuts. Second, while you’ll hear people say over and over again online that super glue is a substitute for getting stitches, that is an exaggeration.
Using super glue on a deep or a ragged cut could cause serious issues. Only use it to close relatively small cuts.
Another choice is a liquid adhesive designed to work on skin. Often derived from similar chemical formulas to surgical adhesive and, yes, super glue, they are FDA approved to work with skin, which is a relief if you’ve ever felt the sting of super glue on cut.
Another advantage is that super glue tends not to work well when used on wet surfaces. That means super glue might not help close up a cut that’s still bleeding. or might not keep it closed.
Liquid adhesives made for skin are more likely to stay in place, even if there is blood.
Can You Play Guitar With A Bandage On Your Finger?
One simple recommendation to handle a cut on your finger while playing guitar is the one most people would make for any situation involving a cut: try a bandage.
After all, a bandage will offer both protection for the cut and some cushion, making playing a bit less harsh on your tender fingertip.
And that’s a perfectly valid idea, but in order to work right, you need to position the bandage carefully. The objection some people have to playing while wearing a bandage on your finger might have occurred to some readers already: If the bandage isn’t positioned in just the right way, it might interfere with fretting strings.
It might brush against other strings when making chords or might even get a corner stuck under a string and keep it from making full contact with the fret.
There are, of course, some ways to get around this. The first is to tape down the edges of the bandage, which will essentially keep things from snagging. Even with tape, though, if you aren’t careful, the bandage or tape might snag against another string, though.
This video shows one way of taping your finger after a cut.
One way to prevent that is to use the finger from a latex glove or purchase latex finger cots, commonly used by chefs to keep blood and gauze or tape out of their work if they’re dealing with a cut finger. You might lose a bit of dexterity compared to a bare finger, but the difference compared to a finger that already has a bandage on will be negligible.
The finger cot protects your finger from the string while also keeping your bandage from dragging across strings inadvertently.
When it comes to playing guitar, a cut finger is a small inconvenience. It might slow you down, but it shouldn’t stop you from playing, at least not for very long.
The biggest thing to keep in mind as you decide whether to play with a cut on one of your fingers is the balance between keeping your fingers and hands healthy and keeping your playing in the best shape. When deciding, think about the seriousness of the cut, why it might be important to play, and what might happen if you don’t play.
If there isn’t a gig to worry about, anything other than a very minor cut should probably mean resting for at least a few days or just a little tape to get through a short session.
But there are times when everyone has to play a little bit hurt. As long as you’re not playing on a serious injury and you’re careful to keep your hands clean to avoid infection, then anything from super glue to a bandage to a finger cot could be the right choice to protect your finger and keep the cut from getting worse while you play.
I’ve been a musician, particularly a guitarist, for more than 25 years. I love writing about guitars, gear, recording, music in general and more.