More than anything as guitarists, we must develop a sixth sense when it comes to protecting our hands. I feel that since I started playing so young, it instilled in me a real sense of protecting my hands, even when I’m not aware of it. Since I started primarily on classical guitar, and had to grow my nails, the natural “over-protection” of those nails naturally led to always being careful with my hands and fingers, in general.
Sports and other activities that we love to do, can really wreck havoc with our hands, and put them really in harm’s way. I can remember dropping the idea of basketball playing in the playgrounds of New York once I saw how many times I was getting jammed fingers, and broken nails. If you want to play the guitar and protect yourself, I’d have to say that basketball should be out of the question! I also know that I can never go bowling unless all my finger-picking nails are broken, because bowling never fails to break them completely off.
Most people know that I love vintage cars, but working on them would put such a load on my hands, and put them in such danger, that I would never, ever want to risk that! I can recall Jeff Beck showing me how he had messed up his thumb while working on cars, and I also remember being in Danny Gatton’s garage when he yelled out that he had broken a nail! I said “Danny, how can you expect to ever have good guitar playing hands if you’re always gonna be underneath those cars of yours?!”
You must stat to get very selective about what you use your hands for, and you must develop an innate ability to recognize even the most casual of dangers to those precious hands of yours. Another thing to watch out for are those over-zealous “hand shakers” who just can’t wait to literally crush your hand with their manly “grips”. I always make sure they know just how much it hurts, and hope I make enough of an impression that they will never do it again! Don’t let your nails get too, too long, as they will then always run a greater risk of cracking and then breaking; and for me, if that happens, I may as well lose that finger, since I am so used to needing those nails!
And finally, even in the act of playing the guitar itself, one must be careful to not “over-strain” the hand or the wrist, because you can end up like me, with a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome, where the hand can get painfully numb! Teaching takes its toll, also, as there is an enormous amount of repetition that takes place. Beware of over-stressing yourself especially when focusing too hard on techniques such as bending and barreing.
So, take care of those “babies”…they are so priceless it can never be put into words…only notes!