Why Guitarists Tape Their Hands

Wondering why some guitarists tape their hands? Does it help the tone? Or is it just to protect your hands?

In this article, I’ll be answering all the questions you’ve ever had about taping your fingers to play the guitar. So let’s get started!

The Quick Answer

Guitarists tape their hands to protect them. Players that strum the string quite hard and quickly, or use palm muting techniques a lot, find that taping their knuckles protects their hand from getting cuts and blisters. Classical guitarists don’t use picks, so tape their nails to protect them, 

Main Reasons for Taping

There are three main reasons why guitarists tape their hands:

  1. It protects your strumming hand from getting cut and damaged by the strings. 
  2. Tape reduces the friction between your fingers and the strings, allowing you to pick the strings faster. 
  3. Nails can be taped when players use them to pluck strings, rather than using a plectrum (pick). 
Generally, most players tape their hand in order to protect it. 
Some guitarists, who use a lot of palm muting, or aggressively strum the strings at a fast rate, find taping their knuckle helpful. This is the area of the hand that often gets exposed to the strings, and if you play a lot, you can damage the skin.
Once your skin starts to become dry and cracked, this can cause cuts which are especially painful. This can be made worse if you’re sweating. So live performers can commonly be seen with taped knuckles to prevent this issue. 
Also, guitarists that use their nails to pluck strings, instead of a pick, may tape their actual nails instead. This prevents their nails getting snagged on the strings, or from becoming worn down.  
Some players also find that taping their knuckles allows them to strum more quickly. This is because the tape has less friction on the strings compared to your skin. And less friction allows you to play more quickly. Although, the impact this makes it very minimal. 

Which Hand Should Be Taped?

You should only ever tape your strumming hand, not your fretting hand. 

This is because tape on your fretting hard will make it much more difficult to fret the notes properly, leading to buzzing. 

Some new guitarists sometimes get under the impression that taping your fingers on your fretting hand will stop them getting sore and worn. Although this is true to some extent, it’s not worth it because it’ll severely limit your playing ability.

Instead, newer guitarists should focus on trying to strengthen the skin on the fingers of their fretting hand. This just comes with practise really. It’s also a good idea to moisturise your hands regularly to prevent your skin from cracking. 

It’s also good to take plenty of breaks to prevent your fingers getting sore when you first start playing. Make sure you keep your strings clean too, and change them after every 100 hours of playing, along with cleaning your fretboard. This will keep everything smooth and prevent you damaging your fingers.  

Which Players Tape Their Hands?

There are usually two types of players that tape their hands:

  1. Heavy metal and hard rock guitarists
  2. Classical and fingerstyle guitarists

The most famous heavy metal guitarist that tapes his hands, is Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. He is commonly seen with taped knuckles, as this prevents his strumming hand from getting beaten up by the strings. 

Metal guitarists suffer from damage to their hands the most, because they play quick riffs, strum the strings aggressively, and use palm muting techniques quite often.

Classical and finger style guitarists are often seen taping their finger nails. This is because they don’t use picks (plectrums), so in order to protect their nails, they need to tape them. 

How to Tape for Guitar Playing

If you want to tape your hands whilst playing the guitar, here are some steps to follow to do it properly.

taping your knuckles

  • Get a roll of thin adhesive tape used for medical purposes (the kind that is okay for your skin). 
  • Tear off a strip that’s long enough to wrap around your knuckle.
  • Wrap the tape around your knuckle, when your hand is laid out flat (not clenched into a fist).
  • Secure the tape and flex your hand to make sure it’s comfortable and not too tight.
  • Be careful not to wrap it too tight, and make sure you regularly change the tape especially if you’re sweating or playing for long periods of time. 

taping your fingers

  • Take some thin adhesive medical tape, and cut it to a length that’s enough to wrap around your finger 1.5 times.
  • Wrap the tape around your finger and overlap it on the edge of your finger.
  • Be careful not to wrap it too tight, and make sure you regularly change the tape especially if you’re sweating or playing for long periods of time. 


So there you go! That’s why some guitarists tape their fingers! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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