It sounds bloody obvious, but knowing how to hold a guitar properly is
important beginner step before you even
think about working on your chords and picking/strumming.
This lesson is for both
electric and acoustic guitars - the main
difference is the size of the body (acoustic guitars tend to be
the holding position remains the same for both types.
If there's one piece of advice
I could give you, to remember every single time you pick up the
guitar... don't hunch!
So many guitarists get into
the habit of hunching over their guitar.
Annoys the hell out of me. Hunching will inevitably affect your posture
and can lead to back problems later in life.
Let's look at how to hold a
guitar whilst sitting down...
typical sitting position with open legs.
The guitar is resting on his right
leg because he strums with his right hand (he is
right handed, in other words!)
The guitar comfortably sits just below
The guy's back is
straight and his left arm (the fret hand arm) is at a right angle meaning
minimal strain on the wrist when reaching around to press the strings.
lady has crossed her legs, which you might find more comfortable.
If you strum with your right
arm, cross your right
Her left arm is at a more acute angle, but this is fine as she can
reach around the fretboard comfortably and touch all the strings. The
important thing is that your fret hand arm isn't at more than a 90 degree right angle
as this will cause unnecessary strain on your wrist.
The elbow of her strumming (right) arm is positioned at the top corner of the
guitar, providing a smooth pivot point across the sound hole (or first
guy has tilted his electric guitar towards him slightly, giving him a
better view of the fretboard.
Eventually, you won't need to look at the fretboard very often, but
it's fine to tilt your guitar in this way if you need to.
can also sit on the ground with your guitar.
Again, the legs are positioned in such a way that the guitar body sits
at chest height
(or just below), with minimal
The strumming/picking arm is in that top corner position.
guy is sat on a railway track.
He is a fool.
Nice straight back
Whether you're sitting
with your legs crossed or
uncrossed, ensure your knees are high enough to support the guitar at
(or just below) chest height.
the dip of the guitar (most guitars have a dip for this purpose) on
your lap. Rest it on the same side as your strumming hand (e.g. if you
strum with your right hand, rest it on your right lap).
Rest the guitar flat
against your chest
(although some people prefer to slightly tilt it towards them -
emphasis on the word slightly!)
Don't hunch your back.
Make sure your elbow
points out towards the top corner of your guitar.
It should also rest so your forearm and wrist
can pivot over the strings while at the same time supporting the body
of the guitar against your
The arm of your fret hand (the hand that
presses the strings) should be at no more than a 90 degree right angle.
The more acute the angle, the less strain is put on your wrist to reach
around the fretboard.
If you have a strap for your
guitar you should practice playing standing up
regularly, because you'll find it a completely different playing
experience. If you plan on playing shows/gigs, you'll most likely want
to be able to stand up and move around a bit.
A couple of examples of how
(and how not)
to hold a
This "cool dude" has tilted the neck
up for easier access to the fretboard, which is fine,
because it doesn't affect anything else, such as the elbow position.
His fret hand elbow is at no more than 90 degree angle (acute, in other words).
His back is
The body of the guitar remains at a comfortable height for
on his strumming arm is forward,
with his body and nicely provides that pivot point.
It's subtle, but you'll also noticed his left leg is slightly bent for
support. If he wants to lean over and get a better view of the
fretboard, a lot of the weight will go into his partially lunged leg,
rather than having to hunch over.
this lass has got it all wrong.
Firstly, the strap is way too loose and she is having to compensate by
Secondly, her fret hand arm is at an obtuse angle (more than a 90 degree right angle) meaning she may
cause strain on her wrist trying to reach around to press the strings.
Her strumming/picking arm is also positioned with the elbow pushed back,
meaning there's no smooth pivot point for strumming and pick
Good luck to her!
Key things to note here:
Don't loosen the
strap too much.
If the guitar gets too low (i.e. down at your knees) you will have
problems wrapping your fingers around the neck properly to play chords.
Nobody really cares about how "cool" or "uncool" it looks.
As a general rule, the guitar should be
positioned so that your fret-hand arm is at no more than a 90
degree right angle.
Again, don't hunch!
Still make sure your forearm
is square-on and angled out towards the top corner
of your guitar (not back behind you)
so it can pivot smoothly over the strings.
Guitar neck hand positioning
is also very important guitar basic to get right from the beginning
playing chords will be 10 times harder if you don't get it right.
First, let's see how your
would look holding the guitar from the back of the neck...
So as you can see, your
thumb should rest comfortably towards the top edge of
the guitar neck.
Your wrist should be relaxed
but not hanging too low. The wrist should be bent,
but only slightly. If your wrist is bent too much, it will cause
problems later on.
have smaller hands,
you're thumb will be positioned further towards the
center of the back of the neck.
As long as you get this
initial, relaxed position first you'll be fine.
When we begin to look at
chords, obviously your fingers will be moving in many
different positions, so at the moment, just focus on getting
the general positioning of the guitar.
Guitarists with larger hands may find it more comfortable to bring
their wrist up
and curl the top of their thumb
over the top of the neck
slightly (see photo on the left).
always comes first, but be aware, if you do choose to have your thumb
over the edge of the neck like this, you will need to move it back to
the centre of the neck for certain chords.
It will require more thumb movement, in other words.
the guitar pick
The main thing to remember
when holding the plectrum is not to hold it too firmly. It needs to
flex over the strings with ease.
Holding the pick between the tips of your index
finger and thumb is the best way to acheive this.
create an elongated circle like this...
it'll look like this from
pick in hand, we
can see how the straightness of the thumb supports the base of the
pick, and the index finger supports
towards the tip of the plectrum.
the thumb is kept
When we get to the lessons on
strumming and picking the guitar strings, holding
your pick this way will really help keep your playing smooth and
flexible. You'll just glide over the
rather than jab at them!
Time to move on...
Hopefully now you should know how to hold a guitar properly so your
playing won't be let down by a few
basic errors! You can now move on to other guitar basics
such as fingering chords and basic picking.
Remember to practice standing and sitting in equal regularity as you
will find playing standing up quite different and perhaps a bit more
difficult at first. But you need to think about the possibility of one day standing up and playing on stage!