Holding a Guitar – Posture & Hand Placement
Proper posture and good practice habits is not something every guitar player is aware of or takes seriously. Improper posture and bad habits will not immediately result in injuries, but will effect the long term results regarding back, shoulder, neck, elbow, arm and wrist pains, as well as longterm playing performance and efficiency. Conditions like: RSI (repetitive strain injuries), tendonitis, CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) can be a result of the repetitive use of improper technique employed over many hours of practice.
Good posture will help to prevent a these problems while simultaneously making guitar playing easier and more pleasant.
The positioning of your hand(s) is very important. The devil is in the details, as they say, and it makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s take a closer look:
- Relax with a straight back, don’t slouch or raise your shoulders, keep length throughout your spine, and release any tension in the arms, wrists, hands and fingers.
- Take intermittent breaks: If you are playing for a few hours, trying breaking it into half hour sections with a five minute stretch in between each segment. If you feel strain or pain take a rest and let your body heal.
- Make sure you have a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and get your rest. A little exercise doesn’t hurt either. Life lessons and guitar lessons.
- Listen to your body. Don’t push all your practice into one day.
Sit, put both feet flat on the floor and maintain a straight back. Put the body of the guitar on your leg (the same side as your strumming hand) and position the back of the instrument against your diaphragm and chest. Keep the guitar neck horizontal to the floor.
Don’t use the left hand to support the neck from leaning down towards the floor, instead let your upper right arm rest on the upper part of the guitar body to avoid this. Make sure all this feels comfortable.
Left hand (fretting hand)
The thumb of your fretting hand should rest behind the neck of the guitar placing it approximately between your first two fingers. Make sure to bend all your knuckles (1st, 2nd and 3rd).
Use the tip of your fingers to press down the strings and place them as close to the fret as possible. (Don’t place your fingers on the fret!) Keep your fingernails short, so they don’t touch the fretboard.
Right hand position (strumming hand)
Rest your upper right arm on the upper part of the guitar body, your right hand floating comfortably above the sound hole and relax your arm, wrist and hand.
With so many variables of strumming techniques for guitar playing, you have some options. A commonly used technique is to place your thumb against your index fingers though holding a coin. Your hand has plenty of support this way. Bend your fingers (middle, ring and pinky) a bit in towards the palm of your hand.
Now down strum with the nail of your index finger against all the strings and then up strum with the nail of your thumb. You can also play with your index finger and thumb separately which gives you a more tender sound. You can also grow your fingernails a bit to give you a more clear sound like using a pick.
Using a pick / Fingerpick Position
Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger. Place the pick on the top side of your index finger and clamp your thumb down on top of it. Hold the pick firmly.
Rest your forearm on the top front edge of the lower bout to stabilize your hand. Hold your hand above the sound hole, make sure your hand and arm is aligned and bend your knuckles slightly.
The most common used approach is playing the bass strings (4th, 5th and 6th string) with the thumb, 3rd string with the index finger, 2nd string with the middle finger and the 1st string with the ring finger. Other variations are also used. Use the tip of your fingers to play the strings.