June 30, 2022 by Klaus Crow
I first got briefly introduced with proper posture and good practice habits by Al Di Meola’s chords, scales and arpeggios book. For me he is just one of the coolest guitar dudes on the planet, so what he wrote in the book was a good place to start with.
Proper guitar posture is not something every guitar player is aware of or takes seriously.
That’s because improper posture and bad habits will not immediately result in injuries.
But over the long term guitar players can get back, shoulder, neck, elbow, arm and wrist pains, RSI (repetitive strain injuries), tendonitis, CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and other nasty side effects.
This is certainly not every guitar player’s destiny, but it’s not out of the question either. But there’s good news! Proper posture can prevent a lot of these injuries and it makes guitar playing easier and more pleasant.
A good hand positioning is here also really important to learn to play effectively and properly. Every detail makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s take a closer look:
Sit down on a chair, put your two feet on the floor and keep your back straight. Put the waist of the guitar on your right leg (if you’re right-handed) and hold the back of the guitar against your stomach and chest. Keep the neck of the guitar 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 position and finger placement (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.
There are several strumming techniques for guitar playing. Here is one that is commonly used: Place your thumb against your index finger and hold them like that. This gives you a decent support. Bend your middle, ring and pinky slightly towards the palm of your hand. Whatever feels natural to you.
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.
How to use a pick
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.
Prevent guitar playing injuries
Keep your back straight, lengthen and align your spine. Relax your neck and shoulders (don’t raise your shoulders). Avoid or release any tension in the arms, wrists, hands and fingers.
Take a break and stretch every now and then if you’re playing for an extended amount of time. If you feel strain or pain take a rest and let your body heal.
Make sure you eat healthy, sleep well and exercise regularly. These three pointers are of great influence to your daily practice.
Be aware and listen to your body.
Now you’ve taken the necessary precautions you can start learning some beginner guitar songs safe and effortlessly.
Hi Klaus. I’v been reading your website whole week already. I really enjoy in all your posts. They are all really useful.I’m advanced guitar player,but struggling with theory. Anyway you helped me a lot with motivation posts.And you changed my way of looking at guitar playing,and practicing… Greetings from Croatia!!
And i forgot…Thank you for Chords book
Klaus Crow says
Have fun with the 150 Essential Chords Book and thank you for the kind words.
Hi Klaus sir,
Proper posture is vital for every guitarist.Many bad habits are developed because of wrong posture.I read the article and it is very helpful.I am going to incorporate into my guitar playing.By following your suggestion we can prevent hand injuries.Thank you for considering my request and creating the post.Thanks for sharing.
Mike Grigorov says
First of all, thank you for you regular and useful articles.
About this one, I would like to know whether there are some specifics when we play an electric guitar instead of classical. Some of the time I am sitting while practicing, and it just doesn’t feel comfortable to do for a longer time. One issue is the level of the guitar relative to the chest – smaller body, so the guitar is lower than if it was a classical one and this leads to some odd angles between the left hand and the fingerboard. Also due to the thinner guitar body, the angle of the right hand is different compared to classic again.
Many of these issues get fixed when standing up and using a strap, but I guess I am not the only one to practice electric guitar while sitting.
While standing properly and sitting properly is the best method, sometimes you don’t really know how bad it is until you try something else and feel a difference. You have to check out AlignMed. I happen to know a few extraordinary super stars. They could not get on stage without having their AlignMed on to keep them up for 2 hours with an Ax that feels like its 65 pounds around their neck. Really AlignMed is a career saver. Drummers too. For credibility in this area -the founder of AlignMed, Bill Schultz along with Ina Meibach, and Theatre Royal Plymouth produced the Quadrophenia stage production….Its the real deal.
Sorry, I should have shared. AlignMed is http://www.alignmed.com
DW @ My First Axe says
Good write up on how holding a guitar is actually supposed to go. I was actually playing the guitar years before anyone ever said “you’re holding it wrong” and I learned about the proper way to play. It felt funny at first to hold the guitar correctly, but then once I saw the advantages of how much easier it was to play I was all for it.
Klaus, I have been told the pinky on the right hand should not be used as an “anchor” on the scratchplate. One teacher said I should learn to use it along with the other fingers in fingerpicking. Others dictate only using the index, middle and ring fingers for fingerpicking, along with the thumb for the bass strings, but don’t say what to do with the pinky. I have a habit of keeping my pinky on the scratchplate, to help keep my hand in the right position, but should I stop doing that? Do you use your pinky in fingerpicking?
Albert J Sherrington says
I’m a senior citizen learning to play the guitar (acoustic). I’ve followed all your recommendations for holding the guitar. However, the base of it keeps sliding out which is effecting my fingers on the strings, causing the fingers to spread and dull the sound. Is there anything I can do from stopping this from happening? I can only play sitting down, I’m a leg amputee and wear an above the knee prosthesis.
I remember you from my IG feed (I’ve since deleted it), always enjoyed your lessons. I don’t know why I never landed on your site. I’m looking forward to perusing your site. Thanks for your hard work!