Guitar Playing Posture

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The Fret board Hand

Guitar fret board hand

For most people this will be the left hand. Regardless of which hand you use the way you use it is the same.

We begin by assigning a number to each of our four fingers as shown in the diagram. The index finger is number one and so on with the "pinky" being number four. Numbering the fingers makes the lessons easier to explain.

There are two general ways of holding the neck, which way you choose depends on whether you are playing lines (scales) or chords. For chords, place your thumb over the top of the neck with the palm of your hand on the back of the neck. For playing lines, like a guitar solo for example, place the part of your thumb with the thumbprint on the back of the neck. See the two images. You can alternate between these positions as you play.

Holding the guitar neck

. The rule to remember about holding down the strings is to play with your finger tips, not your fingerprints. Regardless of thumb position you should use your finger tips for most playing. The lesson on barre chords explains more advanced use of the left hand fingers.

Playing guitar with fingertips

The Pick Hand

Guitar picking hand

Most people use their right hand for picking. Assuming you plan to use a pick, hold the wider part of the pick with your index finger and thumb. The point of the pick should be facing the strings. Rest your arm on the body of the guitar. It takes a little time to learn exactly how tightly you should hold the pick. Do not hold the pick so tight that it doesn't flex a little when you pluck a string and do not hold it so loose that it wiggles out of position (or you drop it) when you play. See the image. Hold the pick firmly but not like you are trying to squeeze it.

Holding a guitar pick

For strumming chords, most of the movement in your pick hand will come from the elbow with slight movement from the wrist. Imagine your forearm is the pendulum of a clock striking the strings as it swings back and fourth. You need only swing wide enough to clear the strings. For playing scales and individual notes the movement comes from the wrist moving from the elbow only when you change from one string to another.

Sitting and Standing

Sitting is the easiest position for playing the guitar and comes pretty natural. Obviously your leg goes where the body of the guitar curves in.

Playing while sitting often results in the guitar being to low, therefore most players hunch over the top of the instrument as they play. To improve your posture and make playing more comfortable get a block about 4 or 5 inches high to rest your foot on. This will raise the instrument to a better playing position. Classical guitarist have special little folding foot stools they use. You can buy one of these if you wish. Or you could use a phone book or whatever. Of course, you can always just cross your legs as well, at least until they fall asleep.

Another point about sitting is it doesn't matter which leg you rest the guitar on. If you use your right leg, the neck of the guitar is kept parallel to the floor. If you use your left leg, the neck is tilted slightly upwards. Mess around and find out what works for you.

To play standing you'll obviously need a strap. Furthermore, you need a guitar with strap pegs. These are standard on electrics. Acoustic guitars usually require a special strap. On one end of the strap is a hole for the strap peg. On the other end of the strap is a couple of strings you have to tie around the neck above the nut. If you don't know what a nut or strap peg is see Guitar Anatomy.

Ok, so you have a strap and you figured out how to put it on your guitar. So how do you adjust the strap to a comfortable playing position? If looking cool is your primary concern, and you know who you are, you'll probably put the strap on so the guitar hangs as low as possible, like around your knees. Otherwise follow this advice.

Put the strap on loose. Sit with your guitar in a comfortable position. Adjust the strap so it fits snug while sitting. When you stand up the guitar should still be in about the same position as when you were sitting. Now just adjust the strap a little up or down to find where you're most comfortable. It's easier to adjust the strap while sitting since you don't have to fight gravity.

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