Guitar Basics – Holding the Guitar
The Position of the Left Hand
Place your thumb on the back of the neck in the center as in the photo. This is where it’s really supposed to go. When you play notes or chords on the strings, you are squeezing your thumb and the tips of your fingers together. The fretboard is simply in between and your thumb and your fingers.
If you want to play clear chords and fast lead riffs, keep you thumb in this position. Now in contemporary guitar there are exceptions. As you gain experience you’ll find these exceptions.
If your guitar chords or notes buzz place your finger directly behind the fret and squeeze a little tighter.
Another of the easiest guitar basics concerning your finger placement is to have your fingernail almost touching the next string. What this does is move the fleshy part of your finger away from the next string.
For example, when you play a C chord you put your 2nd finger on the 4th string on the 2nd fret. Place the tip of your 2nd finger so that you fingernail touches the 5th string. This will move the inside fleshy part of your finger further away from the 3rd string. Do the same thing when placing your 3rd finger on the 5th string.
Strum the chord slowly. One string at a time. Each note should ring clear.
If you find that a string doesn’t ring clear, it is likely that the fleshy part behind your fingertip is accidentally touching the string next to the one you are pressing. Push your elbow a little closer to the guitar and out from your body. This will cause your fingers to be even more perpendicular to the strings.
Adapt this strategy for the other guitar chords. This will help you with the basic guitar concepts and learn the guitar quicker.
This photo to the left is a photo of my son playing an Em chord. He is eight years old. His hands and fingers are certainly smaller than an adults yet he is getting a clear sounding chord. Notice that his thumb and fingers are making the shape of a backwards “D.”
I have found that the people who make judgements about having hands that are too small don’t play the guitar themselves.
They have absolutely no experience or authority to make such a statement or judgement.
The size of your fingers is absolutely irrelevant!
The Position of the Right Hand
Look at the photo to the left to see where your forearm rests on the guitar. Adjust your guitar strap so that if you are standing to play, your forearm will be in the same position as when you are sitting.
Also notice the position of the hand. Your fingers or the heel of your hand do not touch the body of the guitar. Your hand does not rest on the guitar, it “floats.” The heel of your hand sits near the bridge of the guitar, ready to mute the strings by touching them to stop the string vibrations. This is referred to as a “palm mute.”
The pick is placed in your right hand. Curl your index finger so that it points straight back to the knuckle of your thumb. Your thumb nail and index fingernail should be side by side. Put the pick in between your thumb and index finger with the point of the pick towards the body of the guitar.
Notice that the other fingers just relax.
It doesn’t matter what thickness of pick to use, however I would suggest a thin or medium pick to begin. It is wise to have an assortment of picks in your case. There is only one rule for picks. “Any pick is better than no pick!” When you run out of picks your start looking for the little plastic tab that they use on bread bags.
When you strum or pick the strings, the normal area is over the soundhole on acoustic guitars or above the middle pickup on a three pickup electric. If your electric has two pickups, then between the two.
When you strum down on the guitar, strum all of the allowed strings. When you look at the chord diagram, any strings are marked with an “X” are not played. This is one of the two things that distinguish a guitarist who sounds like a player from one that sound like a hacker. The other is how the upstrum is played. When playing the upstrum, only touch the first or first and second strings.
Good right hand technique will allow you to play smoother and cleaner rhythms so that you can sound your best.
These easiest guitar basics will help you develop good guitar technique and will accelerate your progress.