Fretting Hand Position


Fretting Hand Position

In this guitar lesson, we look at what the left hand has to do exactly. It's main task is to press down the strings on the frets. Other functions include string articulations like bending, sliding etc, and muting strings that are not used. How should you place your left hand in order make these movements as easy as possible?


Classical vs. Monkey

In the world of classical guitar playing, the basic rule was that you should bend your left hand upwards from the wrist, in order to enable the best angle between fingers and fretboard.


Recently however, it became clear that this classical hand position was one of the reasons for many classical guitar players developing playing-related injuries RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


Luckily, a safer left hand position was developed, mainly by electric guitar players who didn't bother to comply with classical methods anyway. It seemed like they grabbed the guitar neck like a monkey grabs a tree branch, or a bottle as shown in the picture. Pretty natural.


How to hold the guitar

The ideal way to do it, can be described as follows. What we want is for the fingers to be perpendicular the fretboard, so the fingertips will only affect the string that has to be fretted and not mute other strings at the same time. This is particularly important when playing chords.

guitarhow lesson - how to hold the guitar neck


So, we want to hold the guitar neck in a way that is not straining to any of the hand's muscles or tendons. If you are playing while sitting down, point the guitar neck upwards diagonally. If you play guitar standing up, hang the guitar high! You may think that hanging the guitar that high looks silly, but those cool rock stars hanging the guitar on their knees will surely develop injuries if they play more than 2 hours per day and if they attempt to play anything else than some power chords. Check out, on youtube, Greenday and then Allan Holdsworth, if you want to see the difference.


First make sure that your left hand palm is parrallel to the guitar neck and that your wrist is not bent! Second, bring your palm upward to the neck until you're almost touching it. Third, place your thumb on the middle of the back of the guitar neck. Last, arch the fingers completely so they are touching the strings. Very good! You now have the ideal fretting hand position.


There is an exception, when you want to bend a string or play a chord that needs 5 or 6 notes fretted at the same time. In those cases, you can put the thumb around the neck entirely for support or even bass note fretting!


In other cases, leave the thumb on the back of the neck. That way, you can use all four left hand fingers on any of the strings easily and without excessive straining. Do you need all four fingers? Yes, you also have to be able to play with your pinky! You can play faster and more efficiently that way, with less stretches. Even a classic rock player like Slash uses the pinky in his guitar solos!


guitarhow lesson - fretting hand, monkey grabs bottle