How your hand posture can hurt your progress with the guitar

By Michael Korte

Your hand posture can make a big difference in how you are progressing with development of your technique.

A lot of guitar players think it does not matter. I think it does. Some think “just do what feels comfortable” but if you have no idea what you are doing, you are getting used to a wrong posture, that will inhibit your advancement to higher levels and eventually feel not as comfortable anymore.

If you do what feels naturally comfortable, you are just letting your fingers go wherever they please and into direction, you are already used to having them. For example, if your thumb automatically goes pointing parallel wise to the guitar neck, you limit your ability to play fast because for some positions you just cannot play comfortably and relaxed, especially for those stretches when you want to learn and apply the 3-note-per-string system for scales and if you want to be able to shred arpeggios elegantly.

What you need to do instead is, having your thumb pointing upwards to the ceiling and in a right angle to the guitar neck, place the thumb print flat on the back of the guitar neck and let your fingers "fall" as perpendicularly as possible on the strings, for when you are playing scales without any phrasing. This also works well with chords.

For chords, there are some things to pay attention to. For most open chords, you can apply the hand posture I explained above. For Barre Chords you MUST even apply this posture, else you just get cramps in your hand.

For playing chords you could try a different approach and see what feels best for you. That is:

Using your thumb as a kind of hook on your guitar neck, so that it sticks out over the upper side of the guitar neck. This also gives you more stability if you want to apply phrasing elements like string bendings and vibrato to your solos.

The right posture for these guitar playing techniques is, to switch from the posture for the scales I mentioned first, to the thumb hook position.

What is important here now for a good and stable vibrato and controlled bendings, is to twist your forearm around the pivot point, where the inner edge of your hand meets the guitar neck’s lower side as a pivot point.

That way you are using a much stronger muscle, that you can control better against the string tension, compared to if you use your fingers only, which yields a nice shape for your vibrato curve.

Practice switching back and forth between those two positions for the right application in the right situation. It should give you quite a boost in your playing, if you haven’t played this way before.

About the author:

Michael Korte teaches kitaratunnit in tampere, Finland, and is passionate about showing his students ways to improve their playing and creativity.

He focuses on combining technique, theory and creativity into one big picture, so that his students can become balanced guitar players and play as best as they can at any time.