How to Hold a Guitar
It sounds bloody obvious, but knowing how to hold a guitar is the most important beginner step before
you start to even think about playing chords and strumming.
This lesson is for both electric and acoustic guitars - the main differences are the depth of the body (acoustic guitars tend to be bulkier), but the holding position remains the same for both types.
Let's look at how to hold a guitar whilst sitting down... Sitting position
Remember, this diagram applies to both
electric and acoustic guitars!
Some key things to note here:
- Position your guitar the correct way so the thickest string is nearest to your head and the thinnest string is nearest your lap
- Rest the dip of the guitar (most guitars have a dip for this purpose) on your lap. Rest it on the same side as your strumming hand (e.g. if you strum with your right hand, rest it on your right lap
- Don't hunch your back
- Tilt the guitar towards you slightly, don't rest it flat against your chest. This will ensure you have a good width view of the fretboard.
- Make sure your elbow points out towards the top corner of your guitar. It should also rest so your forearm and wrist can pivot over the strings.
If you have a strap for your guitar you should practice standing up regularly, because many find it a completely different playing experience.
Here's how to hold a guitar standing up...
Key things to note here...
Positioning your hand on the guitar neck
- Don't loosen the strap too much. If the guitar gets too low (i.e. down at your knees) you will have problems wrapping your fingers around the neck properly to play chords. Nobody really cares about how "cool" or "uncool" it looks ;o)
- Again, don't hunch!
- Still make sure your forearm is angled out towards the top corner of your guitar so it can pivot smoothly over the strings.
- Ok, now let's look how to hold a guitar on the neck properly.
This is also very important to get right from the beginning because it'll make playing chords 10 times harder if you don't get it right.
First, let's see how your fretting hand would look holding the guitar from the back of the neck...
Holding the plectrum/pick
|So as you can see, your thumb should rest comfortably towards the top edge of the guitar neck.|
Your wrist should be relaxed but not hanging too low. If you have smaller hands, you're thumb will be positioned further towards the center of the back of the neck.
With some chords, this position will naturally change, and you can use your thumb to reach over and mute the low E string on chords that will be spoilt by accidentally hitting that string. More on this in the chord lessons!
As long as you get this initial, relaxed position first you'll be fine.
When we begin to look at chords, obviously your fingers will be moving in many different positions, so at the moment, just focus on getting comfortable with the general positioning of the guitar.
The main thing to remember when holding the plectrum is not to pinch it between the tip of your thumb and index finger, but rather create an elongated circle with those fingers...
So it'll look like this from the front...
And now with pick in hand, we can see how the straightness of the thumb provides support for the base of the pick, and the index finger provides support more towards the tip of the plectrum.
See how the thumb is kept relatively straight...
When we get to the lessons on strumming and picking the guitar strings, holding your pick this way will really help keep your playing smooth and firm, yet your forearm will be relaxed at the same time. You'll just glide over the strings rather than jab at them!Strumming path
Holding your guitar so your strumming path is accurate will ensure smooth playing and the fullest tone. More on physically strumming the guitar in the coming lessons!
First, acoustic guitars - they have a sound hole
which acts like a speaker or amp and resonates the sound to whoever is in front of you listening. Position your strumming arm so you're comfortably and smoothly strumming along that yellow path in the diagram.
And for an electric guitar, position your strumming arm so your strumming path draws over around the first pickup
This should give you a good, balanced tone. Strumming further towards the bridge (away from the neck) will give you a sharper tone, if you need it. Note:
you will have a switch
on your electric guitar that changes the overal tone of your guitar's sound. Have an experiment with it to find the sound you want.