How To Hold A Guitar

How To Hold A Guitar Properly

It’s vitally important that you learn the correct way to hold a guitar before you start learning how to play the guitar. If you get into bad postural habits from the beginning, you will be likely to suffer in later life. If your posture is wrong, there will be no immediate effects, the effects won’t become apparent until many years later when it will be too late to correct them.

If you start to play the guitar with bad posture,in later life you could suffer from:

  • Shoulder Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Arm Pain-Including Arm, Wrist And Elbow
  • Tendonitis
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
  • And Many Other Painful Conditions

Certainly not everyone will suffer from any of these conditions, but none of us need to, as long as we get the basics right from the start. It’s not just your body that can suffer from bad postural positioning when playing the guitar. Incorrect positioning can also impede your ability to play too.

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How To Hold A Guitar For Your Health And Musical Improvement


Let’s go through all the necessary steps to hold a guitar for comfort, correct posture and ease of playing. You will need the correct chair, a footstool, room to move your arms freely, good posture.

  1. Choose The Correct Chair
    The chair you choose to play the guitar should be fairly hard, the correct height for you to sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. The Correct Sitting Position
    Sit in an upright position, towards the front of the chair. Be sure there is no strain on your back, and that you are upright, not slouching forwards or backwards.
  3. Give Yourself Arm Room
    Once you have settled yourself into a comfortable sitting position. Pay attention to your arms, do you have enough room to move them freely without having to sit awkwardly.
  4. Hold The Guitar
    Be aware of your posture, is the added weight of the guitar pulling you forward? Can you correct that pull by moving position slightly?
  5. Consider A Footstool
    If you place one foot onto a footstool, does that strain go away? If so, you will need to use a footstool every time you play to prevent any injury or long-term damage.
  6. Have Confidence In Your Body To Support You
    Once you are sitting with correct posture and the weight of the guitar isn’t threatening your balance , and your arms have enough space to move freely. Relax in the knowledge that you’re not going to fall or drop the guitar. 
  7. Adjust Your Grip
    You will need both hands to support the guitar but remember they will both be busy with other tasks. So it’s important to get all these basic little habits in place for comfortable guitar playing for the rest of your life. Your right arm should be resting over the body of the guitar-this will provide support for the guitar and prevent it from falling. Your left hand should be holding the neck of the guitar gently Not so tight that it hinders your chord changes or causes injury.
  8. Check Your Body Is Not Over Tensing
    Check that you are not scrunching your toes, tensing your calves, quads, biceps, forearms, locking your shoulders or elbows, squeezing your teeth together, squinting, lifting your heel in tension, furrowing your brow, and remember to breathe.
  9. Use The Thumb On The Left Hand To Steady The Guitar
    When you’re making  chord shapes using the fingers of the left hand, keep the thumb as near to the middle point of the back of the neck. This will have the double benefit of steadying the neck and allowing the fingers enough room to make the chord shapes correctly.
  10. Stop Often To Recheck Your Positioning
    Especially important when you first start playing, if you can create the right muscle memory at the beginning you will be set up for life. Be sure you are not slouching or relying on the back of a chair to support you. Keep your back straight, your shoulders relaxed, and your arms, wrists and elbows relaxed too.
  11. Look Forward
    When you’re first starting out, it can be an easy habit to get into, constantly checking on the position of the fingers of the left hand. But the only way to achieve this is either to stretch your neck around to still be looking slightly ahead whilst still checking on your finger positioning. Or turn the guitar slightly inwards to face you. Neither position will create a comfortable position for long-term playing.

    There is no need to be looking at what’s going on with your left hand, just keep practising and have faith in acquired muscle memory.

By paying attention to your body positioning and being aware of your levels of pain (if any) and repositioning yourself to prevent any discomfort, you will be setting a great foundation for the rest of your life.

7 Point Checklist To Maintain A Healthy Posture While Playing The Guitar

Here’s a summary to help you keep on track in 7 easy steps.

  1. Sit Comfortably
    Preferably on a flat, fairly hard seat with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Don’t Slouch
    Sit forward in the chair preferably on the edge of the chair, and don’t rest on the back rest (if it has one).
  3. Adjust Yourself Into A Comfortable Position
    Rock side to side with your back straight and your head looking straight ahead. Centralise your body weight.
  4. Keep The Guitar Neck Up
    By raising the angle of the neck of the guitar you will create a more comfortable position for your arms and hands. This will help you remain sitting upright with a straight back.
  5. Check How Your Body Feels
    Check your position frequently and be on the lookout for any muscle cramps etc. This is an indicator of incorrect posture. Adjust as necessary.
  6. Look In The Mirror
    It’s difficult to see what you’re doing wrong, if you had a teacher they would spot any mistakes and advice you appropriately. On your own, the best you can do is sit in front of a full length mirror and check your own posture.
  7. Keep Pushing The Boundaries
    Never allow yourself to get too comfortable with the knowledge you have acquired. Constantly push yourself, how would that chord sequence work at a faster speed? And how did speeding the chord changes and rhythm up affect your muscles, tendons, posture etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proper way to hold a guitar neck?

The proper way to hold a guitar neck is to relax the wrist,and keep it relaxed. The thumb should be placed at the back of the neck. If you have small hands the thumb will be nearer the centre of the middle at the back of the neck. Keep your wrist relaxed but not too bent.

Which hand do you strum a guitar with?

Right handed people strum the guitar with their right hand. Left handed people strum with their left hands.

Is playing guitar bad for your hands?

Playing guitar is not bad for your hands as long as you maintain the correct posture. Some pain can be experienced early on in the fingertips of the chord hand. But this will ease as your fingertips become used to playing the guitar.

How hard do you hold down guitar strings?

You should press each string just hard enough to play a crisp, clear note. Be careful to press just behind the fret and not on it.

Is it better to have long or short nails for guitar?

For the left hand, the one that creates the notes by pressing the strings, you should have short finger nails.

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