Correct posture and finger placement is crucial for beginners learning to play the guitar. In this lesson, you will learn how to get into a good posture and place your fretting fingers correctly. Once you learn and practice the right position, it will eventually become a habit and will help you play well.
Understanding classical and rock posture
The ideal posture for playing varies depending on what you are are playing. If you are playing classical guitar, you must put the guitar on the leg that is towards your fretting hand. So, if you are right handed, your guitar will be on your left leg. If you are playing rock or pop, put your guitar on the leg that is towards your strumming hand. So, for right-handed players, the guitar will be on the right leg.
Using the correct posture helps you play better. Using classical posture for pop or rock can look a bit strange and is not recommended, but it is not unheard of. There are quite a few professional guitarists who play pop or rock with the classical posture.
Adjusting the leg position for comfort
I find it helpful to raise my right knee a little while playing. This helps me hold the guitar close to my body and keep it tight and stable. To do this, I raise my knee slightly, keep only my right toes on the floor and usually rest the heel against the chair leg. You don’t have to do this, but there is no harm if it helps. I do it, and people often ask about this.
There is another way of achieving the same thing. Instead of raising your knee, you can also cross your right leg and put it over the left leg if you are right handed. This brings your right thigh closer to your stomach, creating a V-shaped space near your right hip. You can now place the guitar here and hold it tightly.
Setting the strap correctly
Adjust the strap so that the guitar is in the same position irrespective of whether you are standing or sitting. This will make it much easier for you to play. Having the strap low is fine if you want to play in the standing position, but practicing all the time in the standing position is not a good idea.
Keep the guitar neck stable
Don’t use your fretting hand to support the guitar neck. Your guitar neck should remain stable without any help from your fretting hand. If the neck keeps wobbling, you will have a tough time when you are learning to get your fingers in the correct position.
Make use of a mirror
Looking at your fingerboard can be difficult if you have a large belly. Instead of stretching your neck, use a mirror. A mirror can help ensure that you are maintaining the right posture, and your fretting hand is in the right position. Although a small mirror will help, a large mirror, which allows you to observe both your posture and your hands, is the best option.
Stay relaxed to play better
Staying relaxed and keeping your shoulders tension free makes playing easier. Some people tense their shoulders while playing, especially when they are playing a tough tune. This makes playing more difficult. When you are playing, assume that your fretting hand is attached to the neck and let the hand and shoulder relax. When you keep your hand relaxed your fingers will stretch better, and you will have better reach. This will help you play better.
Getting the fretting finger position right
Putting the fingers behind the fret is critical. You must understand the idea behind this because if you do, you are more likely to do it correctly. It is necessary to play as close to the fret as possible without touching it. That way, there is no need to put undue pressure and hurt your fingers. However, as a beginner in training, expect your fingers to get sore. This is not unusual and is nothing to worry about.
When you press too hard with your fingers, some notes may become sharp, and this will distort your chords. So, ensure that you don’t make this mistake. It is important to get into the habit of putting just the bare minimum pressure required.
To get the position right, first press lightly near the fret and see if you are getting a clear note. Adjust the pressure so that you are getting a clear note with minimal pressure. Now, slowly move your finger away from the fret and observe how the minimum pressure required to get clear note changes. For beginners, it is important to learn to position the finger at the perfect place where it is possible to obtain a good note with the least amount of pressure. This is next to the fret.
Watch the video to see how this is done. This exercise is very important, and every beginner must do it.
Getting the thumb position right
When you are starting off, try to keep your thumb behind the neck of the guitar. As you learn, you will most likely shift it over the neck to play certain chords, low notes and for similar tricks. However, when you are a beginner, it’s best to keep it behind the neck as this helps you develop the necessary muscles to play barre chords.
A cheap music stand can save your neck
Twisting to see a music book or sheet placed next to you while playing seated on a bed or sofa will eventually give you neck or back problems. Save yourself from posture problems and huge chiropractor bills by buying a cheap music stand. A basic folding type stand will suffice, and it costs less than $20. You can also go for fancy stands like RAT stands if you can afford them. They look good but are expensive.
Don’t keep long nails on your fretting hand
Long nails on the fretting hand will dig into the wood of the fingerboard and prevent you from using the fingertips to play notes. As a beginner, it is important to use the tips of your fingers. Later on, when you gain expertise, you can use the flatter part of your fingers, but don’t do it when you are learning.
Frequently asked questions
1. I am finding it hard to switch the guitar to the other leg after playing classical style on my left leg. Can you help?
Our hands get used to playing in one particular way when we continually adopt a posture. Thus, there will be some difficulty in switching. This is a temporary problem and just a question of getting used to the new posture. Everyone has this problem when they try switching postures. After a few weeks, you will get comfortable with the new posture, and then you will find that going back to the old posture is as difficult.
Some people are more comfortable playing with the classical posture. So, as long as you are comfortable with your current posture, a switch is not necessary.
2. What is the best way to hold top-heavy guitars?
In top-heavy guitars, the neck pulls towards the ground, and they have a heavy headstock. They are difficult. I use a strap and stand up while playing my Gibson Les Paul Gold Top, which is very top heavy. This is the only solution that I know of. I don’t practice with this guitar due to this difficulty, but there are people who love its feel and handling. I guess it’s more a question of preference.
3. My finger index tilts in a different direction compared to the other fingers when I place all four fingers on the fretboard. Is this a problem?
No, it’s nothing to worry about. Everyone has different hands and fingers. Some people seem to have hands made for playing guitars. Their fingers are perfect, and they can easily stretch and grab any chord, but they are in the minority. My little finger is tiny, but I don’t have problems with most chord grips. I have also seen little kids play difficult tunes with their small hands and people with huge fingers playing delicate jazz grips. So, don’t worry, practice is more important than perfect fingers.
4. What is the correct way to position the tip of my finger on the string? How far away from the string should it be?
Well, that depends on what you are playing. When you are a beginner, pressing the string right in the middle of the fingertip should be your goal. As you gain confidence, you will move slightly towards the bottom portion of your fingertip, or you may go past it and use the tip of the finger to mute other strings. This SHOULD NOT be tried when you are a beginner. If you do, it will mess up your technique! I don’t recommend that you press the string with the area near the nail. Besides, it will hurt!
5. My hand touches the neck near the E string. Should this be avoided?
Avoid this as a beginner. You may accidentally mute the E string and also make it difficult to change chords quickly. As you gain confidence, you may find that it’s fine to let your hand grip the neck over there, but don’t do it when you are a beginner. Some things change as you gain expertise, and this is one of them. For now, avoid doing this or supporting the guitar neck with your hand. Both are bad.