How to Hold a Guitar

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Jan 7, 2022 . 4 min read

How to Hold a Guitar

It sounds simple, but learning how to hold a guitar is the first step to creating good playing habits.

Doing so will ensure that you limit the normal frustrations one experiences when first learning the instrument. Holding a guitar properly will also help you feel more comfortable and confident with time, as well as avoid awkward hand positions and potential pain. 

The truth is that with time, the way in which you hold the guitar may change. This is because playing an instrument is a highly personal experience. With time, you may discover that you are more comfortable holding the guitar in a different way. However, we have to start somewhere, and we’re going to give you the most used manner to hold the instrument. Here is how to hold a guitar.

Right chair

Getting the right chair is vital for holding a guitar right. You don’t need to spend a fortune, as chances are you probably have an appropriate chair in your household. The chair needs to be free of armrests and of the right height for you.  Naturally, chairs with armrests make it hard for you to fit on it with a guitar, forcing you to sit on the edge, which is not ideal.

As for the height, you want your knees to bend at somewhat of a 90-degree angle. A chair that is too high for you will add tension to your posture, and one that is too low too. 

Right leg

If you are right-handed, rest your guitar on the right leg. That means that your left hand will be on the neck and fretboard as your right hand will be your plucking hand. 

Interestingly, this is not the position for classical guitarists, as they place the instrument on their left leg (on top of a foot stool). Although the classical holding position is more ergonomically “correct”, it places the neck further from your body, making it a bit harder to see and reach.

Stabilize with your right arm

Your right arm is responsible for most of the stabilization of the instrument. It should rest nicely on the top side of the guitar, so your plucking hand can reach the acoustic hole comfortably (where most of the playing is done). 

In the case of an electric guitar, you will apply the same principle. Of course, instead of an acoustic hole you are plucking the strings on the pickup area. 

Left hand on the neck

Place your thumb of the left hand behind the neck and the four other fingers in front of the fretboard. Try to keep your left hand relatively relaxed. This might be a little hard at first, but keep in mind that you should always aim for a comfortable and relaxed stance.

As you learn to play notes and chords, you will develop the strength and balance required to get a good sound without pressing too hard on the strings. The left hand also holds most of the responsibility for changing chords on time.

Standing

In case you are standing, you will need to use a strap and adjust it according to your height. Both your left and right hands will have a similar position as to when you were sitting. It may take a few tries and maybe even a few days to figure out the exact strap adjustment you need, but it is well worth it.

If you are still unsure of how to hold your guitar, maybe the below video tutorial by Justin Guitar can help.

Learning how to hold a guitar will set you on the right path from the get-go. This guide offers the basic way to do it, which seems to work for most people. However, feel free to make adjustments until you find what really works for you. There are some folks like jazz master John Stowell, that hold it in some unusual ways that seem to work for them. Find what works for you and remember to have fun!



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