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Body and left hand position

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In this course we'll see the best positions to start with the right basics.

Basics required for this lesson : None
Practice this lesson : None

In this course we'll see the best positions to start with the right basics. Only two parts to achieve this goal:

  1. Part 1: body position. Basically, how we hold the guitar, with a few words on standing.
  2. Part 2: the position of the left hand. Important element for the correct development of the hand, we'll see in detail how to position it for an optimal progress.


You'll notice that we will not speak about the right hand, for the simple reason that there is no single right hand position, but dozens of different. And again, what is especially important for the right hand is movement, not position. You'll also notice that we are not talking about the position of the left foot, but you certainly understand why!

I would add that obviously we are all different, we all have a different body size, we will all have a different position. The advice given here are basics, do not apply them blindly, only you can find the most comfortable position for yourself.

 

Body position

First, I want to say that having a good position will avoid hurting yourself. By taking a bad position you might hurt your back or your neck. Start by applying one of the oldest advice your mother gave you: stay straight! Avoid leaning on your guitar neck, even if you encounter problems placing your fingers correctly at the beginning, try to feel the strings and frets, adjust yourself and look straight ahead (this is where your audience stands, and if you play rock songs and you're cute, it is likely that your audience is primarily composed of cute and sexy young girls!).

Seated positions

There are two main positions when you are seated : the classical position and the folk position. For the folk position, we simply put the guitar flat on our right thigh, the guitar neck parallel to the ground. For the classical position, we raise the left leg with a tripod (or a friend who sleeps on the floor), we put the guitar on the left leg, and we raise the head (the guitar’s head, not ours), so that the neck is tilted to about 45 degrees.

In the first case, the position has the advantage of being usable anywhere, we can play like that everywhere, but it is not very obvious when it comes to place the left hand. In the second case however, the neck is more easily accessible to the left hand, but it is hard to play like that everywhere. It’s up to you to try and find the position that suits you best.

Standing position

Now let’s speak quickly about the standing position. You will need to equip it with a guitar strap (because playing without standing strap is rather difficult), and thus adjust to the proper height. There is really no "right" height, but rather a height that will suit you best. You need to experiment, try different straps, different settings to find a position where you're comfortable standing.

If you're really struggling, adjust your strap when you're seated, adjust the length so that the strap is tight when your guitar is resting on your thigh, so when you get up the guitar remains roughly at the same height compared to your body, and the position of your hands is almost unchanged.

 

The position of the left hand

The left hand can be very rebellious when we start. We can not put our fingers on the right boxes, the strings are not fretted, 5 strings are touched at a time, etc. To dispel all your doubts: the size of your hand and/or your fingers has NOTHING to do with your ability to play the guitar. Lots of guitarists have small hands with stubby fingers. Just a matter of correct position. Let’s see all this in details.

The position I will describe in this course is primarily for educational purposes. Indeed, when playing the guitar a lot of hand muscles and movements are used. Some of these muscles are already developed in our everyday life, others are not at all because they are never used. We'll work on them in priority so that our hand is as developed as possible and can cope with all situations.

For that we will work in the position of the "grip". The thumb will be located at the back of the neck and the fingers push the strings to the thumb (unlike the position where the thumb is above the neck, and in which thus, the fingers push the string towards the palm, as if we were closing fists). As we don’t often use the fingertips in our everyday life to grasp objects, the muscles needed for this movement are not developed at all.

The key to mastering this position is the position of the thumb. It must be placed on the back of the neck at about the middle of it, straight and flattened, as shown in this picture:

thumb position


 
Once the thumb placed correctly, if you want to access all the strings with your fingers, you will have to "break" the wrist, almost at 90 ° (the angle, not temperature), as shown below. Be careful not to touch the edge of the soundboard with the palm, you could mute the high E string. Relax your hand well and round it around the neck.

fingers position


 
All we need to do now is to place our fingers. We will ensure that they will ALWAYS be as close as possible to the frets. The more we approach the frets, the less you will need to press to get the note to sound correctly, so try to get used to this correct position.

position of the fingers on the guitar, front view


 
Get used also to put your fingers as straight as possible on each string so as not to interfere with the other strings. The last joint of your finger needs to be almost perpendicular to the soundboard, and the whole finger must be rounded. Small illustration:

left hand position on the fretboard


 
That is basically all you need to know about the position of the left hand. It's a very uncomfortable position at first, but necessary thereafter, so get used to it as soon as possible. Do not force too much for all that, take regular breaks when you work, and your muscles and tendons will develop gradually. Try to be very relaxed to avoid excessive contraction of muscles that may give you cramps, it's never very pleasant.
 
If you have further questions do not hesitate to ask on the forum on this topic, do not hesitate to comment so we can improve the course!

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(Victor Hugo)