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How you hold the guitar makes an impact on your playing, both in terms of comfort and how your arms/hands are positioned on the guitar. In the video above, I demonstrate how to properly hold a guitar while playing in a sitting position.

You want to sit upright using good posture. Your back should be straight and not slouched in any way. If you are using an acoustic guitar, sit so the guitar is resting on your dominant leg (meaning if you are right-handed, put the guitar on your right leg). Your dominant elbow should break right over the top/front of the guitar, and your dominant (strumming) hand should naturally fall right near the sound hole (or the pickups in an electric guitar).

Your other arm should be relaxed and hanging straight down from your shoulder, with your elbow bent at 90 degrees. This should put your fretting hand right near the headstock of the guitar on the neck.

You want your wrist on your fretting hand to be in a comfortable position – don’t try to crank your hand up or down in an unnatural way. When fretting, try to keep a good amount of space in the palm of your hand, almost like you’re holding a baseball in your hand. Your thumb should comfortably rest on the back of the neck.

Resist the temptation to angle the guitar on your body so that you can look down and see the fretboard flat (many times beginners will angle the guitar at about 45 degrees which gives easier viewing access to the fretboard). This will put your fretting hand in a very unnatural position and make playing much more difficult. Keep the guitar straight up and down.

Back to: Learn How To Play Guitar – Beginner Course > Introduction and Essential Info

21 Comments

  1. One would think that it is not necessary to be taught hot to hold the guitar but after going through the lesson you realise the wisdom in it, Thank you.

  2. Brian, I have problem in holding the guitar as you have demonstrated. I used to watch the strings that I am holding to play the chords. How could I get over this? Thank you

  3. Hey Brian, I’m almost nine, and your lessons are really helping me. I wanted to play the guitar because my sister plays, and I have always wanted to play. Thanks so much!

  4. Hello,
    I am just starting out. However, I am overweight. So, I do not have much space on my legs to rest the guitar. Also, since my belly is there, it pushes the guitar out further from my body.

    My left hand does not appear to rotate fully into the position you describe. My fingers will not bend that far toward the strings. For example, my ring finger always mutes out the high E string when trying to play a D chord simply because I can’t get enough bend in the finger. The other fingers bend better.

    I am using a Taylor Academy 12e since it was designed with beginners in mind. Even so, I still feel my body is getting in the way of my desire to learn guitar.

    I really want to over come these issues, but I don’t know what my options are.

    Thanks

    • I think with more practice you’ll probably find a position that’s comfortable. You may actually have more luck learning with an electric guitar, since the body is much slimmer and may suite you better as you learn. Plus they are generally easier to play.

  5. Brian – I’m only a few lessons in, but already I can and DO appreciate the time & energy it took to make all of these videos. Thank you for blessing us with your knowledge and gift of teaching!

  6. Dear Brian,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share you knowledge with us. I just stared taking guitar lesson and I would like to play at worship team at my church . I have a long way to do. I was following your lesson which are very suitable for me but my hand doesn’t seem to stretch as I wanted to to make C# minor chord or B minor chord. Do you have any suggestion to overcome m challenge? Thank you for your help!

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