Beginners Lesson 3

In this lesson we will talk about how to hold the guitar.
Knowing how to hold a guitar is the most important beginner step before you start to even think about playing chords and strumming.

Let's look at how to hold a guitar whilst sitting down...

Sitting position

Remember, this diagram applies to both electric and acoustic guitars!

Some key things to note here:

* Whether you're sitting with your legs crossed or uncrossed, ensure your knees are high enough to support the guitar at (or just below) chest height.

* Rest the dip of the guitar (most guitars have a dip for this purpose) on your lap. Rest it on the same side as your strumming hand (e.g. if you strum with your right hand, rest it on your right lap).

* Rest the guitar flat against your chest (although some people prefer to slightly tilt it towards them - emphasis on the word slightly!)

* Don't hunch your back.

* Make sure your elbow points out towards the top corner of your guitar. It should also rest so your forearm and wrist can pivot over the strings.

Standing position

If you have a strap for your guitar you should practice standing up regularly, because many find it a completely different playing experience.

Here's how to hold a guitar standing up...

Key things to note here:

* Don't loosen the strap too much. If the guitar gets too low (i.e. down at your knees) you will have problems wrapping your fingers around the neck properly to play chords. Nobody really cares about how "cool" or "uncool" it looks.

* Again, don't hunch!

* Still make sure your forearm is angled out towards the top corner of your guitar so it can pivot smoothly over the strings.

Ok, now let's look how to hold a guitar on the neck properly.

Positioning your hand on the guitar neck

This is also very important to get right from the beginning because playing chords will be 10 times harder if you don't get it right.

First, let's see how your fret hand would look holding the guitar from the back of the neck...

So as you can see, your thumb should rest comfortably towards the top edge of the guitar neck.

Your wrist should be relaxed but not hanging too low. If you have smaller hands, you're thumb will be positioned further towards the center of the back of the neck.

With some chords, this position will naturally change, and you can use your thumb to reach over and mute the low E string on chords that will be spoilt by accidentally hitting that string. More on this in the chord lessons!

As long as you get this initial, relaxed position first you'll be fine.

When we begin to look at chords, obviously your fingers will be moving in many different positions, so at the moment, just focus on getting comfortable with the general positioning of the guitar.

How to hold the plectrum/pick

The main thing to remember when holding the plectrum is not to hold it too firmly. It needs to flex over the strings with ease.

Holding the pick between the tips of your index finger and thumb is the best way to acheive this.
So it'll look like this from the front...

And now with pick in hand, we can see how the straightness of the thumb provides support for the base of the pick, and the index finger provides support more towards the tip of the plectrum.

See how the thumb is kept relatively straight...

When we get to the lessons on strumming and picking the guitar strings, holding your pick this way will really help keep your playing smooth and flexible. You'll just glide over the strings rather than jab at them!

Time to move on...

Hopefully now you should know how to hold a guitar properly so your playing won't be let down by a few basic errors!

Remember to practice standing and sitting in equal regularity as you will find playing standing up quite different and perhaps a bit more difficult at first.