How NOT to hold a guitar

How NOT to hold a guitar

You have a guitar.

You have a list of songs to play.

You have no idea what you’re doing.

How do I hold the guitar correctly?

Where do I put my thumb when playing the guitar?

Where do I put my arm?

Does the guitar go between my legs?

Should I stand up?

Do I prop my foot up?

Why do my fingers hurt?

You’ve got questions….    Don’t worry.  I’ve got answers…..


So it kills me when I see all of these questions. When I see students, teachers, and players divided among themselves.

But what is the proper position for playing a guitar?

Short Answer: Whatever position gets you playing.

I know I’m going to catch crap from other guitar players (and teachers… Classical and Jazz teachers, I’m looking at you). Well, here’s why.

The “Correct” Way (Classical Guitar)

"Proper" Guitar Holding Position

“Proper” Guitar Holding Position

See the above “correct” position for playing guitar. This is consider the correct position for playing the guitar.

Well at least classical guitar.

Here’s why…

  • Comfort – better for your back. No hunched over.
  • Good angle on your wrist – again no harsh angles.
  • It allows your hand good coverage of the frets and strings.
  • Thumb is on the back of the guitar (not wrapped around) giving you good support.
  • Leg propped up to help with the angle – same thing with the way the guitar is positioned between the legs

So is this a good way to hold and play a guitar?


Is this the correct way?


Is this they way I teach my students?


So how do I teach students to hold the guitar?

My Way

hold guitar

That’s me (and that photo is from my Awesome Guitar Book).

Notice a few things:

  • The curve of the body of the guitar is resting on my right leg
  • The crook of my right elbow is resting on the top of my guitar
  • My right forearm is draped over the body of the guitar (allowing me to strum the strings)
  • My left hand thumb is wrapped around the neck
  • The guitar neck is slightly angled towards the ceiling, just a few degrees north of parallel to the floor

(If you’re left handed, just reverse everything). 

So why do I teach this way?

Honestly, because that’s what most of my students feel comfortable doing.

Sometimes we’ll adjust our thumbs to be able to play more in the classical style.

Sometimes we’ll angle the neck even further (towards the ceiling) so the headstock of the guitar is closer to our face.

Really… we just do what is comfortable.

How you should REALLY hold the guitar

Whatever way gets you actually playing the guitar is the best way.

Either of the examples above are good starting points.  

Playing the guitar shouldn’t cause any pain (except) in the tips of your fingers initially.

Also, certain positions will allow you to play certain styles of music (or songs) better/more efficiently.

If you are concerned about proper technique (based on the kind of music you want to play), go watch some of your favorite guitar players and try copying their styles.

If you’re not sure about your musical goals… don’t worry so much about it and just pick it up and start learning (I personally like my way of doing it… but that’s not the only way).


Just a basic google image search yields TONS of different positions (some good, some bad).   This doesn’t demonstrate the BEST techniques, only that there are many variations.

Sit (or stand) however you want that allows you to play comfortably.

Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!


(photo credit: Larry Jacobsen)