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Improve Your Skills > For All Styles > The 2 Necessary Left Hand Positions On Guitar

The 2 Necessary Left Hand Positions On Guitar

There is much confusion as to the "correct" left hand position for guitar. That is because there is no such thing as THE correct left hand position for guitar!

There are TWO left hand positions that are necessary to develop if we wish to be able to meet the playing requirements of "lead style" rock/blues guitar AND "solo style" playing.  "Solo style" playing can mean the more intricate guitar parts of such bands as Metallica or Ozzy Ozbourne (Randy Rhoads). Solo style includes all acoustic styles, fingerstyles, and anything that uses the 4th finger. 

I call the "solo style" left hand position the "Classical Position". It is more difficult to develop this "thumb down, fingers up and over" position than it is to develop the "slanted" position of the blues/rock left hand. However, it is worth it, and it is recommended. Without having the finger separation and position shown here, you will find many things difficult or impossible to play. 

However, the "Rock Position" is equally important to master if you wish to play any kind of lead work involving the bending of strings. Notice the differences in the positions. In the Rock Position, the thumb IS up and over the neck, and must be, in order to provide the leverage necessary to do a controlled bend, and more importantly, a controlled vibrato. 

After watching the videos demonstrating these two hand positions, read the special notes below to learn what many people do WRONG.


The "Classical" Left Hand Position

Needed for:

Solo Playing
Acoustic Playing
Classical Guitar
Anytime the 4th finger is used



Watch a video of the intro to "Crazy Train" 

demonstrating this hand position in use



The "Rock" Left Hand Position

Needed for:

Blues/rock pentatonic based lead playing

Anytime you bend a string
Anytime you do vibrato



Watch a video of the correct left hand action for string bending and vibrato




Most Common Mistakes 

Classical Position:  

  1. Not getting "up and over" with the wrist, hand and fingers. This will show itself in knuckles that are NOT parallel to strings, but coming off at an angle, bringing the pinky AWAY from the strings.
  2. Not placing the index on the SIDE of the TIP OF THE FINGER. The index should "lean back" toward the headstock of the guitar when it goes down.
  3. Not positioning thumb behind neck, but rather, keeping it sticking up (which is GOOD for the rock position).

The Left Hand Training in "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar" contains the necessary training exercises to deveop this hand position.

Rock Position/ String Bending:

  1. Not keeping the thumb "wrapped around" the neck. This thumb position, which is "bad" for the classical position, is ESSENTIAL for the rock position. 
  2. Not bending the string, and controlling the vibrato with the correct muscles. Many people try to bend the string WITH THE FINGERS THEMSELVES. THIS IS WRONG! You must bend with the muscles which turn the forearm itself. These are the muscles that you use to turn a dial. Hold out your hand, and pretend to turn a dial in the air. That is the action. 
  3. Allowing the fingers to COLLAPSE as they attempt to push the string. The fingers are held FIRM as the convey the force of the forearm to the string. 
  4. Not using the opposing force of the thumb to control bend and vibrato. Notice in the video how I am "squeezing" with the thumb, alternately opposing the force that my forearm is using to move the string. 

 If you wish to develop the Rock left hand position on guitar, this course contains all the training you need....


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