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Improve Your Skills > Strumming & Singing > The Best Left Hand Position For Chords

The Best Left Hand Position For Chords

I get a lot of questions about left hand positions, and thumb positions. People get confused because they hear things like "keep the thumb down", and don't understand that it depends on the playing context. I have posted some pictures which I think will clear things up for a lot of people.

In general, learning to keep the thumb out and away from the neck is a more difficult position to develop, but very necessary for many playing situatiions, so it should be developed. However, grabbing the neck, especially on electric guitar, it also a necessary part of many styles of playing, and very important for proper bending technique.



Best Hand Position For the C Chord

Here is the most "correct" hand position while doing a C chord. This position requires developed strength and stretch in the hand, wrist and forearm. Notice the high arch of the index, and the pinky relaxed and ready for action. Also, and most importantly, notice the space, the separation between the fingers.

The advantage of this position is that the fingers, especially the 4th finger, which is not used for the chord, is very separate from the other fingers, not leaning or squeezing, and very ready for action. It is often needed for extra notes while holding the C chord. Although this is the most developed position of the chord, it is possible to strum and sing, using the C chord, with a less-than-perfect position as well. My advice, though, is to develop the hand properly so that this position is possible, and even easy.

correct hand position for c chord on guitar

Generally, it is not possible for a beginner to get into this position without proper development of the muscles beforehand.


Here is the position of the thumb behind the neck when holding the C chord as pictured above.

The Lazy C Chord

Here is a "lazy" C chord. You will see this often. I will have my hand like this for "easy" playing, but never for anything technically demanding.

This position can work, but it limits the mobility of the other fingers. For beginners, it is sometimes impossible to get into this position AND clear the strings. The index will frequently block the sound of the first string, touching it and preventing it from ringing freely.

Notice how the fingers are close together and touching. In this picture, I am staying relaxed enough not to cause trouble. Very often, a student will "squeeze" the fingers together, causing muffled strings and other problems.
lazy position for C chord

Thumb Position Can Change!

Here is a "thumb over" position. Some people think this is a "bad" position. It depends on the playing situation. If you are playing electric, and bending strings, you MUST have the thumb over like this for leverage in bending in vibrato. So, in that situation, it is GOOD.
This is the usual hand position for the blues/rock player. Great strength is required to push all those strings up for the bend. Notice, all 3 fingers help with the bend.
left hand position for bending on electric guitar



This is what the hand looks like from behind while bending.


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