Learning guitar is hard in the beginning. Every finger struggles to find its place on the right string and in the right fret. When your fingers finally fall in line, the notes buzz or sound muted. Building up strength in your fretting hand is one of the biggest setbacks during the first few days and weeks of learning the guitar.
Given the steep learning curve of learning the guitar, it is easy to lose motivation and give up. But there is a simple thing you can do to significantly speed up your progress with notes and chords: pretend you’re holding a baseball!
Strangely enough, the grip you need to hold a baseball and to play notes on a guitar are similar. But while baseball practice probably won’t get you anywhere on the guitar, these tips will:
- Make sure your thumb is in the centre of the back of the neck
The placement of your thumb on the neck is important to maintain strength in your hand. If your thumb is placed too high or low, you lose the clamping power you need between your thumb and your fingers and end up having to overcompensate by pressing really hard on the strings.
Your fingers also end up overcompensating if you cup the back of the neck with your palm instead of using your thumb. Cupping the back of the neck is common for experienced guitarists, but in the beginning you should use your thumb in the correct position – there is no better way to build the strength you need.
- Keep your thumb positioned towards the middle of your hand
Keeping your thumb centred towards the middle of your hand gives each finger a force to press against. If you place your thumb too far to the left or right, you are putting your furthest fingers from your thumb at a disadvantage.
Try this experiment: press your pinky into the fretboard without gripping the neck at all.
It is difficult to get a sound like this, which is what happens if your thumb is too far off to one side.
- Keep your fingers arched
Perhaps the most important benefit of this hand position is that it almost forces you to arch your fingers. In the early stages of learning the guitar, your fingers tend to mute surrounding strings by accidentally touching them. It takes quite a bit of practice to keep this from happening because your fingers want to sit flat on the fretboard leaving no room to maneuver. Arching your fingers will leave you with a gap between your palm and the bottom of the neck and, therefore, lots of maneuverability for your fingers.
Using this grip will speed up the way you learn to play guitar, increase your enjoyment, and decrease your frustration. This hand position is not the be all and end all – there are lots of instances you might prefer your hand in some other position – but this is the best default hand position to use during the early stages of your guitar journey!