Holding the guitar the proper way


TIME TO COMPLETE: 10 minutes
SKILL LEVEL: Absolute beginner


This lesson is incredibly important for your playing, which is why it is the very first lesson on this site. If you start learning by holding the guitar wrong, it will lead you down the path of frustration and possible physical pain. If on the other hand you start out with a correct position, your learning curve will smooth out and you will have much less hassles and pain in your hands. There is nothing worse than having to correct a bad habit after it has taken a hold of your playing.

After you read this lesson, watch the video lesson which demonstrates the right and wrong way to hold the guitar.


There are two ways you can hold a guitar: sitting down or standing up. Let’s look at sitting down first because you will probably start off playing sitting down.

The biggest mistake beginners face is when they lay the guitar down on their lap flat. They do this so they can see their hand on the fretboard. Never lay the guitar down on your lap. Believe it or not, if you need to lean forward a little bit to see your hand over the neck; you are holding the guitar right. The guitar should be sitting straight up on your lap facing out in front of you, not up in the air. So if you can easily see your hand on the fretboard without leaning forward a bit, you probably have the guitar too flat on your lap. Having the guitar in the correct position unfortunately makes it slightly harder when you are just starting out, but laying the guitar on your lap will hinder your learning so much you will probably quit with frustration. Just don’t do it.


When you are playing standing up, the guitar will naturally hang in more or less the correct position. Wear the strap comfortably over your shoulder and adjust the height so you can easily hold the guitar with both hands. When you are learning, try not to hang the guitar too low. Many rock and metal guitarists hang the guitar incredibly low (some down to their knees). It really isn’t recommended to do that when you are learning because you will develop really bad habits.

Guitarist Tom Morello (from Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman) is well known for handing his guitar fairly high up. He has said in interviews that he adjusts the strap so the guitar is at the exact same height standing up as when he is sitting down. This is the best way to hang the guitar because you won’t have to learn a new position when you stand up.

Later on when you have developed your skills and feel comfortable playing guitar sitting down and standing up, you can adjust the strap however you like within reason.


Hold the neck wrong and you will find even the easiest of chords impossible to play. Many beginners don’t think about how they hold the neck as they don’t think it’s that important. Then they kick themselves when they learn that the reason they have been struggling is because they’re holding the neck wrong. A small shift in their thumb and what was impossible yesterday is easy today.

Every time you play a chord, force yourself to check if your hand is in the correct position. Don’t strum the strings until you are positive that your hand is right. If you follow that advice every time you learn your first chords, you will take weeks off your practicing time.


Lastly it is very important to know that whenever you are playing you should always be loose and relaxed. Even if you are playing something difficult or awkward, you should never tense up. If you ever notice your arm, elbow, wrist, or any other part of your body tense up while playing, you need to look at what you are doing and relax. It will be hard at first but eventually you will feel very comfortable at relaxing your muscles when you play. Ever wonder how great guitarists make even the most complicated parts look easy? They make it look easy because they are always physically relaxed. They have learned to stay loose. Even players that put a lot of energy and aggression in their playing are still relaxed in how they hold the guitar. Tension will cause you pain and plenty of problems the longer you do it. Learn to be loose and relaxed when you play.


Although this lesson is short and simple, don’t think that it isn’t important. Try playing guitar for a year in the wrong position and you’ll see how important the correct posture is! Watch the video lesson to see the correct positions in action. When you move on to later lessons, always keep in mind to hold the guitar properly.

Check out more lessons here