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How to Hold a Guitar

Posted on January 20, 2021

Is there a right and a wrong way to hold a guitar? You could, of course, just pick the guitar up and play any way you want. Unfortunately, that can lead to problems later on and make playing more difficult or cause aches and pains. Instead of doing things “the wrong way,” try learning the correct posture and way to hold a guitar as early as possible in your playing career. It’s much easier than trying to relearn how to hold the guitar correctly later on.

Proper posture when first starting out with an instrument is incredibly important, especially since playing is largely built on muscle memory. If you practice good form now, it will become an instinctive habit and help your playing. Next, we’ll teach you how to hold a guitar, whether you prefer playing sitting or standing, or use an acoustic or electric guitar.

How to hold a guitar the right way?

Let’s start sitting down because it’s easier for beginners to get used to their new instrument that way.

When you’re sitting down, rest the body of the guitar on your right leg so that the waist of the guitar sits comfortably. If you have a left-handed guitar, rest the instrument on your left leg. Make sure the thickest string is closest to your nose. Resting the guitar on your right leg instead is not necessarily incorrect, but is more common when playing with a so-called “classical style.”

Keep a good posture

Let your strumming hand hang down comfortably over the sound hole of the guitar. In case you’re right-handed, you’ll be using your right hand as your strumming hand. If you’re a leftie, your left hand is the strumming hand.

A relaxed wrist is important. It will help you achieve smoother strumming and avoid potential injuries. Rest the arm of your strumming hand on the guitar body. Squeeze the instrument under your arm to stabilize it, but don’t hunch over it completely. Make sure not to lean too forcefully on the guitar with the right side of your body, but try to keep a straight posture instead. When playing with a guitar pick, you may need to anchor your strumming hand against or close to the guitar bridge.

Posture

Let’s turn next to your fretting hand, or your left hand if you’re like most guitar players. To make sure that you can comfortably create different chord shapes and play notes across the whole fretboard, the fretting hand shouldn’t take too much of the load of holding up the guitar.

Posture

Confused about the different parts of the instrument, such as the guitar neck, sound hole, bridge, and fretboard? Read our Anatomy of a Guitar guide to learn more.

Holding a guitar the wrong way

You might feel tempted to let the guitar slide down a bit to see better, but try to resist that urge and just sit up straight. This can be a challenge when you’re still not quite familiar with the guitar fretboard or don’t yet have the muscle memory to create different chord shapes automatically. However, stick to it and try to hold the guitar properly. You’ll get comfortable as you progress further on your guitar journey.

Posture

If you tilt the guitar to see better, you’ll notice that your left hand has to bend more to reach the strings. Although you may have a better view of the fretboard, this kind of position will start hurting after a while. 

Posture

It’s important to start building muscle memory for your fingers from the beginning so it’s not so much about seeing but feeling what your fingers are doing on the fretboard. You can also use the fret markings on the neck of your guitar for a visual aid. This doesn’t mean that you can’t peek at the strings, especially when learning to play new songs. Just make sure not to compromise your posture or the right angle of your fretting hand.

Even if they can keep the guitar in a correct position, many beginner guitar players tend to bend their head forward and down to better see the fretboard. You should avoid this and play the guitar properly in order to prevent neck pain. Still, you’ll have to check how your hand is positioned and where the frets are located. Just try to keep an upright posture and avoid tilting your head in unnatural positions.

Are you a visual learner? Consider checking out our beginner-friendly guitar tutorial!

What are the different ways to hold an acoustic guitar?

There are three ways to hold a guitar: playing the guitar standing up, holding the guitar on your left leg while sitting down, and holding it on your right leg. Which one you use is mostly up to your own preference. However, one way of holding the guitar might feel better when playing an acoustic guitar while another might be more suitable for an electric guitar. The choice of your position might also depend on the type of music you’ll be playing. For beginners still learning how to play, it’s better to start in a sitting position before standing up to play.

Hold the guitar on your right leg (casual style)

When sitting down, many guitar players prefer the so-called casual style. As described above, position the guitar body on your right leg (in case you’re right-handed). Some prefer to cross their legs as well because it gives them some leverage and extra support to hold the guitar.

Hold the guitar on your left leg (classical style)

The classical style of playing guitar while sitting down requires you to place the guitar on the other leg — in this case, your left leg. Meanwhile, the guitar neck is angled more upward. Here you might need a small stool or something else to raise your left leg a bit higher.

How to play guitar standing up?

Here’s how to hold a guitar while standing up: Begin by adjusting the strap of your guitar at the right height. Always check that the strap is attached well so your guitar doesn’t fall to the ground in the midst of playing. The instrument’s body should be waist-level with the guitar neck, pointing at a slight upward angle.

There should be very little weight on your fretting hand so that you can use it on the guitar fretboard as freely and comfortably as possible. Use the forearm of your strumming hand to keep the guitar close to your body. Just like when sitting down, keep a good posture with your back straight, and don’t crane your neck or turn the guitar to face you. Try to find the standing position and posture that makes playing comfortable and ergonomic.

Tips for holding an acoustic and electric guitar

  • Whether you’re playing guitar sitting down or standing up, make sure that the position is comfortable for you and feels natural and relaxed as you play. Just don’t compromise your posture or hunch over the instrument.
  • If you’re playing guitar standing up, make sure to adjust the guitar strap properly. Adjust the strap higher or lower until you can play comfortably and with a good posture.
  • Support the guitar with your strumming arm. The guitar body should be tucked tightly against your own body.
  • Don’t let the instrument slide down against your lap or turn to face towards you. Instead, focus on keeping the guitar’s frets facing forward. Otherwise, your arm will be bent at an uncomfortable angle.
  • Practice how to hold a guitar both standing up and sitting down. Experiment a bit and see which position feels best for you, as long as you can keep a proper posture.

Now you know how to hold a guitar the right way. Wondering how to hold a guitar pick properly? Learning to play with a guitar pick is a great skill to practice, especially if you play with an electric guitar. You can read more about using and holding a guitar pick in our comprehensive guide.

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