Left Hand Guitar Technique

Learn How To Have Great Left Hand Technique On The Guitar!

There are many things about your left hand that you should be aware of when you are playing guitar. Relaxing and finger placement are the two main things that we will focus on during this lesson. Many guitarists have their own idea of what proper technique is. The ideas in this lesson are not necessarily strict rules for technique, but they are good guidelines for developing your playing and keeping yourself injury free.

Being relaxed is something that is very important for you to be aware of. If you are practicing the guitar and you start to feel any excessive tension in your fingers, hands, arms, back or neck, you should stop and relax. Doing some stretches helps too. Tension can be hazardous to your health and it can also slow down your playing. A relaxed hand can move much more quickly and efficiently than a tense hand.

When you are playing the guitar, it is very important that your fingers on your left hand have proper finger placement. Good finger placement is right behind the fret. If you are playing a note and notice that your finger is in the middle or toward the back of the fret, you should move it up until it is pretty close to the fret. This will make it easier for you to play clean and clear notes. You should use your ears to help you with your finger placement too. If you hear some buzzing on a note, check your finger placement. Most of the time a small adjustment will help to clear up some buzzing. Keeping your left thumb right in the middle of the back of the neck is also an important thing to remember. If you remember to do this, you can eliminate some of the tension that bad technique can cause.

Make sure to practice great guitar technique because you are about to start learning your first guitar chords in the next beginner guitar lesson.

This Lesson Has 47 Comments

  • Luke says:

    Hi Nate…

    Excellent videos so far, can’t wait to play my first song, Kocking on Heavens Door of course! I have one question. I cannot it the low E string with my index finger without muting the high E string with my hand without bending my wrist around the guitar due to having slightly shorter fingers than the average Joe.

    Do you think this will become an issue? or should I just keep trying to do it without arching my wrist?

    Thanks in advance

    • Nate Savage says:

      You can try holding the guitar over your left leg (the classical method). That usually puts the guitar in a better position for making harder chords. Try arching your wrist and not arching your wrist. You body will find a way to cope with the shorter fingers. Just remember to try and not strain your hand/wrist and stay relaxed.

    • Luke says:

      Thanks for you reply Nate. I can hit the low E string in the classical position, but it doesn’t feel right playing that way. I can hit the string with my middle finger fine, so I’ll just adjust the fingers I use for certain chords if/when I need too. Slowly making the transition between chords faster, and my upward strumming is imporving. Not long before the first song now!! :D

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  • Augusta Kamara says:

    This is a great site and i’m very thankful for all the tips :)

  • rabi lochan murmu says:

    thank you ,i’am a beginner of guitar lesson,so your videos are very helpfull for me .

  • exercisemenu.com says:

    Good tip about thumb placement. Wasn’t always sure.

  • lyndajeanne says:

    i hav a slight problem because im right handed but use my left hand for lik shooting and the guitar and i was wondering if it all works the same if i jus do it opposite?

    • Nate Savage says:

      I would try left and right handed guitars and see which one you feel more comfortable with, no right or wrong just what works for you.

  • danielle says:

    This helped so much! I have shorter fingers so it was hard for me to reach certain strings, but now I know where to place my left hand, it’s made everything easier. Thank you :)

  • Lucas says:

    I’m playing on a Electric Guitar does it matter ? Is it the same method?
    Amazing videos btw

  • Gerald says:

    I am considering lessons and am left handed, may be dumb question but what is the difference in a left/right handed guitar and can one just string a right handed guitar differently for a lefty?

    • Amie says:

      Gerald, I’m a beginner so I’m not compleatly sure but I think that if you want to go through the truble of re-stringing a right handed guitar it should work as well as a left handed guitar, however, I’m left handed as well and I find that it’s easier to play using the right handed method so my dominate hand is dealing with the harder work of figuring out the cords and my right hand just has to strum. Hope that helps.

    • Kyle Warner says:

      Gerald, to answer your question, there is a considerable difference in the way left and right handed guitars are physically strung. It’s not nearly as simple as swapping the strings around. First off, as you probably know, the strings are all different thicknesses, which means that the nut (the little plastic part at the tuner end of the guitar) will not hold the strings correctly. Second, if you look at a guitars bridge (the part the strings pass over in the middle of the body) you’ll notice that it’s slanted (classical guitars not-withstanding). The slant of the bridge effects whats called “Intonation” which is essentially the tuning of the strings as you move up the frets.

      My advice to you is to shop around for a left handed guitar, which is not the greatest, as lefties are somewhat uncommon, and tend to be more expensive, or (and this is the advice that 90% of the lefties I know give) learn to play a right handed guitar. The reason for that advice is most lefties feel that having their dominant hand doing the more precision work of fretting benefits them greatly.

      Btw, Jimmy Hendrix actually played a right handed Stratocaster which was refitted for left handed playing. It’s not impossible, but it’s not cheap either…

  • Justin says:

    Nate Im 12 years old and Im having trouble tuning my first string when I tighten it then I loosen the string it pops how do u keep that from happening

  • rebekah wedner says:

    awesome. thanks for the tips.:)

  • sagar says:

    dude u r awesome.i am a member of a band named NXT because of u.u tought me how to play a guitar. thanksa lot………………!!!!!!!

  • emmanuel says:

    thanks a lot dude !! where i can find the tutorials in arpeggios tabs?

  • tintin says:

    I’m getting in there. Thanx man.

  • litesingr says:

    Maybe I am not seeing it yet, but lessons for lefties? My daughter will need to strum left hand. Thanks.

  • john says:

    Hi Nate i,m picking up the guitar again after many years,im also having difficulty tuining it.It is a Martin Backpacker do you think it is a suitable instrument to begin on again, its pitch does seem rather high. Thanks John..

  • Electric Guitars Review says:

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  • Brandon Hlaves says:

    This is a awesome site to go on when I’m having trouble with my chords!

  • Sid says:

    thank you sir..:)

  • Sneha says:

    Heyy Nate, I’m having problem with playing the strings, when i started with the low E string, it wasn’t giving a sound it was mute, can you explain in more detail of how exactly should i use my fingers on the strings?

    Thank you!

  • venkyzz says:

    thank u

  • Alex says:

    Iam a begginer and just (from a long time ago) started playing gutair again you are amazing!

  • Rosalyn says:

    Thank you for this great site! I just started taking a classical guitar class at the local junior college 3 weeks go. I’m having a few issues because we are learning to read music as well as play. We have class twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an exam (playing and written) every class meeting…a lot to learn in short periods. Your videos are reinforcing what I hear in class and then some. Classical guitar really isn’t my interest, but hope it gives me the foundation to learn how to play. My goal is to be able to play any music I see or am interested in playing. I’m almost 50 years old and decided at this time in my life this is what I want to do…..let’s hope I succeed! I’m determined!

  • Claudio Candia` says:

    You have a true blessing to my learning… thank you

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  • sourabh pandey says:

    sir !! i had just started to play guitar … your lessons proof them self as the first step to my guitar life and were very useful for me …….sir!!! i just want to ask that some times the hollow part of my hand get a touch with strings and due to that a disturbence occur in folw of music ……. what can i do to get free from this disturbence …and touch

  • Joshua says:

    Hi Nate, really you make guitar easy, my only preoccupation is that am left handed and i will like lessons that are structured for left handed guitarist. Please tell I still gat hope. Tanks

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  • james says:

    umm if you can respond to this comment that would be awesome its just that im 11 so my fingers are still small and when i play the cords my fingers are muting other strings so what can i do to help it im trying every thing you said but its not working i have tried to just use the ends of my fingers and other stuff but it docent work for me

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  • Keith says:

    Nate: I decided to try and learn guitar as a retirement pastime. I am hampered somewhat with rather short fingers. For instance, a c major chord is just about impossible to finger so far. I can barely reach the 5th string with my 3rd finger and still touch the 2nd string with my first digit, never mind coming down in a vertical position on the strings. Is there any hope that I will eventually get my (older) short stubby fingers to produce the results I need?

  • chandan gowda says:

    awsome this is great such a good coaching for free its great

  • colleen coffen says:

    i got the g,d,a chord figured out but changing them back and forth I’m having a problem with it,i’m going to try twinkle,twinkle little star first.i was trying bad moon rising but my brother-in-law told me to go with twinkle twinkle little star.

  • Mckenna says:

    Nate, Your lessons have been so helpful. Thanks so much! :)

  • Sahil says:

    Hey Mr. Nate! I just wanted some help from you. My guitar’s pitch is going very high whenever I use to play it. Could you mind telling me the reason for the same and how can I correct it?

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hi Sahil, I don’t think I understand your question. Could you ask it in a different way?

  • Sahil says:

    I’m sorry for that Mr. Nate. I just wanted to say my guitar’s sound is going very high from the normal sound of guitar. What could be the reason of it? Does temperature or humidity a key factor for good quality of guitar?

  • nilaa says:

    Hai nate I’m Nilaa.I’m too short.Because of that my hands are also too short.playing guitar is my biggest dream.Help me by giving a solution.

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hi Nilaa, You can definitely do it. One of my favorite guitar players if 5 foot nothing and he slays (Phil Keaggy). You may have to modify some things but it is doable. :)


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