Left Hand Guitar Fundamentals

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Practice Your Left Hand Guitar Fundamentals!

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. At the end of this lesson, we will give you an exercise that will help you to focus on good left hand technique.

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 not only be hazardous to your health, but 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.

There is a very simple exercise that you can use to focus on relaxing and good finger placement. Start out by putting your 1st finger on the 3rd fret of your 6th string. Now stay on the low E string and play the 4th fret with your 2nd finger. Finish your low E string by playing the 5th fret with your 3rd finger. That is the pattern for all six strings. Move to your A string and play the 3rd, 4th and 5th frets with your 1st 2nd and 3rd fingers. Continue this pattern on your D, G, B, and E strings. This may seem like a simple exercise but that is the idea. If you don’t have to remember a scale or a complicated pattern, you will be free to focus on your left hand technique. Start out slowly, get the exercise clean, and then build up your speed. Be sure to use alternate picking throughout the entire exercise.

You really don’t have to spend a lot of time on exercises like this. Five to ten minutes a day should do. It is important that you take exercises like this slowly if you are a beginner. Slow practice in the beginning will pay off with good pain free technique in the future.

Learn the numbers of your fingers, the notes of the guitar strings, and the basic parts of the guitar if you do not understand some of the things referenced in this guitar lesson.

This Lesson Has 25 Comments

  • Bilal Sardar says:

    i always block the other strings with my finger!

    • Huck says:

      You need to arch your fingers more. If you have to you can brogan your wrist further underneath the guitar neck. :)

  • Huck says:

    Sorry- BRING your wrist further under ;)

  • asma says:

    this exersice is hard …. but i can get it i have to ;)

  • sumeet says:

    it really works…..awsm dude…..

  • Scrooz says:

    Is it necessarry that you pick the string with up and down strokes ??

  • Steve Fender says:

    It’s going to take a while,but you’ll get used to it.

  • Lolipop says:


  • Dan says:

    Every time I play my left hand cramps up and gets really stiff, any suggestions?

    • Variax says:

      Rest your hand for a while and then try it again. You might have to wait a day or two between attempts. You are building up muscles you haven’t used much before. It gets easier and soon enough it won’t hurt at all.

  • shivan says:

    This exercise is too hard

  • Bucks says:

    hi, may i know why are there only three fingers participating in this exercise? Comparing it four fingers, which one is effective? Can anyone tell me the reason? thanks…

  • Ricky Kilgore says:

    I have tried it it felt good because I had already been working on it through the binder workbook that comes with the package.

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  • Heidi Yarger says:

    What are you suppose to sturm with your right hand?

  • Navin Joshi says:

    Thanks i m on practice…

  • Dvon.V says:

    Hi, i’m new to the guitar and really focusing on my left hand technique. I’m really struggling with having my hands in playing positions (I cant spread my fret fingers across the fret board so that each finger sits on its individual fret aka the “claw”) and right now my 4th and 3rd fingers are very very weak where its hard to put enough pressure on the strings to get a good sound. I’ve been playing for only one week but I really want to start practicing and working on my skillset. I’m trying to do this exercise regularly but i cant stop my fingers from hitting other strings. I think the answer is keep playing but again some guidance from someone more experienced would be helpful!

    • Marc says:

      Listen to your body, if you are in pain from cramping, or sore finger tips take a break, especially at the beginning you may need to break for a few days if you have a long enough practice session to wear your hands out. It takes time to build the muscle, finger tip callus’s, and dexterity to be able to comfortably play certain pieces of music.

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Dvon, a week is a short time to be playing. It takes a while to develop the muscles in your hands and train them to do what you want. Steady, faithful practice is really the key when it comes to overcoming stuff like this. The 3rd and 4th fingers are notoriously weak. So it’s no surprise that this is a challenge for you. Hope all goes well. :)

  • Joseph Rachal says:

    you are playing a right handed guitar ,calling it a left hand. left handed guitarist play the notes with right hand on the neck and strum the strings with the left hand. you are confusing me.

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Joseph, Right handed guitarists strum or pick with their right hands and fret the notes with their left hand. Left handed guitarists strum or pick with their left hand and fret the notes with their right hand. :)


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