How To Finger The Guitar

Proper Guitar Fingering

Nothing will slow down your left hand more than improper fingering. In this free guitar lesson we’re going to fix that.

The real problem lies in the fact that the wrong technique can some times be the easiest in the beginning when you’re firstt learning to play guitar, but will later come back to haunt you by slowing you down. So it is very important that you learn proper guitar fingering technique right from the start.

Hold your guitar in the playing position. Now take your left hand and place your fingers palm side down across the strings, aligning your fingers so they are parallel with the frets.. Align your thumb with your middle finger on the back of the neck. This is not a playing position but it is the optimal wrist positioning for your hand. The more you can play with your wrist in this position, the faster you will play, the smoother you will play, and the easier your chord changes will be. Your thumb will automatically slide to the left when you are actually playing. This is O.K., you want your hand to be as relaxed as possible.

In fact during real playing you will rarely have your hand in the first position I’ve described but you want to keep this as your base hand positioning. You will notice that when your thumb is aligned with your middle finger that very little of the palm of your hand is against the guitar neck. This will increase your speed when changing chords up and down the neck and soloing.

When playing chords it is important that you arch your fingers above the strings and not allow them to lay against them. This will cause your strings to be muted and none of your chords will sound right. The only exception would be the playing of barre chords(we’ll cover them later) where you lay your first finger (index) across all the strings. It is also critical that when you fret a string, the tip of your finger is only touching one string. If the string next to it is being played open or at another fret and your finger is against it the sound will be deadened.

When playing open chords where all of your changes go back and forth across the neck rather then up and down, you will find that keeping a good portion of your palm against the neck is not only O.K. but actually helpful. Your fingers will naturally go to the easiest chord fingerings if you play with this hand positioning, but you must be aware and cautious of the fact that your fingers may be touching strings that you don’t want to touch.

You want to learn to use the pinky on your left hand right from the start. It is often easier to form all your chords with the first three fingers of your left hand when you are starting, but again, it will eventually slow you down.

opengalt How To Finger The Guitar Open G major chord
openg How To Finger The Guitar Open G major chord
openc How To Finger The Guitar Open C major chord

Look at the diagrams above. The numbers represent the fingers on your left hand; 1=index, 2=middle,3=ring, 4=pinky. The ‘O’s are strings played open. The top two show the same chord (G major) played using different fingerings. The bottom is a standard fingering for a C major chord. Now practice switching between the top and bottom chords and then the middle and bottom chords. You will see that although the top chord is easier to finger initially, when you use the middle positioning instead; the change to the C is much easier. Some of you might disagree with me. This is because you haven’t developed the use of your pinky enough yet. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Practice these changes over and over and you will see more clearly why I’m pushing correct fingering.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to use your pinky when you first learn to play guitar, especially if you plan on doing any soloing. You have four fingers and a thumb, learn to play guitar by using them all. Since it would be extremely time consuming to go over every positioning tip I could think of ( and you couldn’t remember them all anyway), I’ll just sum it up by saying that as you progress in each portion of the guitar lessons use the fingerings that I diagram out for you and you will learn the guitar skills you need as you go.

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