How do I hold my hands?

Some favorite technical pointers I have are below. These tips are designed to maximize efficiency on the guitar. 

1. Keep the left wrist straight 
2. Do not rest your left arm on your leg, you may want to use your arm weight to assist with fret pressure 
3. Use the tips of your fingers, this is the point of maximum strength. Double stops (one finger across two strings) are the exception to the rule 
4. Keep your fingers hovering close to the frets when not in use, typically around 3mm. You should still be relaxed though. Remember what comes up must come down, having a strong ready position makes this process easier. 
5. Keep your fingers directly above the frets whenever possible, this is the point of maximum leverage on the guitar. Incorrect placement usually results in some buzzing. 

6. Keep the thumb between your first and second finger on the back of the neck (not the side). I usually tell my student to make a U shape with their left hand away from the guitar - then move the same shape onto the neck.


Classical finger-picking

Click here for demonstration video

My preferred finger-picking technique (particularly for classical) is planting. This technique offers increased control/speed along with a warmer/rounding sound. The technique is better explained during a lesson but the basic steps are.... 

1. Prepare (hover your finger tip a few millimeters above the strong) 
2. Plant (put the weight of your hand down on the string) 
3. Play (release all of the plant weight at once) 

Scott Tenant explains the technique further in his book "Pumping Nylon," an excellent choice for guitarists interested in classical guitar techniques. This is a favorite technique of Jake Solomans.


I've provided a link to some great hand stretching exercises. These can really help with your speed and chops. I highly recommend warming up with these.

Bass technique

Here is a good video demonstrating sound bass technique, many of these ideas apply to the guitar.

Guitar vs. Bass

Having studied both guitar and bass I can comment the similarities and differences. I would encourage anyone with the interest to learn both, as it's a relatively easy transition. First of all there are more similarities than differences, but there are certain techniques that really only work well on a particular instrument. For example here are a few techniques that don't work well on both. 


Slap and pop bass (slapping doesn't work well on the guitar) 


Strumming (not effective on the bass)

However techniques like harmonics, tapping, and finger-picking work well on both instruments. The principles of keeping the fingers close to the strings, the way we hold the instrument (the neck is always up), and holding the pick are much the same. Even classical planting (a finger picking technique) work well on the bass (although longer nails can be a bit strange). The bass is also larger so it will accommodate the 3 and 4th finger on a single fret - this technique isn't used on the guitar.