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Why didn't I listen to good advice at the start...

Honorable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 628
Topic starter  

Hi all

When I decided to learn the guitar I called a friend of mine who teaches guitar for some free advice on the best instrument to get and any tips on how to learn to play correctly from the start...

His first advice was to learn to finger without a plectrum - that would be easier to learn later, but it doesn't work the other way around. One of the other pieces of advice was the best position of the fret hand - to get a good angle with the fingers and ease of movement he told me to try and get my thumb about the middle of the back of the neck.

Well - I tried it and found it uncomfortable so i became a bit sloppy and hooked my thumb around the neck and this felt much better - it also looked more rock and roll - that was two months ago....

If anyone has watched my latest vid, I've been messing around with Dust in the Wind and have a problem with the Am4 - when I've got fingers 2 and 3 together in the second fret, I just can't spread my pinkie anywhere near the front of the third fret so you get a buzz from that note.

Well, I just happened to find this chaps' videos:

They are excellent and cover, very clearly all the right starting points in learning to play the guitar properly and guess what - I placed my thumb 'correctly' on the back of the neck and...yup, my pinkie is now much nearer the front fret.....

Why, oh why didn't I listen and persevere as I was told - now two months down the line and I'm thinking I may have to change my fret hand position - or at least to play Dust in the Wind....

Of course, it may not work for everyone, but let this be a lesson to us all....

Rock on..

D 8)

I'm nowhere near Chicago. I've got six string, 8 fingers, two thumbs, it's dark 'cos I'm wearing sunglasses - Hit it!

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 4389

Just be glad that you figured it out in your second month rather than your second year. It would have been MUCH harder to break the bad habit at that point.

..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
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-:¦:- ((¸¸.·´ -:¦:- Elecktrablue -:¦:-

"Don't wanna ride no shootin' star. Just wanna play on the rhythm guitar." Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar" from "The Ballad of Sally Rose"

Famed Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 2725

Wow, thanks for posting that.
I've been noticing that I've been playing a lot with the thumb behind the neck (always for the open C and F chords).
I thought that was kinda weird and that I might be picking up a bad habit.
I do have the thumb wrapped around (to the low E side) for certain chords like D though.
I'm still working on changing chords fast enough to play House of the Rising Sun fast enough to stay in rhythm.
I'm improving slowly.
I still need to pause to finger the chords but I'm practicing starting the the strum as I'm fingering the chord.
When I've done this, I found that I can stay in rhythm but then my accuracy goes down on getting the fingers on the chords exactly. Especially the dreaded F chord.
To finger the F chord I start with my pinky, then ring, then middle and then throw my index over the 1st fret.
The trick is hitting that 4th string with my pinky. If I hit it, the rest of the fingers usually fall into place.
Sometimes I'm short (hit between 3rd and 4th) sometimes it slips off towards the 5th.
I guess it just comes with practice. So I'm just playing the chords as fast as I can hoping that "finger memory" will take over eventually.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.

Reputable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 351

I had the same problem than you, and many others (as to hold the plec properly, alternate picking, etc)

But you'll see, you'll get used to it. I still have my thumb around the neck to play easy chord, cause I feel more comfortable...

I saw you trying to move your pinky on the right fret with your strumming hand... I was doing the samething before...

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "

Joined: 52 years ago
Posts: 0

I wouldn't say that you learned it the wrong way at first. You can really use both techniques. I play with my thumb on top AND behind the neck. Which technique I use just depends on what I'm playing. For example, when I play open chords, my thumb is on top. When I play bar chords, my thumb is behind.

There are times when you HAVE to have your thumb on top, like when you're bending notes, or doing a vibrato.

All that to say that there is no 'correct' way to do things (well, most of the time). If it works for you then that's the right way of doing it.

Honorable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 628
Topic starter  

I wouldn't say that you learned it the wrong way at first. You can really use both techniques.

Yeh, I'm beginning to think that as well - I had a good look at the fret hand on some of the videos I've been following learning tunes and they are playing all styles and songs - including Dust in the Wind and I can see their thumb over the neck. Yep, I'm practicing my bar chords and really pressing hard with my thumb at the back - it does come naturally to move your thumb there as you say...

I would say that I reckon for really good classical stuff - the well-arched fingers and thumb behind in the middle of the neck is the optimum position - that's what they seem to teach, but I'll carry on with what feels comfortable...

Another thing I have noticed is that I can be accidentally muting the high E because my palm rests on it when playing certain chords - you have to twist your hand forward to clear the string. This is something I reckon that will happen subconsciously in time...

Rock on.

D 8)

I'm nowhere near Chicago. I've got six string, 8 fingers, two thumbs, it's dark 'cos I'm wearing sunglasses - Hit it!

Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 38

It's not as big of a deal as you may think. Observe:

As mentioned before, both methods have their time and place. I think much of the stigma associated with bad habits often gets blown out of proportion. It's important to try and develop good technique, especially when you're starting out, but being able to play comfortably is equally important.