Mistakes that let your playing feel uncomfortable and unreliable and how to avoid them

By Michael Korte


When you feel uncomfortable while you are playing anything, check your hand positions for these 5 Mistakes. If you eliminate them, you are a lot closer to playing with ease and in comfort.

Your thumb posture

One thing you see very often as a guitar teacher, is the incorrect posture of the thumb on the fretting hand.

If your thumb is not hooked on the neck or pointing upwards to the ceiling and laying in a right angle to the neck, you are definitely doing something wrong.

As a general guideline: Your fretting hand thumb should be kept opposite of the middle finger, except when you are using phrasing elements like bendings and vibrato. You get more stability in your hand and by that in your sound, when in these situations, you put your thumb around the neck like a hook and then you use the edge of your hand on the side of your index finger as a pivot point.

Fingers placed incorrectly on the strings

Your fretting hand fingers should always land on the strings in as close to a right angle as possible and in general (there are exceptions: sweep picking arpeggios) never be flat on a string.

Too much pressure on your fretboard

You really do not press the strings down to the fretboard overly hard. To test how hard your pressure needs to be:

Place your finger on a single point (one fret on one string, later: try the same with chords) and softly press it down. Hit the according string repeatedly and see when it starts to ring properly. Stop right there. This is the amount of pressure you really need maximally, to sound properly.

Weird posture of picking hand

You should always be as relaxed as possible in your wrist. That means: Never use more tension than necessary. Sometimes you need some tension, to hit the strings hard, if you need to.

Do not angle it in a weird way and do not stretch away your fingers, try to keep them aligned with the index finger, that holds the pick together with the thumb.

This also gives you the advantage of quickly being able to mute strings with the fingers of your picking hand.

Saw-Hands when changing fretboard positions or chords

This is something that can take away your efficiency and with that speed and by that smoothness in your playing very quickly.

Pay attention to what your fretting hand fingers do, while changing chords:

Do they "jump" away from the fretboard?

If they do, you need to fix that:

When you want to release your hand from a chord, do not actively pull them away, but simply relax them and then try to go to the next chord in the shortest way for all fingers as possible. Do this slowly at first, to have control over your fingers and let them do exactly as you want to. Slowly increase speed and at some point you will be able to change chords efficiently and smoothly without thinking about it.

About the author:

Michael Korte is a guitar teacher specialised in rock and metal from Tampere who loves to unlock his students’ creative potential and get them to reach higher levels than they ever thought possible.