Tension on the wrist and hand

General awareness of fingers

Be aware of the tensions in your fingers. Your fingers should make a natural movement and press the notes on the fretboard. Any unnatural positions of the fingers have to be noted.

Keep the fingers close to the fretboard, ready to use. Do not move the fingers which are not playing at the moment, too far from the fretboard.

The 4th finger stick out

Probably the most common finger to stick out when not used is the fourth finger which is most often held out perpendicular to the fretboard, like a 'i want to go to the loo' sign.

  1. learn fingering so that you use the little finger (pinky) appropriately in your fingering. it is a very important finger as far as fingering is concerned, helping one to touch extreme right side notes on the fretboard, fast and easy.
  2. when not playing the 4th finger, take a conscious effort to relax and keep the fourth finger close to the fretboard.

When you practice fingering that includes the little finger, naturally you have incentive to start keeping the finger closer to the fretboard. When you have notes assigned to the fourth finger, keep it near to the fretboard so that the distance to be covered will be the least when you have to use that finger to play the note.

The wrist

Let the fingers form a cup shape, the thumb vertical and behind the fretboard, the palm not touching the guitar, fingers moving from the joint closest to the palm to come down on the fretboard, playing the note in a natural holding action along with the thumb.

We hold the guitar notes just like we hold something in between our thumb and any of the fingers – the opposable thumb used as it is meant to.

Elegance, grace etc though subjective concepts, most often help the player to get an idea of what one should aim for.

Efficiency in terms of least effort and least movement is a more quantifiable part – try for it.

The thumb

Though it is not meant to play any notes, the placement of the thumb and how we use it is so important that it is probably the most important finger when playing the guitar.

Follow the instructions about thumb mentioned in the section about wrists, above.

Thumb is an anchor and provides the opposite action needed for the fingers to grip the notes.

The slide and the constant thumb position

Indian music involves lot of slide. When playing slides, keep the thumb without moving much, while the fingers reach out to play notes in as much a range as possible.

Moving the thumb each time you make a 2 or 3 or 4 note slide is waste of energy.

When we move the thumb for a slide, the whole arm (and even the body) moves. While if you post your thumb and let the fingers move by relaxing your wrist and palm and fingers, a less gross machinery and action is involved, saving effort, energy and building a better movement habit.

The f major chord struggle

It is not easy to play the F major chord position (1 2 3 frets). Needs more muscle strength than the open chord positions.

But it is made worse when the thumb and wrist are not used correctly.

Place the thumb behind the fretboard, opposing the other fingers. Stable and steady.

Do not grip in a way that the palm touches the guitar.

Use the thumb like a anchor to help the fingers which need most strength while making sure that the fingers are executing their job neat and clean without touching the strings they are not meant to.

With practice this will become fine.

Avoid any unnecessary energy spent, any unnecessary tension.

Relax after playing for a short time. It does involve muscle straining and training.

Carpal's tunnel

Like the people who work a lot with computer keyboards, guitarists too have to be aware of exercises that relax the wrist and arm and prevents any possibility of the limiting disability – Capal's tunnel syndrome.

Do not strain your wrist. Take breaks. Here is some warm up exercise for the wrists and arm.

Tension of the body and face


Our legs twitch and turn, the thigh get tensed, we lift one or both the heels – all these happen, which with awareness, will settle into a calm state.


Same with shoulder. When changing from the c major chord to the G major (open position), are you turning your shoulder up to go with the turning action of  your wrist necessary to play the chord change?

Be aware and with time, your shoulders will stay fine while your arm finds a way to include the twist and turns using other axes of rotation.


Breath is a very important part to be aware of. If you don't allow natural breath, your guitar playing will be full of tension, mentally you won't be satisfied with whatever you play, making the whole situation unpleasant.

Tell something good about yourself and your playing – you may find that the breath falls in place in a nice groove.

Finally, remember to cultivate practice a situation where you are comfortable and loves to be in. Breathe well, with a smile. 🙂

The Jim Carrey Lesson on Guitar Playing

An intelligent friend of mine once brought my attention to the way my lips and face contort when playing certain phrases. Maybe till then no one noticed or no one thought it important to be brought into my attention. Maybe they thought it was probably insulting or won't be taken well.

Well, this moment of awareness helped me a lot. Each time i saw him after that conversation, i remembered how i had to be aware of facial tension. He had added that what i did was similar to what Jim Carrey did in some of his movies. Though i like Jim Carrey a lot, I understood the suggested practice to follow his comment in this particular situation.

It was accepted long back in my guitar learning years that tension is something to be aware of and smoothened out. The highly skilled guitarists i had chance to meet all appeared to play the guitar with such ease, that i think somehow it fell to the back of the mind as an accepted fact – play the guitar, reduce tension, smooth player. Statham.

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