The guitar doesn't fit - issues with size and position

Thanks for putting up this forum! I want to ask about many things and often frustrated about my playing.

My problem: The guitar does not fit me! Problem 1: Neck is way too close to my body.

My finger height is too high and my palm is smashed against the back of the neck. My L wrist is super cranked, I lean back and jam my shoulder back.

I’m OK for lower frets but after about the 10th fret, reliability is in the top 3 strings. It sounds like I don’t know what I’m doing but I actually practice so much that my hand gets so sore and stiff with knotted forearm muscles that playing becomes painful and something I don’t want to do. Unreliable technique inhibits me. It’s frustrating because I have to work extra hard to pull off stuff that should not be that hard.

RH — the strings are too close to the body and the volume knob is too close, too. I flatten my wrist to get the pick to make contact with the strings. I’ve tried on Les Paul’s and it’s much easier with the string height there, so that’s at least fixable.

As for the LH and guitar being too close, that seems to require a custom guitar. I can’t know if it works until I get one built and that’s expensive.

As for pickslanting, that’s not something I consider as it’s not the limiting factor on my playing. #1 issue is the LH being too close/jammed; #2 is the right wrist being flattened and the strings being too close.

Problem #2 Right wrist is flattened and the strings are too close.

If I flatten the wrist more, my knuckles hit the strings, causing string noise and superficial abrasians on my knuckles.

Need to get the pick closer to the strings. When I normally extend the fingers, they hit the body and volume knob, too. That doesn’t help much, but keeping them tucked into a fist like that is more tense, so usually I let them stick out.

Hi! I’m not totally sure what you’re asking about in the case of the left hand, but your right hand questions are a little clearer. How long have you been playing? Are you new to guitar, and have you had any basic instruction in holding the guitar, what pick grips are available / how to do them, what picking motions are available / how to do them, etc. Because that’s a lot of moving parts to have to fish around with through trial and error.

One thing you might check out is a recent post on our YouTube channel about how to do one of the picking motions we teach. It’s a wrist motion, and this video provides step-by-step instructions for doing it. It may address some of your issues about being able to reach the strings properly:

This isn’t the only type of picking motion you can do — it’s not even the only kind of picking motion you can do with your wrist. And it works better for certain phrases than others. But it’s a good starting point if you haven’t really thought about this kind of stuff before in a formal way.

Give that a shot and let us know if that addresses any of the right hand stuff.

LH is my number one issue. Again: Neck is way too close to my body. This means that my hand, which is attached to my arm, attached to my shoulder, attached to my body, is too close to the guitar neck. There is no room there for my hand — no space. Thus, my palm is jammed against the back of the neck and my fingers are too far away from the fretboard. I am unable to get the thumb behind the neck. Try this: Smash your palm flat against the back of the neck and try playing some three note per string lines. That’s hard, right?

If raise the guitar strap, it starts to hurt my R shoulder, just like when I play seated.

Will check out the wrist motion video more later. But I see you are pulling the knuckles way back there and that’s kind of tense/painful. I don’t know about you, but my knuckes hurt when I do that. Even for punching, I usually keep hands loose and open until the point of impact.

I’ve been playing for a long time.

I can assure you there is nothing tense or painful about what I’m doing in that lesson. In general, when you see a world-class player like McLaughlin or Di Meola doing something, it’s because it’s comfortable. This method is the method they use, and there is a way that everyone can do it which is comfortable.

The reason I’m suggesting this approach is that anchoring on the strings resolves your issue about “reaching” the strings. And it makes your form more easily transportable from one type of guitar to another. Since you’re not touching the body, you will care less about what kind of body it is, how high the strings are off the body, and so on.

Up to you. Re: fretting stuff, I’ll leave that to others, who may have more thoughts on that subject.

I wouldn’t worry about your left hand. The thumb behind the neck thing, IMO isn’t what you should look for, rather, is your wrist relatively neutral most of the time. Having your thumb over the neck actually helps achieve a more neutral wrist position for most lead guitar things, and is essential for bending and vibrato. Don’t take my word for it… look at pretty much all of the great lead guitarists out there… Gilbert and Yngwie especially come to mind, Van Halen, Hendrix, etc. you are going to see their thumb along the side of the neck.

I call this left hand position “violin” style grip. Take a look at some videos on YouTube on proper left hand positioning for violin and apply it to the guitar. You’ll find it is almost exactly how the lead players I mentioned above position their hands for 90% of their playing.

Whether or not you decide to worry about my left hand doesn’t change the fact that that’s where my #1 problem is. Wrist cranked, palm smashed against the back of the neck.

Most of the time, those guys you mentioned don’t play three note per string scales. Paul Gilbert and Yngwie sometimes do. Eddie does stretchy symmetrical patterns. Hendrix? No. But most of their playing is done with two note per string patterns.

Even with two note per string stuff, Joey Tafolla uses his right arm to press the base of the guitar body to his body to get the guitar neck further away from his torso. It’s more of a problem with my physicality

And yet you’ll find that some players can actually play three note per string scales just fine without having to press the guitar. Why is that? See Michael Romeo ripping three note per string scales with ease.

Thumb behind the neck and the guitar is waaaay in front of him. But even if he were standing, the guitar would be out in front. This is because he has a prominent breastplate and a gut. Because he has shorter arms, he has even more room there without getting jammed against the back of the neck.

So you see, the stuff about the violin is irrelevant here, as violin has not the problem of being pressed flat against the player’s body, yeah?

Yngwie playing with thumb peeking over, not smashed palm but instead some space. Yet he does seem to be pushing up against his limitations.

Those pickup look cool! It’s a good explanation and really well made video.

I worry that I might not have the dexterity and hand control to do it. Do you use the shoulder to change strings? Here is me playing some example

Thank you.

Me, jammed up on Tornado of Souls:

I gave up after two months; I could not get past about 85% of full speed. Accuracy really fell apart above 80%. I would play the solo over and over, maybe 20 times per day, often focusing on certain parts and at slower speeds, trying to improve my form, then pushing to play faster. That particular arpeggio was extremely difficult for me because my palm is smashed against the back of the neck.

It’s not irrelevant because it’s basic hand mechanics. Especially if you have big hands, which it looks like you do. Michael Romeo has really small hands, so it’s probably a lot easier to keep his thumb round back a bit more often, but the fact is, for most guitarists, you’re going to have a more neutral wrist/hand position keeping the thumb riding along side the neck and contacting the base of the index finger on the other side.

I know this is a controversial or unorthodox opinion, but most of the best lead guitarists do in fact play this way, especially if they have larger hands and play standing up with the strap at a non-dorky height. I’ve only ever seen one other guitarist, a shrapnel dude named Borislav Mitic, openly teach this approach. His lessons are free here:

In my personal experience shifting to this style of playing helped correct a ton of hand tension for me personally, so give it a try yourself instead of dismissing it. :slight_smile:

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You’re fine with understanding your explanation but you really don’t understand the problem. Not sure why………

How many different positions have you tried having the guitar in?

I’m not trying to sound like an ass, but put simply, you need to make the changes you want to see and keep going until it becomes the norm - don’'t crank the wrist, put your thumb on the back of the neck (as opposed to your palm). It probably just feels strange at the moment, because you don’t normally do it. I doubt that your body shape is that much different to anyone elses out there to acheive this. Also, if your hand is to far forward, the use your arm to pull it back.

Could it be that through punching you have damamged your knuckles? Or again, your hand is not used to it and it will take practice to do it without tensing?

The above sounds like 99% of what learning technical solos are like - the last 15-20% of the speed goal is always the hardest to crack (in my experience).
I briefly watched the tornado video, but would need to watch in more detail, but the only thing I would say is to avoid learning back with you torso - what can happen is your fretting arm pivots and creates the same position as before. I’ll check out a little later…

Hey man, not to sound like a broken record, but check this video of Marty playing the Tornado solo:

Your left hand placement isn’t far off from where his is. For the bigger arpeggios, notice he only pulls his thumb round back slightly, just enough to open his hand more to reach the notes, then he’s back to neutral. That high up on the neck I really wouldn’t recommend trying to plant your thumb like you’re about to do a barre chord. Angling your fingers towards the frets slightly will also help create a wider reach without feeling the need to “stretch out”

I hope that helps!

Thanks for posting this clip. Couple minor things. I moved this into “Technique Critique”, which is where we put all threads about people looking for feedback on what they’re doing. It’s easier to find that way. And also, we’ll know to look there to make sure all the requests are being answered.

Also, when you post YT links, the best way is to just paste the “” link in the main post body, without using the link button. The forum will automatically embed that video so it’s playable right here in the thread. I edited that so it should be visible.

Re: hand / wrist placement, what @BlackInMind is saying is completely on point. When you wear your guitar “rock ‘n’ roll” low and put your thumb in the middle of the neck, you have to flex the wrist to the limit. Here’s the difference between wrist flexion, extension, and deviation:

A highly flexed wrist can be uncomfortable in the short term and cause injury over the long haul. If you put your thumb over the neck it’s much more comfortable because the wrist isn’t flexed as much. And you will see lots of elite players doing this. For certain phrases, it gives you even more reach than the thumb behind the neck. But certain other phrases might not be as reachable. And again, as @BlackInMind is saying, there are variables relating to your hand size and some experimentation is necessary.

The classical players are the only ones who really solve this problem in a standardized way. They wear the guitar high, with a high neck angle. This lets them do the big stretches with the straightest possible wrist. They have to. They wouldn’t last a week with a low slung guitar.

High strap height guitar. Works for Tom Morello, it can work for you.


Again, If I raise the guitar strap, it starts to hurt my R shoulder, just like when I play seated.

The classical players are the only ones who really solve this problem in a standardized way. They wear the guitar high, with a high neck angle.

Classical players also have a thick classical guitar body that puts the guitar out in front by at least three inches or more. That means the neck is less likely to be smashed against the palm. Why? Because the guitar neck is further out away from the player’s body, thusly creating more space for the throw of the forearm, leaving more room for the hand to be there, not smashed short. Even if you have the dual problems of very broad shoulders and a very flat breastplate, like I do, classical guitar puts the guitar in a good position for playing.

Classical players also don’t normally wear the guitar as they tend to use a foot rest for the lead leg, upon which the guitar body rests.

Classical players seldom play high positions.

Again, my LH problem — hand smashed, bad angle, is in the high positions where the palm is smashed flat against the back of the neck. This is where hand tends to rotate inward, or pronate, where, due to humeral angle, you can’t get the same angle on the neck by forearm supination. If you cannot easily supinate to have the palm face up, there will be difficulty to play 3 note per string scales there. Apparently most people don’t have problems turning their hands to face the sky. For me, that is very hard and also hurts a little (see photo where I strain with about 75% full power to nearly do so).

Where I am trying to supinate the forearm in the high positions, I am very tense. Where I am trying to create space by pulling my shoulder back, by arching my back, by trying to get that guitar out front, I am tense. Too much tension hurts my body and my playing.

It would be easier if the guitar neck were sideways-shifted towards the fretting hand and angled up.

I am NOT saying the thumb needs to be behind the neck ALL THE TIME. But when the palm it is smashed flat; when the wrist is cranked, playing is hard. So how do you make it not smashed flat…………

What I did on that purple guitar was to change the strap buttons. The UPPER button is BEHIND the horn, while the LOWER button is on the top side of the face of the guitar body (fugly but functional). That helps a good bit. By putting the strap button behind the horn, the guitar upper horn (and the guitar neck, by connection), the guitar can travel outwards, away from the player’s body.

You can also see in that Joey Tafolla video how he is using his R forearm to push the guitar body in, thereby making the neck pop outwards more. Yet with that, you can see that the strap button on the upper horn is pulling the guitar back in towards his body. Joey is using his muscle to fight against not only gravity, but also the strap tension.

@BlackInMind is trying to help and posted an awesome video. But my problem is perhaps a bit different and hard to understand.

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I tend to agree with @BlackInMind here, but I think it needs more explanation.

What you describe with your left hand sounds very familiar to me. The supination required for classical position on high frets is too uncomfortable to be usable. The left hand wants to be more neutral, which requires, as you say, the guitar neck to be angled upward. But to angle the neck upward, you have to push on it somehow. Classical position does not allow for the left hand to support weight. The guitar must sit in a stable position on its own, without any help from the left hand.

I also don’t like very high slung guitars. Though they do give you a more neutral left elbow, they don’t really solve the supination problem, and I don’t like what they do to my right shoulder. My right hand wants the guitar lower.

So blues position seems to be necessary, because it allows you to rest the guitar on your palm, which means you can push the neck forward and tilt it upward, and put your arm and hand in a comfortable position. But now your fingers are too far away from the fretboard.

Which is what I assume motivates this:

The way I solved the problem was exactly this. I modified my blues position so that the neck doesn’t contact my palm. Instead, it bridges between the inside of my index knuckle and my outermost thumb joint. There’s about 1 cm between the back of the neck and the closest part of my palm. Only the tip of my thumb wraps around the neck. Not enough to fret notes with.

The guitar neck rests there very comfortably, almost like it was made to fit. So this bridge very quickly converts to a grip. I can easily hang the guitar vertically by the neck, by squeezing my thumb toward the base of my index finger. I play single notes in this position about 80% of the time now, only occasionally switching to classical position when I need to reach toward the bass strings or play barre chords. For most other chord shapes, I keep the grip described above.

This grip gives me the benefits of the blues position: I can physically move the neck around and angle it upward for reaching high up the neck. But I can also fully extend my wrist and simply push the neck forward. And my left hand is neutral, not supinated. My fingers are not parallel to the frets, like in classical position. I can bend and vibrato by rotating my left forearm, just like in blues position.

Plus, it has the added benefit of acting like an anchor. Just like my right hand, my left hand benefits from a constant point of contact on the guitar. It allows for more accuracy because there’s less guessing how much the neck has moved in the few milliseconds since the last time I touched it.

Now that I’m familiar with it, I now see this approach as a sort of hybrid classical/blues grip, as it gives the benefits of each without the drawbacks. I also notice it everywhere. Like @BlackInMind, when I examine the left hands of most high-level guitarists, I usually see them using the same grip. If there is any left hand code to crack, I consider this grip to be one of the central concepts, because it solves exactly the problems you describe. It made a huge difference in my playing and my comfort.


Interesting posts here… I practice sitting down with a footrest on my left foot and have the strap set so that when I stand up it is in a similar position.

When I have tough stretches to make for the left hand high on he neck (EVH sort of stuff) and need that extra access, l kind of stoop down to let the bottom corner (where the input jack is) lay sort of in my right groin. This gives me two benefits, 1- the weight of the guitar is taken largely by my leg, 2- I can angle the guitar neck up and out to give my fretting hand to assume the position needed to access the frets whilst not heavily supinating the arm and only a small bend in the wrist.

In this video, Paul Gilbert does somewhat of a similar thing at 3:41, but puts it on the left leg for an extreme neck angle and height. When I do my thing it is quite quick to pop it into position for a lick and then stand up to resume the normal position.