Ok - as a n00b I'm getting a wide variety of 'this is right'...'no, this is right' when it comes to thumb placement.

All I know is my fret hand is going numb, and when I try to run a chromatic on the 6th string my hand is in a world of hurt after a while...and not a normal muscle pain. Seems to really hit hard when my pinky is used.

SO - I've checked out quite a few vid's on youtube but it seems that EVERYONE...and I do mean everyone I have watched, does what I read should not be done....hold the neck like a bat....slant the fingers down, etc.

In trying to learn 'the proper way' so that I have the freedom to jump to a 5-7-9 kinda triplet I have tried to keep my thumb behind the neck.... in doing so, I am now to the point where my hand is packed in ice and wrist is hurting.

Therefore - I must not be doing it 'right'....hence, "Practice" would be a bad answer here... hahaha.

Anyone know of some good thumb position info I can see, rather than a book? Not just position for an Am chord, but also for where my thumb should be when trying to do the following:

Just jumping around here, not quickly...focus is to get my thumb in the proper placement whether I'm on the 1rst fret or the 12th....


Thanks for any help! Practice has changed from a challenge to simply painful.
Last edited by Slapknot at Jan 13, 2009,
That's really strange that you get so much pain from it... Maybe the problem isn't your thumb placement so much as the angle of your elbow or wrist? I find that if I play my guitar too low it forces my hand into a compromising position and makes me bend at weird angles that cause stress on my hand. You could also try a guitar with a different type of curve to the neck. Some styles drive me crazy whereas some seem to make playing effortless.

I tend to only play "bat style" when playing open chords, but sometimes when playing quicker sorts of triplets runs on the higher strings, my thumb will shift towards me and the lower strings.

Generally though my thumb wraps around the neck about 2/3 of the way, and lies about directly under the space between my index and middle fingers.
I have no pics nor any thing specific but I do know that even if someone tells you that you're holding your guitar wrong but you're playing perfectly(or as close anyone can), it doesn't hurt and you can freely move your hand around, play that way and ignore what the others say. Most people don't hold the neck the same way for every song they play. When you're moving around and really active, it's impossible(or close to impossible) to keep your thumb on the back of the neck and keep a finger per fret.
You have find how you play best for a certain moment in time.
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Thumb placement kinda goes hand in hand with your wrist angle(pun much?) to allow proper fretting with the very tips of your fingers. I find if the wrist is properly positioned (almost as far bent as you can physically go)then the thumb wants to sit roughly on the centre of the neck naturally.

Id pay more mind to getting your fretting dead right before worrying how your thumb sits.

As for your pains, are you stretching and warming up properly? I found warming up to be deceptively difficult at first as its very tempting to just shred out chromatics as fast as you can go but that is counter productive, i always play as slowly as i can whist staying nice and smooth and increase speed untill im playing about half as fast as I can. 10 minutes of this plus a good stretch out before and after and im ready to start actually practising.
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Right on... play with what's comfy. Guess I'm just paranoid after reading so much and only playing for 3 months...I dont wanna learn something only to have to un/re-learn the 'proper' method.

Warms up and stretching I make sure of... since I'm only 3 months in, fingers and muscles get tired rapidly...but slowly improving endurance.

I was really trying to keep my wrist as straight as possible (similar to what happens when at fret 7 and grab it like a bat). However, with my thumb behind the neck this forces my wrist to bend as far as it will go.

Isn't that bad??? I know I have seen quite a few 'lessons' on utube which have stated that having a wrist bent is a BAD thing... however, when the neck is 45 degree's and on my left leg (righty) it's virtually impossible to keep proper posture while maintaining a straight wrist.

I'll keep messing with it once my wrist stops throbbing.
Behind the neck is better for long stretches and fast scales, around is better for feel and tone, legatto, bends and sometimes accuracy. Practice both and try to keep your arm and hand relaxed.
If its hurting/going numb could just be that you are too tense and putting too much pressure on.
Quote by zhilla
If its hurting/going numb could just be that you are too tense and putting too much pressure on.

Absolutely...It's one of the many things on my list of what to watch for when practicing.

After the videos, reading, watching myself in the mirror and a trip to the music store - I've finally gotten where I can play without pain. A total combination of pretty much everything I've read here of what to watch out for when starting out. There was also something else that a customer at the store mentioned to me: When it's really cold outside, his hands ache as well unless he really really warms em up and stretches.

Made total sense to me as I didnt have this problem 3months ago...when it was 90F.

But it was really being caused by me trying to keep my thumb in the same position all the time. This was wrong, and I didnt even know it. I apparently missed where the thumb should slide up and down and needs to remain fluid rather than rigid and stuck in a single position.

Ahhhh...to be old...hahah
Last edited by Slapknot at Jan 14, 2009,
What I do is keep my thumb in the middle of the neck for low string but I creep it up when I play the High E and B, sometimes the G. But I always watch myself play and try to correct anything bad or can become harmful.