I have been playing guitar for 1.5 year.. and I have practiced long hours and I can switch between chords smoothly in 1 1/3 second 5 or 6 of them. unfortunately at some point in my learning process I started stretching my thumb parallely to the neck all the way to the nut and touching, to pivot around it while holding difficult chords such as G.. a few hours ago I was playing a riff and I experienced the pain of the terrible position of thumb I have developed habit of.. I looked up youtube and found this video on where to place the thumb

It seems doable and I am able to do it... but it also means I have to redo a lot of practice probably for another couple of weeks at least if I put in an hour daily...just want to get an opinion I am doing it correctly this time, and I won't need to redo everything again at some later point.

  • may be it was just one off thing, I can continue doing it? will it cause me any long term harm... Nov 16, 2021 at 8:01
  • Never listen to anyone on YouTube who tells you the correct way to place your thumb, there is no correct way. It's a very personal thing, lots of questions on here ask the same question, I always recommend practice (as an exercise not a performance technique) to play without placing you thumb on the neck at all. If you are relying on thumb position or have this kinda pain your grip is too tight. Jan 22 at 23:00

3 Answers 3


It's probably not so much where your thumb goes - and let's face it, that varies from chord to chord, shape to shape, and indeed person to person.

It's more likely you're squeezing the neck too tightly. There really is no need on most shapes, if any at all. In fact, you should be able to play clean barre chords with the thumb off the back of the neck. Not saying that's a great way to do it, just saying you need hardly any pressure from the thumb to play chords.

It also may be the set-up of your guitar. If the action is high and the strings tight, you'll need to press harder, which will show in the form of pain.

You could also consider how you wear the guitar. The angle looked at from above, that looked at from the side, the height you sling your guitar at. All these factors would have been brought to your attention by a good teacher, and it looks like that's you, now!

Pain anywhere is the body saying 'I've had enough for now'. Maybe play for less time each time. I see little credit in working through that pain at your stage.


If you feel pain playing chords I would consider that is extremely recommended to correct your position, before things get worse. I've experienced this same problems when playing chords progession during long time, or just even when playing a whole song that uses chord progressions, and, after some testing changing positions and modifying the way I handle the guitar neck, it left evidence that all the pain I was suffering was caused by long term practice holding the neck in not very advisable positions.

It's true that a lot of guitar players use to play holding guitar in some particular ways, and it's a fact that this worked for them. As each one of us has different physical conditions, some guitarists may experience problems (mostly during his first steps), and even pain, when executing some tricky tecniques or depending on the fingers, wrist or arm position, and others don't. That's because I would recommend you changing this, as I must inlcude myself in the first group, and the time spent practicing to correct this yielded positive results.

By the way, and as subjective contribution, I found very useful Justin Sandercoe videos (as the one you provide on your post), specially on this matters, due to the clear exposition as he is a good communicator. Despite this, don't dismiss checking other options or and search more alternatives, as there may be some more valuable advices for your situation.

  • Thanks. i never took any guitar lessons, may be I should have. but there are so many things which goes to learn guitar, thumb placement could have been easily missed... I have a friend who introduced me to guitar. might seek his advice.. I am still a beginner and changing my thumb position was relatively easy and I am not going to lose a lot. Since he has been playing for decades, might follow his method and use it.. if it didnot hurt him for a decades it shouldn't hurt me too..the only Justin Timberlake I know is singer.. does he make guitar tutorials too? Thanks for answering.. Nov 16, 2021 at 8:43
  • youtube.com/watch?v=PP8sYOw_8g0 this video shows his thumb position clearly which is on top of 6th string.. I put my thumb parallel to guitar neck touching the nut... Nov 16, 2021 at 8:47
  • I'm sorry for the error, it's my fault. It's Justin Sandercoe (sometimes my mind plays tricks on me...), the one who speaks in the video you posted. I already updated my post. Nov 16, 2021 at 8:51
  • Thank you! Dave Nov 16, 2021 at 8:53
  • I must admit that guitar clasess were very positive for me as well, as you could get rid of this kind of trouble sooner if someone pays attention actively to your playing style and your fingers placement. But this requires a good teacher, and it would help you further more specially if he has experienced same problems as you. I must admit that I was lucky on this matter, as my teacher at that time was a very good classical guitarists, always concerned for positioning and ergonomics. You are welcome, don't forget to mark the answer as helpful if this helped. Hope your problem get solved soon! Nov 16, 2021 at 9:04

If you feel pain while playing you should absolutely not continue but try to change what causes the pain. Else you might cause permanent damage to your hand. Pain in muscles is usually fine, as these will grow stronger, but you should be very careful about pain in joints and tendons, as the first will not grow stronger in any way and latter will only do so very slowly.

The critical part here is not nescessarily where exactly your thumb is, your thumb needs to be mobile to play complex stuff. Instead you should think about how much and in what directions pressure is applied on your thumb.

The thumb joint is made for moving forward and backward, so it does not handle sideways pressure very well. Also you should not bend the tip of your thumb outwards. The thumb joint takes pressure into the joint very well, but when you press with a bent out thumb you direct the pressure out of the joint, which the joint does not take well at all.

The thumb in the thumbnail of the given video is already rather flat. Try to keep your thumb tip even just slightly curved inwards. This also enables you to open your hand better an thus move your fingers more freely over the fretboard.

Also it might be that you are pressing harder than you need to. And maybe you subconciously press too hard with your thumb. You are already taking part of the grip pressure by holding the corpus of the guitar against your chest, so you do need to hold less of that gripping force with your thumb.

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