Is it necessary to have your fingers curled up the neck of the guitar while bending?

Problem is I play lead with my thumb behind the neck most likely at the middle and that is the way I have started to learn guitar and was told that this is the correct way to play.

But, I see people have their thumb curled up the neck while bending probably because to get more force .

  • it takes very little strength to bend a string. just play however is comfortable for you and does not impede your playing. Placing the thumb in the back of the neck is just to keep your fingers arched and so avoid accidental muting. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 9:50

4 Answers 4


You've just made me pick up a guitar and do some bending!

Personally, sometimes my thumb is in the centre at the back, sometimes it's almost over the top of the neck (close to the fat E), and sometimes it's not actually on the neck at all - it's pointing away from me, under the neck!

You might have been told thumb in the middle of the neck is the correct way to play, but there is no 'correct' way. If it were true, we'd all play the same, and we don't.

It depends on whether you bend a string towards the ceiling, or down to the floor, and whether you're bending a string with one finger two, three or even all four. Using straight fingers or bending them almost double. And how big the bend is. And what strings you use. And what the action is set at. And how strong your fingers are. And which string is being bent. So many variables!!

My advice is to not seek advice, but make your own ways. Don't stick to any 'rules' - find your own ways. By all means watch some videos and try out what methods you can see. Some will work well, others not. I could try to tell you exactly what I do, but that may be disastrous for you in practice.


I agree with Tim. Also, me personally, I tend to always have my thumb over top of the neck and use a rotary motion with my wrist (which I can’t do with my thumb on the back of the neck as well) instead of a pulling my fingers down with a stiff wrist. But different fingering positions can change that.


Great answers all around. The simple truth is this; There are no set rules for how you place your fingers or thumb while phrasing chords, hammering on, or even bending strings. Whatever works for you, and that which achieves a clean, satisfying sound is YOUR technique. The trick is to keep your elbows, wrists, and fingers free and unencumbered whilst playing. This allows you to move and shift in a manner that keeps you from straining tendons and connective tissues. This also means you can't play guitar well while slumped back into the couch cushions. I advocate playing standing up, with the guitar strapped on about belly button level. Freedom to move and maneuver, that's the key!


Good question.

In general the answer is no, you do not need the thumb to be curled up to bend. However, this depends on the gauge string, set up of the guitar, and your experience.

On the flip side I think the "standard" or "correct" way to hold the neck is a bit misunderstood. Physics can help understand what is going on. First of all note that this so called proper way originates in classical guitar. These guitars have very thick necks, thick in both directions transverse to the length. Most normal sized people could not get their thumb around it and play.

Many people think the thumb is used to squeeze the string down when playing. This is in fact not true. When held in correct position the finger board should be a vertical plane, even leaning forward a bit with the finger board pointing to the floor (at a very slight angle). The fingers should not require any help from the thumb and many experienced players can play with the thumb completely detached from the neck. When set up correctly (i.e. with good action) the amount of force required to press the string down to the fret and make a good sound is very small. The same holds for upright bass. With correct posture and a good set up it should feel effortless.

One thing is that is correct regardless of how you hold it, you need to be mobile. Squeezing the neck with the thumb in back or curled over the edge will prevent you from being able to move easily. This is not a good way to play.

That being said, when it comes to bending a lot more force is required to bend a string in the plane of the finger board than is required to press it down. Exactly how much more depends on string gauge and set up but more is required. Personally I am able to bend with my thumb in the classically correct position (behind) but I don't force myself in this habit. If I'm bending more than a minor third I do need the extra help and there is not enough friction between the neck and my thumb to prevent the whole neck from popping out of my hand. But I would caution that I do not squeeze the neck, I just place the thumb over the edge to prevent the neck from leaving my hand on extreme bends.

If you are going to use that technique you will want to keep the hand loose to maintain mobility.

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