Barre Chord Ergonomics

Hi everyone,

I’ve been getting some wrist pain while practicing barre chords recently. I think I’m gripping the neck too tightly, but when I try and loosen my grip, I just mute some or all of the strings. I’ve attached two photos. Is anyone else struggling with the same problem?


Hey Michael,

From what I can see;

  1. Your index finger is flat. It should be slightly on its side to contact the strings with the bonier part of your finger.
  2. Your elbow looks a bit far away from your torso. Likely related to 1. Above
  3. Hand looks like it needs to come forward a bit, allowing for more perpendicular access to the fretboard.

Better still, I’d suggest a visit/revisit to Justin’s great lesson on barre chord technique at

All the best
Cheers, Shane

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Thanks — that’s exactly the feedback I was hoping for. I’ll go back and rewatch that lesson. Thanks again!

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you want the pad of your thumb to be on the centre middle of the neck behind your index finger so you are almost pinching the neck between them

Good advice. Thanks!

Yes, this I noticed as well. You need it where @RobDickinson describes for easier leverage.

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Hi Michael,
Placing the thumb directly behind the index finger is something (which I learned in Justin`s lessons) that is no longer taught as the only truth, a lot depends on how your hand is put together (differs from the average),… admittedly your thumb seems a bit out of the way and the closer behind the fingers to the fretboard the easier it should be…so go for the ideal of behind the index finger but don’t keep trying at all costs,…
Greetings ,Rogier

The key thing is to rotate your index finger so that the boney part is right next to the fret and pressing on the strings. You’re using the fleshy part of your finger and when you press harder you simply squash the flesh more.

Also try to squeeze the body of the guitar a little with your other elbow. This creates a sort of reverse pressure and might help.

The main thing to do of course is to study Justin’s lesson as Shane has suggested.

I’m assuming your right handed. Try this. Make a standard open E chord with fingers 2,3 and 4. Without using your thumb, apply pressure to the fretboard by pulling your left arm back. Brace the body of the guitar with your right arm so the fretboard is in a stable position. You should be able to strum a clean chord without using your left thumb at all. You will be pulling reasonably hard. So now add your thumb to apply pressure. You should be able to find a more comfortable position that allows you to make a clean chord using a combination of arm pull and thumb squeeze.

Barre chords are not easy. Making a barre chord above the 12th fret, as in your photo, adds to the difficulty because it is an awkward position. Can you make the same chord lower (towards the headstock) on the neck?

Read this. An oldie but a goodie.

Thanks very much to everyone who replied! I’ll take all of this under advisement, as they say.