Been Holding Thumb on Neck Wrong

Hi, I’ve been learning how to play acoustic guitar for over 2 months now, and just figured out that I’ve been holding my thumb incorrectly on the guitar neck the whole time. Every time I heard that the thumb should be “pointing towards the top,” I thought that meant the headstock, but it actually means the side of the guitar neck as it’s pointing upward when the guitar is held in the casual position (the low E string.) Or at least I think that’s what it means. When I changed to the correct position, as awkward as it felt, my chords were suddenly much smoother.

Guess I’m just feeling discouraged because I basically have to relearn how to do the handful of chords and changes I know all over again. Has this or something similar ever happened to anyone else? I feel so dumb.


Ah you’ve figured it out its not to o much to relearn so dont worry

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Nope, but I reckon since the change is easier on your hand you’ll probably settle into it really quickly. Comfort often wins.


What an aha moment! :slight_smile:


Hi Courtney, yes, this sounds familiar to me. I always had a bit of an angle in my thumb position, and realized this only after half a year. I was made aware by our fellow community members when I shared a video of me playing. It didn’t take me long to relearn it, the self awareness was the most important step. It was well worth relearning it.

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Not a dumb moment at all! It is not intuitive particularly and navigating the guitar is a new skill. I remember a lot of thumb angst in the first several months.

After 3 years, I still struggle to let my thumb move with my hand. It wants to stay put whether I move my fingers along the fretboard or across the strings.

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No worries, we all teach ourselves something “wrong” from time to time. It’s best to try to minimize this, as it often takes longer to “un-learn” the wrong way than it took to learn it in the first place.

I taught myself to have my thumb pointing at the headstock too. I really noticed the down-side to it when learning power and barre chords. You definitely have better leverage between your thumb and index finger to make the bar when your thumb is vertical.

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Been slowing learning how to “rotate” my thumb to actually get into that position. Way harder than it looks at least at the age of 66. Thanks for the pic Richard!! It’s a good visualization.

This was fantastic! I hadn’t thought of it… I’ve been fighting with Barrés and only now I recognized my wrong position of thumb. I tried according to your pics and chords and easy rhytms came easier. This like “streched” my hand.


I also recently learned that holding my thumb higher towards 6th string helps me reduce tension in my thumb’s joint when I play barre chords. If I place my thumb in the middle of the neck, I tend to press against it too hard and my thumb starts hurting. However, if I play some solo stuff or more stretchy grips, then it helps to have my thumb low on the neck.

Also btw the thumb vertical behind your fingers mid neck is kinda a starter move , you’ll learn later you can do more with it but this helps your fretting of chords at the start and builds muscle for barre chords etc.

Don’t feel bad. I had such a problem holding on to my pick, that I started finger picking. Eventually, I was able to get it together and can hold a pick. My next challenge is to get 5 picks out of my guitar.
Enjoy the small victories,

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Hi Franz, thanks for sharing that! It is encouraging to me to read that someone else had this issue but relearned it just fine.

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Thank you, Joshua! I also feel that the placement is not intuitive. I totally misunderstood the thumb placement thing, even though I saw others do it the way you’re supposed to-- I thought it was benign individual difference, but that’s not the case!

If exposing my folly ended up helping you, then I don’t feel nearly as bad, :wink:

Thanks for the encouragement, Scott!

Hi, Ivan, well I haven’t learned any barre chords yet, but I will keep that in mind when the time comes.