Correct thumb position of fretting hand?


I’m going through JustinGuitar Grade 1, I’m currently on Module 7 and I’ve noticed that while practising songs (ie strumming and chord changes) my thumb kind of crawls up where it’s hanging above the fretboard.

I know earlier in Grade 1, Justin had said to always keep your thumb at the center of the neck. When doing one minute changes or chord perfect exercises I always keep my thumb on the center of the neck as taught. However I had a look at Justin’s recent lessons in Grade 1 to see if I’m making a mistake and I see that Justin’s thumb also pokes up above the fretboard.

While practising songs, I’ve now tried both positions of my thumb and I’m a lot better at chord changes when I stick to my natural way ie thumb poking above. I always fumble my chords when I keep my thumb at the center of the neck (even though I practice all my chords with that position). Moreover, as I keep strumming and changing chords my thumb naturally goes into the position where it’s above the neck.

Is this a mistake I should be fixing? Or am I good, considering Justin does it too?

Justin had said to always keep your thumb at the center of the neck

Honestly this is just good advice to a new starter. Thumb over the top of the fret board actually doing stuff is certainly a thing and Justin teaches some of that later on too

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Justin says thumb on the back of the neck to build strength for barre chords. It’s a good idea to do it. Later on it’s pretty common for the thumb to slip over to mute strings or fret notes etc.


It sounds like you have given this a fair shot, and it is not working for you. So I wouldn’t worry about it right now…with the proviso that you may need to revisit this when you start playing barre chords.

This question comes up a lot. I understand Justin’s reasoning for teaching it this way, but sometimes wonder if he stresses it too much.

I think his main point is that you don’t want your thumb to stick up a lot - like above the first joint.

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For me thumb over the neck is more natural and comfortable. My chord changes and fingers placement are more precise, I feel frets better. Also I mute a lot with my thumb. And for bends it’s necessary. But for barre chords and playing on the lower strings it won’t work.
So from my experience I can suggest you to find out what works for you depending on what you’re playing and don’t worry about it. We’re all different and general suggestions have to be adjusted for everyone individually.


This is the answer.

I’ve never been able to play with my thumb in the middle of the neck. As soon as I lift my fingers to change chords my thumb pushes the neck away from me. So my thumb’s been reaching over the top from very early on in my journey. And I quickly learned to use my thumb to mute the low E string when playing open A and C chords.

And I don’t think the middle-of-the-neck thumb position builds hand strength for barre chords. Playing barre chords builds hand strength for barre chords.

I’m inclined to agree. My experience is that it’s 20% strength and 80% technique…applying just the minimal amount of force to just the right places. (though TBH, I don’t play lot of barre chord songs and could be wrong about this)

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No, I think you’re right. But that 20% hurts at first!

Oh, been there done that. Gave myself a year of pain from tennis elbow because I practiced too long and tried to push through the pain.

When I practice them now, I set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes max.

I have no clue what the name of that muscle is that Justin always points to but mine is ripped!


…but I think the pain comes from pressing too hard for too long!

It’s not lack of strength, it’s using way more strength than you actually need.

That’s my theory, anyway.

Same as most things with guitar, being tense and using too much effort makes everything worse but its hard to know and use the right amount of effort

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Could be. I’ve just started learning the A-shape barre chord (I’m a late bloomer). So the pain starts all over again.


Unexpected guitar benefits :rofl:

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You’re the Arnold Schwarzenegger of guitar players!

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Thanks a lot for the responses. I think I’m going to stick with the natural position of my thumb, I’ll just make sure that it’s not poking out too much. As for barre chords, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

That’s exactly what’s happening in my case as well.

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You can try practicing chord changes with your thumb off the neck. Place it behind it, but don’t touch.


Is it possible that you are pulling back with your strumming arm on the body of the guitar, and that’s levering the neck away from your thumb on the other side of your body?

Because…been there, done that.