Fretting Hand Wrist Position for Better Finger Reach & No Wrist Pain

I have previous wrist and finger injuries from sports along with some early arthritis in some of my fingers, so I’m always looking for tips on postural corrections to my hands/wrists/arms as well as back while playing guitar as some practice sessions are becoming painful for me. I came across this channel, and specifically this video I saw today that focusses on either correcting guitar playing posture or preferably building good habits from the start.

Areas I’ve struggled with while learning/practicing:

  • First barre and power chords are painful (for my wrists & forearms not fingers).
  • Having small hands & short fingers I thought that was the main cause of my struggles with reaching certain notes (this video showed me that I was wrong about that).

Areas of Improvement:

  • After applying what I learned in this video, I had my first 1 hour pain free practice session tonight in a while.
  • My barre chords were much easier to fret and strum correctly!
  • The point he highlighted about the fingers needing to be parallel to the forearm and not the fretboard was a huge light bulb moment for me that helped me correct many wrong chord and scale hand positions.

My wrist and forearms are much more relaxed while practicing now. So I’ll be mindful of these corrective postural changes while practicing from now on to avoid future bad habits and recurring pain.

Just wanted to share this with folks here, as I’m sure many people have or are still struggling with bad postural habits that can lead to miserably painful practice sessions that might deter them from practicing and might even lead them to stop playing guitar altogether.

Hope it helps others like it has for me.


Thanks for sharing! That’s probably going to save me a lot of pain.

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You’re welcome Doc. Hope it helps :blush:

Thank you for this very helpful video.

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You’re welcome Bridget :blush:

This looks awesome! Thanks! I’ve gotta spend more time with for sure.

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I’ve watched a ton of videos on this very topic. Usually they are large handed long finger teachers, just like this gentleman, who say fingers are never too short.

To get my pinky finger to touch the thick E string, there is no gap whatsoever remaining under the neck and if I wanted to play the pinky finger on its tip, I have to move the palm away from me and somewhat up around the front of the fretboard to get the finger curled, and it invariably causes a bent wrist. I just figure I’ll never be able to play the 6th string with the pinky, unless I rotate the palm, and maybe that’s the key and I haven’t realized it yet.

I did like that he specified that at the first few frets, the fingers need to be angled to be in line with the forearm. Justin has pointed that out, but its easy to forget.

I still seem to have to squeeze more than I expect to get a note to ring clear on the thick strings. Sometimes its painful even though I have callouses. But I think I just have sensitive hands to pressure. I have to wear gloves when lifting heavy things around the house. It just hurts my flesh to pick up heavy thin things, like a big mirror for example.

Oh and for anyone else struggling with bent wrist playing, I did figure out that part of my problem is that I tilt the bottom of the guitar outward a little bit still and I have to correct that a lot. I am currently practicing playing without looking. My chords do suffer sometimes, but I know its for the greater good.

I like his ample encouragement that all these things are very awkward, and will be and that it’s ok for it to be.


Well, I tried this with my guitar and while just resting my guitar neck in my hand, my pinkie does reach over the top of the neck however, it is not long enough to curl to touch the 6th string, I can barely curl it to reach the 4th string while playing the 3/4 stuck chords. I’m not sure we will ever have to play the 6th or even 5th strings with the pinkie, but I haven’t gone past the F chord yet, so I don’t know.

But for me to play the stuck chords on Em7 and that weird Dadd11/F#, I have to bend my wrist at least 15 degrees, I haven’t found any other way to do it, so while a straight wrist is a nice to have, for some chords for some people, I just don’t think it’s possible. I do play an electric, not an acoustic so the neck isn’t as wide and this is still the case for me. I expect a fatter neck would make it even harder for me.

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@jimchall You’re welcome Jim :slight_smile:

@artax_2 Thank you for all that you’ve shared. I’m a smaller sized guy (5’5" / 165 cm tall) with relatively small hands and short arthritic fingers (pinkies specifically). So I can appreciate how difficult it can be for others as well and always start out watching such videos by people with much longer fingers with a lot of skepticism, until I try some of their ideas out. What I like to take away from such videos offering advice/tips is not necessarily that everything can be solved 100% or isn’t hard, but that there are different ways to adapt/change things so that they are slightly less challenging just enough to continue learning, experimenting and growing and eventually reaching the point where I start to enjoy things that are by their very nature difficult.

As @LunaRocket Rebecca pointed out, the tips/techniques in this video didn’t fix my wrist positioning in all possible scenarios (stuck chords are still torturous and painful for my wrist & pinky), but it helped me in most of the other positions that I regularly encounter. That being said, I used to bend my wrist 70 - 80 degrees, but now I’m only bending it by 20 - 30 degrees or so. So I see that as a massive improvement since less pain = more enjoyment in practicing, and I’ll take any improvement if it helps me practice more in a more relaxed and pain-less (or at least less painful) way.

I hope that makes sense (as I tend to ramble a bit) and helps you benefit a little from this and other technique videos you’ve watched to make your guitar practice more enjoyable :blush:

Now I have to go practice Wonderwall and my stuck chords some more :rofl:


When I first “learned” the C chord my wrist was bent like that, and I believe someone pointed it out to me in my 2nd AVoYP. I went back and rewatched the lesson for that chord, staring at how Justin bent/or didn’t bend his wrist and realized if I just tilted my hand at the wrist slightly to the right the nasty vertical bend went away, and C actually became easier to play. It’s now one of my favorite/easiest chords.

Those stuck chords I mentioned before though, I am afraid will always be iffy. But I shall keep trying!

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That’s a great catch! It’s these little adjustments that can make a world of difference. Like you said, it’s great to go back and review older lessons or videos, since the more we progress the more we can learn and notice the finer details in previous lessons that help us progress even further :smiley:

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As always, don’t forget your overall position holding the guitar and how that effects your wrist (and shoulder).

I have never felt comfortable in the classic waist of the guitar over the right thigh, head over the left knee position. For some reason that causes me do have to reach down with my left shoulder and supinate too far with my left forearm.

(Supination is when you rotate the forearm such that you palm is up, I seem to be slightly limited in this, I can’t achieve fully flat with my palm up parallel to the floor, it remains at a slight angle) (add to this that my left shoulder is pretty shot and any abduction, lifting out from the body, leaves me in pain after a little while)

I still am evolving.

Currently with my classical guitars (12th fret at the body) and my Pono (00 size, short scale and 12th fret at the body), it seems a lift and the classical position work best.

With my regular OM, long scale (25.5”) 14th fret at the body acoustic, the classical position requires too much abduction. So I am trying over the right thigh but with a small lift. It seems really comfortable. The other guitars are just a little small for that position.

Unfortunately, these old bones also can’t keep crossed legs up for long.

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I have found this video pretty useful not just for posture but overall.

Regular practice is undoubtedly helping finger reach and flexibility but when I tried moving the headstock out and bringing my fingers back inline with my forearm with the wrist in a fast more neutral position (not perfectly but reasonably so on both counts…), not only am I more comfortable and fretting with more success, it’s helping muscle memory.

With the headstock out, guitar body fairly vertical and being sure to sit up straight, its harder to see the fretboard or strings without a bit of neck crinking, so I’m finding it encourages playing by feel, or at least attempting to, with a surprising degree of success at times. It’s been like a little eureka moment at this stage in my journey.


That’s great to hear Malcolm! It’s amazing how such small corrections/adjustments can have a ripple effect on how we play and feel while doing so.

I’m really glad that it helped :slightly_smiling_face:

It’s reassuring to hear someone address the challenges of playing with shorter fingers. I can relate to the struggle of reaching the thick E string with my pinky and the discomfort that comes with squeezing the strings. The tip about correcting the tilt of the guitar and practicing without looking is helpful. It’s good to know that the awkwardness is part of the process and that encouragement is key. Thanks for sharing your insights!

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You can alway go the Kieth Richard’s way and just ditch the low E. Then you don’t have to reach so far.

@Jamolay :rofl: Nice one, Joshua, though also requires changing to Open G tuning :grin:

Thanks, but playing the guitar on a different tuning seems out of my league.

I am in my fist week of learning and knew there was something wrong with the way I was holding my fretting hand. While learning the first few chords, I noticed my wrist was bent at a weird angle. This was exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much for sharing!

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You’re very welcome Graham, glad you found it helpful. Looks like you’ve started playing the guitar at the same age as me. It’s an amazing journey with challenges no doubt and such helpful tips can make such difficulties easier to overcome so we can enjoy more of the pleasures of playing music.

Wishing you the best on your new guitar playing journey :blush:

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