Thumb placement while playing chords

Hey Guys, I just wanted to get your opinion on something.

I’ve been learning guitar for about 8 months now, using this site and a couple others. Lately I have started copying Justin’s style of using the thumb to mute the 5th and/or 6th strings while playing chords.

My wife bought me 2 months of lessons for my bday with a very good instructor, someone who has started playing at 5 and never stopped. Studied all things music in university and makes a living doing it now.

I had my first class with him yesterday and he wanted to see my technique first. I played on song on the app just to show chord changes. He told me I have some bad habits I need to change, specifically talking about using the thumb to mute. He says the thumb shouldn’t wrap around, and you should be able to put 1 or 2 fingers between the guitar neck and your palm. Most of his concern I think is about the long term guitar playing, that playing how he describes will put less tension on the muscles. I do see his point.

The conflict for me is not really knowing which style to use now. I’m only with this instructor for 8 lessons, and I’m going to be with Justin until I finish all levels.

The instructor does have a youtube channel, albeit much less popular than Justin’s.

Just curious, what do you guys think about this?

This guy is teaching classical, nylon string guitar. If you want to play classical or finger style guitar, I would probably follow his lessons to the letter.

In my experience, classical guitar teachers have a body of knowledge that goes back centuries, which works very well…for that type of music.

Personally, I find the classical sitting position makes it much easier on my fretting hand than the casual position, even though I play modern popular music.

Also, IME, some classical teachers tend to be purists, and assume there is only One True Way to Play Guitar.

Justin is more focused on pop, folk, and rock styles, which uses some different techniques…and thumb muting is very much one of those techniques! I recently realized I need to develop that skill, and it’s a big, ongoing project to change my approach from my previous semi-classical technique.

If it’s only 8 weeks of lessons, there’s probably little harm in just following his advice for now. But always keep it in the back of your mind…if it sounds good, and it feels good…it is good!


Thanks for sharing your opinion!

I was thinking that too, to follow his instructions to the letter for those 8 weeks, give it a very honest shot to experience the difference in styles and then see what I’d like to do when I continue afterwards.

Difference in playstyles is a very good point. Justin plays the music I want to play. Jhon plays beautifully but I won’t be focusing on playing classical music.

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To add to what Tom said, his setting position with his leg crossed is just asking for back problems. He may not be experiencing any back issue because he started at age five and his back has probably grown to that posture.

This is so true I would have used the word Arrogant


Good point about his sitting position - I thought that was sketchy as well. A classical purist would use a guitar footstool.

I used one for a while, but found using a strap sitting down worked just as well, plus allowing the option to play standing.


First of all, I hope you will find personal lessons useful. As for thumb placement, I think it varies from player to player. For example, Robert Fripp plays quite complex (“rock”) music but keeps his thumb behind the neck most of the time + he usually plays sitting. Not a very rocky attitude. On the other hand, Hendrix not only muted strings with his thumb but fretted bass notes as well, but he had long fingers anyway. Personally, sometimes even the sight of the player’s thumb leaning over to the 4th or 5th fret is revolting to me. Why? Who knows, probably because my hands are small and I have no use for this technique. But if it feels right to others, more power to them.

True, in legit classical guitar playing you won’t find certain techniques that non-classical players use. As classical guitars have wider necks, I guess thumb muting does not come so easy on those instruments. Also, classical pieces usually focus on single notes / arpeggios and have a lot less strumming in them, so I’d imagine that there are different techniques used for muting.

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As others said your instructor plays classical you tend not to use thumb in this style. I would always pull off a question from my sleeve about Hendrix from if anyone criticises thumb usage :wink: but again not the first time I hear this comment from someone who just can’t use this technique for various reasons :slight_smile: if classical music is for you then I guess stick with it, but if you are more into more mainstream type of music I guess you will soon get back to Justin’s way :slight_smile: all the best

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Yeah, I’ve already decided I’m not going to switch. Justin’s style is what I want to play. Going to learn what I can from him about singing while playing guitar, as I’ve never had any kind of singing lessons and want to get into that. Ahh, and I never left Justin. I still do his lessons everyday, along with metal method, and now the exercises from this instructor😂

I appreciate the comments from everyone, thanks guys!

Just going to share this for fun. I found this guy’s channel a few months ago and it has been a great motivation cause it looks like a blast!

I married a Colombian and now live in her country. We are taking a 2 year course to become tour guides and are going to set up our own business. I sent Reggie (the guy from the link I just shared) a message telling him that if he wants to do “Sing with me” in Colombia, I can be his guide and translator for free. He sent me flight confirmation this morning for mid November, he’ll be here for 2 weeks. I’m going to take him around a few cities to tour and let him shoot material for his channel. Even more motivation to practice now!:joy:

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