Helpful Posts and Articles for Guitar Players

Getting Clear Guitar Chords Series- Relax Your Wrist  

Relax Your Wrist to Help Clean Up Your Guitar Chords 

Want to see this tip in action?

Beginning guitar players have an impulse to grip the guitar neck tightly with the fretting hand- the hand that holds down the chord shapes. Your fingers feel clumsy and weak when you first start playing, so there's a tendency to want to add strength from the hand, wrist, maybe the forearm. But tensing the wrist and jamming your hand against the guitar neck tires out your fretting hand and messes up your sound. It causes you to mute (deaden) strings that should ring out clearly.

Relaxing the wrist is one of the most helpful tips for beginners or frustrated guitar players because it accomplishes two important things at once. First, it moves your palm away from the neck of the guitar so the high E string can ring out clearly. It also gets your thumb out of the way, putting it somewhere on the back of the guitar neck. The pad of the thumb should rest comfortably, without tension, against the back of the guitar neck to avoid deadening the low E string. When you relax your wrist, that happens automatically. 

There will be plenty of times in your guitar-playing life when you'll want to mute the high E or low E string on purpose, but there are better ways than jamming your wrist against the guitar neck. As a new player trying to build your skills, make sure your wrist hangs loose.

Give it a try now and watch what happens. Play an Em, Am, C, D- whatever. If your hand and wrist are crowding the guitar neck, relax your wrist and let it hang loose. Notice how this automatically puts some space between the palm of your hand and the neck of your guitar so the high E string rings out clearly. Watch how this adjustment, relaxing the wrist, shifts your thumb to a comfortable position on the back of the guitar neck, too.

Relaxing your wrist is the most efficient way to shift the workload to the fingers where it belongs.

3 Beginner Guitar Problems and How to Fix 

Just starting to learn guitar? Try these tips.

I was so happy to get my first guitar and start lessons. I'd waited from third grade til seventh before that happened. No one had to tell me to practice, I was ready to go!

But there were 3 challenges right from the start- fingertip soreness, buzzy or dead sounds, and trouble changing chords. I got past it, and I’m so glad I did. I hope this article will help you do the same!

Fingertip Soreness

The fingertips of your fretting hand (the fingers that hold down notes and chords) will be sore for a couple weeks. You have to press down the strings with enough pressure to get clear sound. So there's an "ouch!" factor at first. But short, regular practice sessions will fix that in only 2 or 3 weeks. Keep up your enthusiasm for learning guitar. You'll soon get to the good stuff!

Buzzy or Dead Notes and Chords 

Do your chords sound terrible? Try these 5 tips for getting clear sound:

*relaxed wrist

*fingers close to the frets

*adequate pressure on strings

*thumb out of the way on back of guitar neck

*high angle of knuckles so fingers don't lean into neighboring strings

It takes lots of correct repetitions to get these adjustments working automatically. But this doesn’t mean hours and hours of practice for the casual player. It means short, frequent, focused practice. 10-15 minutes most days will help you improve. Even 5 minutes of focused work isn’t wasted if you practice smart.

Listen closely to your sound. Get good at troubleshooting. Check your chords string by string so you can hear where the problems are and fix them. Often it’s just a small tweak that’s needed. Keep after it- it gets easier! Your chords will be clear and you'll be able to form them without thinking about it.

Trouble Changing Chords

Once you can play basic chords clearly and easily, putting all fingers down at once, you're ready to work on smooth chord transitions. Again, it takes lots of correct repetition for muscle memory to kick in. Short, consistent practice sessions will get you there.

These tips on changing chords will help.

Avoid lifting your fingers far off the strings- what guitar teachers call “flyaway fingers.” Look for places where fingerings can simply be shifted to neighboring strings. Drill chord pairs. Here’s how: choose two chords you can play easily, then spend a minute a day changing between them. Strum once, change chords. Repeat this whenever you find a chord transition that feels awkward. Your fingers will get to know these movements and in time you'll speed up. Then you'll find you can play along with your favorite recordings or with other musicians- lots of fun! 

At this point, you'll really start to enjoy playing. You'll find that the guitar is a friendly instrument, and that even a small set of skills will let you play many popular songs- the music that made you want to learn guitar in the first place. And as your skills keep growing, it's even more fun.

Lessons and learning are a mix of success and struggle. If you're in the early days of learning guitar and struggling with these challenges, I hope this article encourages you to keep going. You're not untalented or hopeless, too old or too young. Stick with it and become a guitar player. With steady practice, you can do it. And it is so worth it! 

Happy practicing and playing! ???

Lesley Diane

Greenville, South Carolina

Convenient location 3 minutes from downtown Greenville, SC. Close to the fun, away from the traffic : )