For a finger that – usually – doesn’t fret any notes, your fretting hand thumb does a lot. It supports the guitar neck and controls the range of motion of your fretting hand – and consequently how easy – or not – it is for you to form chords. It is also especially important when playing barre chords – but we’ll get to that later.

With all this in mind, you should see why proper guitar thumb position is worth the few minor adjustments you’ll probably need to make. Hopefully, by the end of this post you won’t have to wonder if you’re doing it right. ;)

First, I mentioned earlier that your thumb supports the back of the neck. It can’t do that very well if you’re using it to grip the neck – especially if you’re doing it to the point where your thumb actually appears over the top to someone watching you play. Rather, your thumb should always rest comfortably against the back of the neck – completely out of view from in front – and, also, providing maximum range of motion. This, in turn, will reduce the stress placed on the rest of your fingers and make them less likely to accidentally deaden strings by being positioned awkwardly on the fretboard.

N.B. I talk about proper finger positioning in much more detail here! (opens a new window) :)

Another important factor in guitar thumb position is leverage. This refers to the amount of support it provides – in the right area – to minimize the force required by the rest of your fingers. This is especially important when playing barre chords. Your thumb should be lying along the back of neck – right down the middle – pointing towards the nut. In other words, it should be directly behind the 3rd, and 4th, strings at the front. In this position, you’ll be able to execute barre chords – and all other chords – with much less overall effort! :)

Finally, take into consideration that there will come times when gripping your thumb around the neck is a good thing. When you’re doing fancy things on staged with a rock band and messing around with bends, and vibratos, it will help to change your thumb position but these tips are perfect for when you’re learning. :)

A good rule of thumb for maintaining good guitar thumb position is : If it’s restricting your playing (i.e. your other fingers), don’t do what you’re doing. :P

Keep those tips in mind and, if you found this helpful, please share it to Facebook, Twitter, etc. using one of the icons below! :D You can email me at with any questions/comments. :)

P.S. Check out the new forums I set up to give more personal advice!