The ultimate electric guitar technique set up guide – Part 1

The ultimate electric guitar technique set up guide - Part 1 Posture

What is the right guitar technique? Part 1: Posture

I will speak a little bit broadly about guitar technique in the beginning but stick with me, I WILL give you real, actionable advice that will serve your playing in great ways:

You will see your playing getting easier even at high tempos, you will get more consistent and stay more relaxed, not hurt yourself, and will be compatible with everything that you want to do on the guitar.

If you feel your technique keeps you stuck (how? Symptoms?) you MUST change something.

Your guitar technique has to be one that enables you to play anything that you want to play.

Sounds logical right? But there are a lot of players that think anything works or whatever they saw guitar player X do.

Just because it worked for him, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do for anybody.

And then there are people who KNOW that their technique is bad but they DON’T change anything!

They just accept their fate and don’t even try.


Just like me, when I saw a lot of guitar players do this weird stretchy thing in their fretting hand and thought “that can’t be right, I know so much better that this is WRONG because I learned it *this* way from my teacher”.

All while they were playing MUCH better than me 🙂

It took quite a while until I found Tom Hess who introduced me to a lot of technical things that I was TOTALLY unaware of.

I will show you a few of those here and now!

And if you want more custom tailored help, I recommend checking out his online lessons here.

That is what I really owe 90 % of my guitar progress to and I wouldn’t trade that progress for anything in the world!

The first thing to definitely get down properly is your…


The way you SIT while practicing or playing or recording or whatever is the foundation of ANYTHING you do with the guitar.

You have to sit with your shoulders straight and in a T-formation so that you can relax both shoulders and arms and in the end your WHOLE body.

The next step that follows from that is that your guitar MUST be on your LEFT leg (if you play right handed guitar which I will assume for the rest of this guide).

I know it looks cooler when your guitar is hanging around on your right leg and you seem easy going and not stuck up and there is a time and place for that but it’s DEFINITELY not when you practice guitar OR just started out and you don’t know what you are doing yet.

Having the guitar on your left leg is crucial for right posture.

This gives you the opportunity to practice in the same position as you would have while playing standing up.

Try this:

Sit on a chair, left leg slightly elevated by a foot stool or a Wha-wha Pedal, your guitar on your left leg, your STRAP AROUND YOUR NECK tight enough that it doesn’t hang around loosely but also not too tight that it changes your guitar position and the guitar still rests on your left leg.

Now stand up.

In the ideal case your guitar hasn’t moved relative to your upper body and is still in the same position as before, just that you are standing now.

That is a great way to check if you are set up alright.

Everything I will say next will rely on having this posture part in place or else they will not work as well as they could.

Left hand position

I always use the analogy of the cheeseburger grip.

Imagine you are holding a cheeseburger in your left hand and you are about to take a bite.

Your hand will probably look something like THIS:

hand holding guitar neck playing a chord showing right guitar technique

Now all you have to do is lead this position to the guitar neck in this way:

Your arm is hanging next to your body loosely and relaxed.

You form the cheeseburger position with your hand.

Your shoulders are still relaxed and in T-formation.

Now you lead your hand to the guitar neck with the neck being in between your thumb and the other fingers.

Done. Very simple.

No thumb pointing towards the headstock and any of that BS.

Your fingers are not curled nor stretched, just keep them in a natural position.

You should now be able to comfortably move all fingers around without changing your hand position to stretch your fingers over a 5 fret area.

Right hand pick holding

Imagine holding a pen. But instead of a pen you are holding the guitar pick.

Again a very simple idea but most guitar players just blindly copy what they see someone else doing and think it’s a good idea to just adopt that.

Here are some more guidelines:

Your THUMB should not stick out over the edge of the guitar pick.

Read my article about muting unwanted string noise to learn why.

The angle at which your pick is tilted against the strings should be something about 30-45 degrees.

It depends a bit on the situation but you can easily roll with this and get very far.

And I don’t mean the pick “slant”.

The pick is still standing in a right angle on the guitar body. The pick TILT you can imagine like a coin spinning on a table.

right guitar technique demonstration hand holding a guitar pick

Now just make sure that your guitar pick sticks out reasonably enough to give you enough pick attack against the strings.

About 3-5 mm is a good bet.

In the NEXT article we will go into actual playing stuff! Stay tuned.

If you want to put your guitar progress on the fast track, check this out:


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