Fretting Guitar Technique – 12 Hidden Mistakes You Must Avoid

Do you know this feeling that you’re trying to play any position on the guitar, scale or lick and it just does not get better?
You also feel uncomfortable in your left hand and sometimes tell yourself that a guitar has a very illogical shape.
You probably make at list one of those fretting guitar technique mistakes listed below.

I know in this situation and want to help you practice in a healthier and more intelligent way once you discover the little bad habits of the fretting hand that make a big difference.

It will transform your fretting hand technique.

The fretting guitar technique mistakes

The thumb is behind the guitar and so intuitively we tend not to treat it and focus on the fingers in the front.
The point is that in many cases the thumb is “the director” and the fingers are only the “actors”

There are two bad guitar techniques habits considering the thumb:

The thumb position is too high 

In this case, the thumb you place it high and “hung” with its joint on the guitar neck.
This limits the reach of the fingers on the fingerboard, especially when you want to get to the basses strings.
(For electric guitarists, some argue that this is desirable if the neck is stabilized when playing bending).


The thumb position is too low

This habit makes the hand less stable and too high above the fretboard.
In such a situation you feel that your grip is loose, the hand is less balanced and that you
need to use more force in order to get control over the fingering.

Bending the knuckle of the thumb

This is our natural and unconscious y tendency to compensate for a loose pressure of the fingers on the strings.
It’s a beginner’s habit of “to make a fist” over the neck that gives the sensation of control.

How to avoid to fretting guitar technique mistakes of the thumb?

  • The thumb behind the neck serves only as touching point and not a pressing point.
  • Be aware of thumb as much as you are aware of your front fingers and that it must have the freedom
    to move smoothly.

Pressing with the fingerprints instead of fingertips

This is mostly a bad habit of beginners guitarists though you can notice even more advanced guitarists do it, especially with the little finger which is the weakest of all the fingers.

The flat position of the fingers disable the pressure needed to press the string, tends to mute the string below and forces the entire hand to hold a loosed and unstable grip.

Pressing the strings with your fingertips put more weight on the string and thus less your effort.
It becomes a bigger problem when you play a more advanced technique.

Collapsed knuckles

Keep the knuckles well curved when pressing the strings. Like the previous mistake, it affects the hand position and makes it less stable.

When paying attention to this, you make every finger to move independently and thereby gain more control over challenging positions otherwise one collapsed knuckle can “knock down” the entire position.

Applying to much force on the strings

A rigid hand position can cause pain and inflammation over time.
Instead of using force when grabbing the neck and pressing down the strings,
the hand should gravitate into the fingerboard.

Think about this way:
You can move an object by using force or causing the same movement by leaning on the object without applying any physical effort.  In the second option, you reach the same result with minimal effort.

Tense picking hand

There is synergy between the right hand and the left hand.
Just as we want to achieve fingers independence, we also want to control a situation in which both hands work together and separately without interfering each other.

At the point where you still implant the delicate fine motor of the right hand, with a fingerprinting or fingerpicking,
you may be hardening at that time, without fretting, the fretting hand.

Be aware of this.

I would suggest you concentrate on one pattern in picking hand and simultaneously pressing one finger with the other hand.

When you feel that you can play with dynamics changes without affecting the other hand,  scale up by adding a second successive finger with one more note back and forth while playing the same pattern.
Then add the other fingers gradually and so on.

The collaboration of the body organs

Naturally, we have more control over the big organ than on the smaller one.
Use the palm of your hand and sometimes your entire arm with your fingers.

For example:
when you hammer on with the pinky, use the twisting of the palm to produce a torque movement and to reduce the effort of the pinky finger.

Another example:
When playing on the high frets lean forward towards the 12th fret with your body and arm
to allow your fingers to reach the higher positions more easily.

The direction of the pull-offs 

Pay attention that when you play pull-offs your finger hooks the string and bring it immediately upwards and don’t let it continue downward movement.

You can find this mistake with beginners and advanced guitar students.
When you execute this action in the right way, you don’t hit any adjacent string.

This gets even stronger when you pull off while you hold a chord and this “little secret” corresponds with the principle of the independence of the fingers I mentioned earlier.

Place the fingertip close to the frets 

If you place your finger as close as possible to the fret, you can apply less weight when pressing
and it reduced buzzing sound from the string vibration.

The placement of the pinky

As we already know the weakest finger is the pinky and the second is the ring finger.
A common misconception by guitarists is to avoid using it.

It’s a mistake since the time that you’ll need to make a challenging position or scale with it is inevitable.
Another phenomenon is the folding of these two fingers inward, and sometimes even under the neck
(in the case of novice students).

Make yourself a habit and draw an imaginary straight line between your 1st finger to the pinky, parallel to strings with the fingertip of the pinky coming down perpendicular to string.

Always have your free pinky position ready above the string at the same height.
Another benefit is that you save time and effort as your finger is near where it is going to press.

Free your wrist!

When your wrist is getting stiff and ar you bend your wrist inwards while pulling your hand backward it will make it much harder to play position around, making a big stretch, and swing your wrist with different chords shapes.

Release your wrist by leaning with the weight of the hand towards the fingerboard, as I have already mentioned, and avoid stiffen your hand.


As you may have noticed, all fretting guitar technique mistakes require intelligent and not just mechanical guitar playing.
As they say “God is in the details”.

Play with musical and body’s movements awareness according to the principles I have presented here.
It’s a process, but it’s the true art fretting hand guitar technique.

If you apply all 11 points, they will become your second nature and you will transform your guitar playing.