This is a visual reference guide for my students studying classical guitar. This set is focused on basic left hand technique for classical guitar. Just remember that this is a reference for guitar and not necessarily how you will position your arm. Everyone’s body is different so you’ll have to experiment to see what works for you. However, as a basic reference these photos should guide you in the right direction. Sofia is one of my students. She posed but also helped with the photography and concepts. Find more articles at the Lesson Archive Page. For free lessons, sheet music, and pro videos join the Email Newsletter. Help support the site & free lessons by Sharing, Caring, and Subscribing.
Left Hand Position for Classical Guitar
This is the main video for beginners and review for any level. This comes via my Youtube Channel.
The five main tips for beginners I mention in the video are:
- Left wrist is straight, not over-extended
- Left palm and knuckles are parallel with the strings
- Left hand thumb is vertical and behind 2nd finger
- Left hand fingers are curved and on fingertips
- Left hand fingers play very close to the fret
Left Hand Technique and Exercises
Scottish guitarist Matthew McAllister gives a great lesson in left hand technique for classical guitar. Matthew has fantastic technique but most importantly a very musical technique. He’s also a great teacher so enjoy this lesson. This comes via the wonderful Siccas Guitars and their fantastic YouTube channel. This is a great lesson with equally good camera/video work. The book he mentions is Scott Tennant’s Pumping Nylon on Amazon which is excellent.
Basic Left Arm Position for Classical Guitar
There will a bit of overlap between this article and the upcoming article on the left hand. This post focuses more on the arm position but you’ll see a few general tips for the hand as well.
Tips for the Left Arm:
- Maintain good posture and sitting position by following the X- Y axis with the shoulders and the spine. See the article on Sitting and Posture for Classical Guitar in case you missed it.
- Your left wrist is should be generally flat, or in a slight and natural arch.
- The left hand is straight, in-line with the forearm. Line L shows this straight line. Do not angle the wrist or bend it in a concave or convex angle.
- The left hand knuckles are parallel with the strings (more on that later when I post the article on the left hand).
More tips for the left hand:
- As I said before, I’ll post more in the article on the left hand, this is really more focused on the arm position
- Your left thumb should be vertical and not bent at the tip joint
- Your left thumb should be behind the 2nd finger
Tips for the Left Hand Fingers:
You must play on your fingertips and curve the finger at every joint. On occasion this might not work out to be picture perfect but for basic melodic playing, scales for example, this is a good general rule.
A = Curvature at the tips joint
B = Curvature at the middle joint
C = Curvature at the knuckle
Here’s one of my students, Sofia, her wrist is just a bit more bent and there is a little less curvature at the knuckle but otherwise very similar. Everyone sits differently so there will always be slight variations. Also, there might be slight differences based on where you are playing on the guitar and the specific shape or string you are on.
The next two photos combine the photo angle of the left arm position position with the left hand position. I’m extending the guitar slightly out from my body for the benefit of the camera.
On the next one you can see the wrist in-line with the forearm (try to reduce any bending the wrist). You can also see the bend at each joint and knuckle. The left hand thumb is not bent and remains vertical and straight (but relaxed).
The next series of photos shows each finger playing in a four finger position. The first photo is all fingers down. For the following photos the camera angle is from the player’s perspective, so if you hold your guitar you should see something similar to this.
Left Hand Finger 1:
The first finger comes in at an angle. This creates an angle of about 100 degrees to the fingerboard. Or if you think of the angle of the finger but toward the headstock then it creates a 45 degree angle similar to the 4th finger.
Left Hand Finger 2:
The 2nd finger comes straight in creating a 90 degree angle.
Left Hand Finger 3:
The 3rd finger, similar to the 2nd, comes in straight on creating a 90 degree angle.
Left Hand Finger 4:
The 4th finger comes in at about a 45 degree angle. This is correct because your fingers naturally point inward to the palm.
I have a dedicated beginner lesson page as well.
Check out my educational book series
- Classical Guitar Method – Vol. 1, with Video Lessons, 100 pages, Free PDF
- Classical Guitar Method Vol. 2, with Video Lessons, 89 pages.
- Classical Guitar Technique: Essential Exercises, Scales, & Arpeggios
- 20 Favorite Exercises, includes notation and TAB, Video lessons