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Playing Guitar – Basic Techniques

Updated on August 6, 2014


Before picking up a guitar to play you should first make sure that your hands are warmed up. It’s not advised to play in a cold room. Rubbing your hands together and doing some finger stretches can help to warm them up.

You can also help to make your fingers more flexible by doing some exercises when away from the guitar. Holding the index finger and ring finger against the palm of your hand with your thumb, and then switch to the middle finger and pinkie finger. Alternating between each position is a great exercise for dexterity and can be done while walking down the street all watching television.

It’s good to warm up your wrist as well. Holding your arm out and pulling your hand back gently towards your body will help loosen it up.

Fretting notes

The position of your finger on the strings and near each fret can affect the sound produced. To produce the best sounding note the fingertips are positioned just behind the fret of the required note, without touching the fret itself or the note will be muted. Your finger should avoid touching a string above or below. If the note is fretted too far from the fret it will sound weak. Remember to keep your fingers curved when fretting a note.

The Pick

The pick is held between your thumb and the side of your index fingertip, near the last knuckle. The index finger can be supported in place by the middle finger. Depending on what type of technique you’re performing, (strumming, playing single notes) the amount of pick sticking out will vary.

If you are strumming chords you would hold about a third of the pick out in order for flexibility and to avoid hitting the strings with your fingers.

If you’re picking single notes you would only hold a little bit out. If you’re playing fast, with alternative picking you hold out as little as possible without your fingers touching the strings – this makes way for economy of movement.

Finger Exercise

This is the most common finger exercise for warming up and developing dexterity. It can be applied to any starting point (fret) on the guitar.

Play 1 2 3 4 across the string then continue to the next string. Keep the first finger on the string when you add the second finger. Keep both when you add the third and all three when you add the forth.

1 – Indicates the index finger.

2 – Indicates the middle finger.

3 – Indicates the ring finger.

4 – Indicates the pinky finger.

Finger exercise demonstration


When strumming chords, remember to keep your wrist loose. It is natural to want to strum from your elbow, and while you will move your arm, the technique actually comes from the wrist. It can be awkward to maintain a firm grip on the pick while keeping your wrist loose. This develops with practice.

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    • Dave Smiles profile image

      Dave Smiles 3 years ago from Melbourne

      Glad this article helped rescue the guitar from the basement. :-) I'll be posting more lessons in the coming days, hope they're equally helpful.

      Thanks for reading.

    • momsdoworkathome profile image

      Katina Davenport 3 years ago from Michigan

      I will save this one for my husband. He has a talent for playing just about any instrument. We have a guitar sitting in the basement all alone. So, it is time to take it out and learn the basics.