Newbie having 2 questions regarding left thumb

Hi all,
I've got some questions regarding the most appropriate position for left thumb because I would like to prevent bad habit or thumb injuries.
Please let me explain in the attached pdf document.
Page 1 is when playing Am6 chord at 5th fret. Among (A), (B), and (C), is one of them correct, or are they all wrong?
Page 2 is when playing C6 chord at 8th fret. Among (1), (2), and (3), is one of them correct, or are they all wrong?
Thanks for your time...


  • Elí SaúlElí Saúl Toluca, Mexico.New Dell'Arte DG-H2
    Posts: 104
    I don't think there's really a 'correct' way of playing other than what is right for yourself.
    We all have different anatomy and the position of our fingers will always vary, the ideal way must be what you are comfortable with. It will also depend the way you play and digit chords, I use my thumb a lot to play the bass note of most chords or to mute the 6th string.
    This makes my position look more less like your B example. I think most of your examples look as if you were applying excessive tension though.
    I usually suggest my peers to just hold the neck as if your hand was just hanging in the air, just bending the arm towards the neck will become extremely comfortable!
  • edited March 2017 Posts: 4,804
    I just wanted to say that I am impressed with your attachment!
    I think you got your answers already, I'll try to add my pennies.
    It's good to be analytical but don't overthink it either.
    I think it's more important to keep the wrist stable. Your thumb will fall naturally into what's most comfortable.
    I think I might fall into either ex 1 or ex B. It also depends on the fingering of a chord, your thumb will move according to the needs of the fingering.

    One tip @adrian gave me years ago is to keep the thumb planted on the neck, whatever position you end up using, until you need to make a larger shift up or down the fretboard. Sure enough I noticed that in a lot of top players, especially with Angelo. There are always exceptions of course but it does seem to be more common than not.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • edited March 2017 Posts: 88
    Thank you @Elí Saúl @stuart @Buco . I had to (over)analyze this because I noticed that the thumb position I like is the one that hurts. In Am6, I like (B) but that overextension really hurts the thumb. In C6 I like (3) but it also hurts after a few minutes. (In addition, I think I am too tense most of the time)
    I think the problem is that, in order to make the chord sound clean, the fingers are pressing hard, and therefore I need my thumb to counter that force by pushing up. And the result is my thumb hurts.

  • Posts: 4,804
    Well that kind of makes sense. If you're not used to these types of chords then the thumb will (exactly what you noticed) have to compensate for the digits pressing on the strings. But the more you do it, the more everything will get more relaxed. The calluses get tougher, the fingers build strength and as the technique and efficiency get better it'll require much less force and the thumb can relax and only act as an anchor.
    I don't how much of a beginner are you on the instrument vs just being a GJ or jazz beginner, but I remember it took quite a while for me to get really, really comfortable with all those new shapes. Like a year, at least. And that's after having played guitar for years and years prior.

    Just gotta put in the time and follow the Rule of Thumb.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • @Buco These discussions actually helps a lot! Earlier you said you may fall into Example (1) when playing C6. For some reason I thought thumb sticking out like that was a no no in general. I tried it, and found it really comfortable. And then I saw the guys at Grilles Manouche did that very often. So, I think I am going to adapt that.

  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    Posts: 1,459
    I assume you're mainly asking about rhythm playing?

    C6 position (1) looks good to me. In all the others I think the thumb is too close forward (to the bridge direction), or squished up into weird shapes - relax it and move it back towards the 0th fret more.

    The thumb position as it looks in C6 (1) would also be good for the Am6 shape too. This chord is commonly used for the V7 of a tune in the key of G (of which there are many in this style), and the thumb should be positioned in a place where it can grab on the 3rd fret to put a G note on the bass string there. You should be able to change back and forth between a "Django" G6 like [35545x] and that Am6 (D7) almost instantaneously, with no big change in the hand position needed. This will matter a lot for tunes at faster tempos, for clean changes we need to have efficiency of motion!
  • @Wim Glenn yes you are correct. Rhythm playing. And you are right about everything else! Thanks so much. And I'd like to ask you one additional question. What about when playing Dm7 at 5th fret (x57565)? What should the thumb do? Right under the barring index finger? towards the 0th fret more?
  • As one who has suffered from 2 repetitive strain injuries over the years I still have to be careful with my left thumb but it is recovering slowly. Would be faster if I wasn't practicing an hour or so a day still. The thumb injury is not from playing but a similar motion involving more pressure than was good for me.

    A couple of suggestions.

    Warm up and stretch fingers and shoulders before picking up guitar.

    Build up slowly, moving slowly at first and making sure your hand is always relaxed with just enough pressure to fret the more than that.

    Avoid extreme hand positions that feel uncomfortable. AS you develop skill and strength you will be able to play more extreme positions but take your time developing this.

    If you start to feel fatigue or pain, stop playing, relax and stretch.

    Keep your shoulders back, don't round over. I developed acute subachromial bursitis in two weeks of intense (10-12 hr/day) playing with shoulders rounded forward.

    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    Posts: 1,459
    Yeah, under the index finger feels about right. But when playing rhythm in this style I don't grab that voicing very often (sometimes, in ballads, I suppose). It feels like the hand has to rotate out a bit and come away from the neck, more into a soloist style position.

    If I'm grabbing a D- chord in Django music it's usually the Dm6 at [x2323x]
  • edited March 2017 Posts: 3,707
    IMO the Dm7 form that works well before a g7 an A13b9 (Db7#9) is x5356x

    Dm6 is IMO quite a different sound. Works well so long as the melody note isn't in the same octave and is within a second of the B, at which point it comes with the "Handle with Care" label.

    I use the barre form of that chord for other purposes. Listen to the voice leading and use the one that says what you want it to
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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