Age Old Question - How Straight Should Your Fretting Wrist Be?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by tele-rain, Feb 14, 2020 at 8:48 AM.

  1. tele-rain

    tele-rain Friend of Leo's

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    I'm sure this topic has been discussed on various threads here, but I'm making it it's own thread. I've been learning for a while now on and off, as many of you know. My main gripe remains that I don't seem to progress past the level I'm at. And by that I mean, when I play the things I know, I STILL don't get it right. And by THAT I mean, sometimes the fretting hand falls on the right strings, other times, they miss them or just don't hit it enough for the note to ring out. I know it's normal to make mistakes, but I feel like my mistakes are more often than not. So, I'm trying to pay more attention to technique to correct those wrongs. Lately I've been noticing my fretting hand. Firstly, as mentioned in other threads of mine, I do experience some numbness on the first three fingers, which is the classic carpal tunnel symptoms. I am in the process of finding an orthopedic doctor to visit to determine what the exact cause is, because I'm tired of trying to work through it. Yes, I do stretches, but maybe not as consistently as I should Or maybe it's something else like a pinched nerve, so that's what I need to determine. Putting that aside however, I'm also wondering if my hand technique isn't part of the problem. I know it's not overall because the numb thing happens while doing other things besides guitar, so again, the doctor will come in handy for that.

    But as for guitar, how should the wrist be bent? I know this can be a topic of much debate, but just wondering what everyone's thoughts are. I am noticing lately my fretting hand is not straight, but slightly curved outward. I know this because I've been experiencing dry, almost callous like feeling on the outer edge of my left (fretting) index finger. And I notice this mostly when I do a barre chord, I can see the finger is slightly curved outward, so the outer edge of my index finger is holding the strings, not the flat part of the finger. I'm wondering if this maybe is part of the problem. Maybe it's a bad habit and now my wrist is used to that position, but I should try and straighten it out more. I also just noticed that when doing it my way, my arm is closer to my body, making the hand curve a bit. Extending my elbow away from the body makes the wrist more straight.

    I know there are many right and wrong ways to play, but I'm mostly concerned with not injuring myself. So if my technique is poor, I want to correct that now before it gets any worse.
     
  2. ronzhd

    ronzhd Tele-Holic

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    My .02 is that your not supposed to bend it "much", Im sure there are people out there that follow this practice. For myself, I have never restrained my self from doing whatever it took to make a "chord figure" work, and some I just don't even worry about because there are so many chord inversions are available. I have never had any wrist issues, but I haven't gigged 250 nights a year, for 40 years either. Its not uncommon for your wrist to hurt while your learning a new chord position, once you develop muscle memory, it goes away. If your wrist is really problematic, I would start at the Doctors office and reverse engineer the problem.
     
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  3. Guitardvark

    Guitardvark Tele-Holic

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    the confidence in what you are doing has a lot to do with the comfort of it



    this girl can out shred 99.9% of all the men here :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020 at 9:17 AM
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  4. JGervs1102

    JGervs1102 TDPRI Member

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    A visit to the doc would be good, don’t stress too much about how much or how little your wrist is bent. Certain teachers will try and tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way (no thumb over the fretboard, thumb should be in the middle of the neck, which creates more strain on the wrist for me) my thumb is almost always over the fretboard and I often use my thumb for notes on the low e string. My wrist does hurt occasionally if playing for a while and playing a lot of barre chords, so then I switch to the thumb on the e string to play then to rest my wrist. Also don’t worry about not always getting things right, I’ve been playing 15 years and one thing I’ve noticed, if I’m not feeling it, I don’t sound good. That’s usually when I call it a day. Not every time you play you’re gonna be spot on. It happens don’t stress it. But go get your wrist checked. Maybe lengthen/shorten the strap on your guitar to help with positioning.
     
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  5. rough eye

    rough eye TDPRI Member

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    Guitardvark got it right with that video of that cutie. Headstock up high, more bend on the elbow means less on the wrist. Take a look at how much bend she's got at the elbow. I'd recommend holding an air guitar, put your hand in a really comfortable position, and then pick up the guitar and get it to sit where your air guitar would.
     
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  6. tele-rain

    tele-rain Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks all! I actually do play more in the classical position, and mostly when seated. I don't know that I hold the neck up that high, but I can pay more attention to it. I started doing that with my Tele because it was way more comfortable, and easier to reach the neck because my arms are kinda short, at least they seem so to me. But even with my little classical acoustic, I find that more comfortable and easier to practice.

    At this point, a doctor visit is obviously necessary. I can go on and on trying to stretch and research wrist positions, but the bottom line is I have to find out where the issue is. From what I know, it can be an issue in the neck that's causing something way down in the fingers. I know I do have some disc degeneration in my neck, had an MRI way back in 2006. So I'm sure it's time for a new one. But as I said, in the meantime, I want to pay close attention to posture and such with guitar. I should notice it in all things, I definitely slouch, hunch over, etc. a lot, as we all do. And it's probably wreaking havoc on the ole bones.
     
  7. Count

    Count Friend of Leo's

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    The striaghter the wrist can be held the more comfortable it will be, and be strained less. The classical position with the fretboard high was developed over a long time period and is still the best. If seated it's any easy psoition to hold the guitar in whatever type of guitar, and when standing just adjust the strap to hold the guitar at the best height and angle so that your fretting hand is comfortable. I tried the "low slung" position for playing and gave it away pretty quickly because it played havoc with my wrist.
     
  8. ASATKat

    ASATKat Friend of Leo's

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    As straight as possible, also bringing the fretboard closer to your face greatly reduces the need to bend the wrist.

    John Stowell is a great example of bringing the fretboard closer to the face,
    https://images.app.goo.gl/LHtPCgHpQXL1vgQ47
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020 at 12:05 AM
  9. Guitardvark

    Guitardvark Tele-Holic

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    when you get better at what you want to do and your wrist stops giving you problems then you can practice on looking cool :)

     
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  10. sardinista

    sardinista Tele-Meister

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    It depends on what I’m doing. If I have my thumb planted on the middle of the (back of the) neck, my wrist is fairly straight. If my thumb is closer to the top of the fretboard, or wrapped over top, then my wrist is bent a bit.
     
  11. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    The wrist should be in as neutral a position as possible. It's probably why the thumb over position can be so comfortable for folks.

    As a guy who's been struggling with Carpal Tunnel for a few years ('luckily' mostly in my right hand), I can tell you that in my sleep, my hands curl inward. This puts the most tension on my the tendons and nerves involved in carpal tunnel. Sleeping with a brace on has been the best treatment and given the most relief. Those braces push the hand back slightly, slightly off neutral, but toward stretching the palm. As opposed to shortening the tendons, relieving the pressure on the 'tunnel'.
     
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  12. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    My fretting wrist/hand is all over the place depending what I'm playing: chords, melodies, etc. I have no issues with my fretting hand (right hand and arm yes, but that's another story not related to guitar).
    I did learn "correctly" as a kid and studied classical guitar in college. I do think that all that helped with me not having hand issues later.
    Take a look. My wrist varies it's positioning from curved to bent to straight. Nothing too drastic though ...
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020 at 12:23 PM
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  13. Greggorios

    Greggorios Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    +1, here's some additional shots of Sharon Ibsen, a top classical-flamenco player, from different angles:[​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. thunderbyrd

    thunderbyrd Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    using a strap while playing seated can be helpful.
     
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  15. telestratosonic

    telestratosonic Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Thanks for the laugh!
     
  16. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    You're welcome!
    I'm assuming that's a compliment.
     
  17. telestratosonic

    telestratosonic Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Yes, it is. I was surprised that no one else had picked up on it and 'liked' it seeing how it was posted in the morning.
     
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  18. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

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    You can try moving your elbow to get your wrist in a better position in addition to the other things.
    I also think using a strap even seated helps to get the guitar in a repeatable place, and helps with your arm position muscle memory maybe. I adjust mine so it is pretty much the seated position/lap height even if I stand.
     
  19. H. Mac

    H. Mac Friend of Leo's

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    Take tips from the pros and from those who play well, but in the end, the player is solely responsible for finding what works for him.
     
  20. Sparky2

    Sparky2 Friend of Leo's

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    I must offer this, and it's fundamental to everything you are doing with your fingers, hands, and wrists;

    Completely free your arms and elbows.

    Don't think in terms of 'how straight should my fretting wrist be', think rather in terms of, 'how free to maneuver do I leave my entire arm, wrist, hand, and tendons'.

    You have stated that you usually play seated.

    If you are playing whilst sitting slumped back on your bed, or buried in the couch cushions, for instance, your arms and elbows are not free to move about as they should be able to.

    Play either standing with the guitar strapped on (that's how I prefer to play, always), or seated upright on an arm-less stool.

    That way you can maneuver your entire body freely in whatever manner which allows you to comfortable phrase chords and riffs without undue strain on the tendons of your wrists, hands, and fingers.

    If this advice doesn't apply to you, please ignore it, and move on to the next step.
    :)
     
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