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How to improve your fret hand strength for free

Squier Contemporary Stratocaster HH back

Guitar players who never learn this one ridiculously simple thing spend a lifetime struggling with a a weak fret hand.

And what is that one thing?

Proper fret hand thumb placement on the back of the neck.

It is unfortunately true that when first learning the guitar, most are never told that where you place you thumb is very important, because if placed incorrectly, chords and even single notes can become very difficult to hold down to the fingerboard.

Your fret hand thumb is the anchor that gives support to your other four fingers. When positioned incorrectly, certain chords are almost impossible to hold down, string buzz happens, and things sound terrible.

Where you place your thumb depends on what you're playing.

For barre chords when using all four fingers on the fingerboard, a common mistake is having the thumb inward and held above the center of the neck. A better way to anchor the thumb is to have it spread outward and held at center or slightly below center of the neck.

For solo notes, it's usually true the best thumb position is over the neck...

...such as the way Eric Clapton solos (watch for it at the 40-second mark):

Having the thumb over the neck when playing the plain strings for soloing makes for a much better anchor for both vibratos and bends.

It's probably true your fret hand was always strong enough

If you've been playing for more than a year, you most likely have good fret hand strength, your guitar is probably set up properly by that point, and you've also probably figured out what string thickness is most comfortable.

When all that stuff is in check but holding barre chords and bending notes is still difficult, you don't need a guitar with a shorter scale, you don't need to tune down a half-step or full step and don't need to decrease string size.

You just need to make sure your thumb is positioned properly.

Watch videos from famous guitarists and pay attention to the way they place the thumb on the neck. Almost all of them position it the same way. Middle-of-neck for chords, above-neck for soloing.

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