Left Hand Technique (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Brennan

Left Hand Technique

Mark explains proper left hand technique from the ground up.

Taught by Mark Brennan in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 10:36Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:54) Lesson Intro Intro Music

Mark opens lesson 4 by performing his own unique arrangement of the "Stairway to Heaven" introduction.

Review of Concepts

As you advance as a player, take time to periodically review the concepts presented in the previous lesson. Some of the key ideas from this lesson are listed below.

-Always keep the right hand as relaxed as possible. Do not squeeze the pick too tightly! This will result in unnecessary fatigue and a decrease in accuracy. Grip the pick with just enough force so that it doesn't fall out of your hand.

-Rhythm is the most important component of music. Regular practice with a metronome is the best way to improve your rhythmic skills.

-Right hand accuracy is of paramount importance when playing chord progressions and melody lines.

Current Lesson Goals

With this lesson, Mark shifts gears from right hand technique to discuss left hand technique. He explains the mechanics that will enable you to play your favorite music with the greatest ease. He also explains some common bad habits that you must avoid.
Chapter 2: (06:35) The Left Hand Left Hand Guidelines

1. Keep the left hand in a natural, relaxed position at all times. Do not squeeze the neck!

2. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the neck. Do not curl the thumb or bring it up over the top of the neck. Also, Do not turn the thumb so that it runs parallel to the back of the neck. This greatly limits the range of motion of each finger. Mark demonstrates this faulty technique at 04:35.

Note: There are some exceptions to this rule that will be discussed later in the series.

3. Keep all left hand joints slightly bent. Do not flatten any of the knuckles.

4. Keep the left hand fingernails as short as possible.

5. Fret the strings with the very tips of the fingers. Arching the wrist outwards will help accomplish this goal. Utilizing this technique will prevent you from bumping any of the adjacent strings. Making contact with adjacent strings will prevent them from ringing clearly.

6. Keep the wrist slightly bent.

7. Keep the palm parallel to the bottom of the neck. Do not tilt the wrist from side to side. This will limit the range of motion for each of the fingers. Mark demonstrates some palm do's and don'ts at 03:00 in the lesson video.
Chapter 3: (00:57) Lesson Wrap-up Final Thoughts

As you continue your development as a guitarist, keep a careful watch on your left hand technique. Make sure that you always adhere to the guidelines that Mark outlined in the previous scene. Periodically review this lesson to ensure that you have not developed any bad habits.

Preview of Next Lesson

Mark applies the left hand techniques discussed in this lesson to some single note exercises in the following lesson. You will learn the locations of all the natural notes in first position. Mark will provide some tips that will help you produce a clean, buzz-free tone with each of these notes.

Video Subtitles / Captions

  • C

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

iduncanwiduncanw replied on July 12th, 2018

One thing not mentioned was ensuring you keep the nails on your left hand really short. I find that if my nails are even a few mm long, it's almost impossible to play clean chords as it makes it difficult to get on the tips of your fingers.

polyapolya replied on April 17th, 2018

Mark, can you please post tabs for your rendition of Stairway to Heaven? It's beautiful!

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied on April 19th, 2018

Hi polya! Unfortunately JamPlay does not have the licensing to provide tabs or content for any rendition of Stairway to Heaven. I'd recommend attempting to contact Mark via whichever medium that you originally viewed Mark's performance and hopefully he can provide you with some insight as to where you can get those tabs :) So sorry that we couldn't be of more help! Happy Jamming!!

vcarp67vcarp67 replied on April 4th, 2016

Hi Mark, I'm sort of an lapsed beginner-intermediate classical guitar player and have started to take up electric guitar. I noticed the classical finger picking in the intro. It looks like all the technique for the left hand is similar to the classical style, but I am struggling a bit with the narrow neck on my strat. I have large hands. Any suggestions?

40sumthin40sumthin replied on April 11th, 2014

Hi Mark, as I viewed the video I noted that although you emphasize keeping the thumb as straight as possible thus no little bend at the knuckle, you get quite a bit of 'bend' at the next joint down (i.e. the one where thumb meets palm). I know we are all different and I myself have very little flexibility there due to a previous injury and thus find I have to bend at the knuckle to help create adequate pressure. It works for me and I did note that in earlier posts you stated that you had become more flexible on this. What I'd like to ask here is how much do you stress the thumb position/angle... in creating pressure (i.e. between thumb and fingers) versus pulling back on the neck with the fretting hand to create the pressure on the strings.

destwddestwd replied on January 31st, 2014

Hello Mark. I only joined a couple of days ago and have enjoyed the lessons so far. I have been playing for many years at an intermediate level and have developed the (bad?) habit of playing open chords with my thumb over the top. It's very comfortable to play like this and I often use my thumb to fret the 6th string when playing Open D, and sometimes when playing bar chord shapes further up the neck. After watching this lesson I have tried playing with my thumb in the recommended position and it feels quite awkward after so many years of "doing it wrong". I have joined JamPlay to improve my technique and in particular to learn to play lead guitar. Is this a habit worth spending time to undoing, will it impair my technique later on, or is it something I can just live with? Thanks Damian.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 7th, 2014

Hey Damian.....my thinking about the left hand thumb position has become a bit moe flexible while working with private students. Everyone has a different and unique hand size and finger length. If you are fretting chords cleanly..getting up on the tips of your fingers, and not bumping any adjacent strings, then I wouldn't change what you're doing. If your getting "clunker" notes, you may want to slide your thumb a bit more onto to back of the neck, and get onto the tips of your fingers.

reoringoreoringo replied on November 4th, 2013

Question. My pinky tends to want to callous on its outer edge, not centered, but is on tip of it. Is this normal or is there something I can work on to improve that?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on November 9th, 2013

I don't see this being a problem for you, as long as your fretting the pinky cleanly, especially with chords...you don't want to bump adjacent strings...if it works for you, fine

steve mcgarrattsteve mcgarratt replied on November 3rd, 2013

Helping me correct all the bad habits I got into by trying to teach myself.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on November 9th, 2013

Focused practice. Set goals for each practice session...play every day if you can....stay positive.....get a good teacher, or a friend that plays for help.

reoringoreoringo replied on November 4th, 2013

I am also working on a few bad habits. Hopefully they haven't become too ingrained. lol

hellraiserfrhellraiserfr replied on May 9th, 2013

Great lesson, I took lessons from a guy for a couple of years that never taught me this. I developed the habit of playing with my palm almost perpendicular to the neck. Needless to say my left hand would always cramp up after playing just a few minutes. I had given up on playing because I felt I just wasn't cut out for it, as I could never progress to that next level. This lesson really helped.

jroyall4jroyall4 replied on January 13th, 2013

Enjoying the lessons Mark, I feel a lot more confident in my right hand and where the strings are without looking after last lesson :p

psunpsun replied on October 7th, 2012

Hi Mark, great I think this website and course is designed very well. However, no ones seems to explain how to place the pointer finger correctly. When i try to curl the tip of my pointer finger on the first fret, it does not lay perpendicular, it lays almost sideways, the side of my pointer finger is laying on the string, NOT the tip of my pointer finger. This is because the whole hand and arm are stretched all the way down the neck, so my finger is going to be angled. How do we solve that (besides just saying it takes practice) What is the postitioning of the rest of the fingers/hand/arm to enable your pointer finger to NOT lay sideways on the first fret? Please help clearly explain. Your video just shows your pointer finger perfectly curled, but does not explain how this happens?

asia strummerasia strummer replied on February 28th, 2013

I have the same issue, but noticing how Mark (and others) play I'm not gonna worry about it too much. Looking at my left hand (palm up) if I split the finger tip roughly into vertical quarter sections numbered 1-4 left to right, when I play the first 6 -8 frets I find my index finger is always on the string on the first, or at best, second 'quarter'. It's always rolled over some. The 2nd-4th fingers are OK (ish) (aside from me not being able to get much spread using muscle control between the 2nd and ring fingers - something I hope practice and exercise will improve) but the index finger can only fret on the centre of the tip from about the 8th fret up. Figure there's nothing I can do about it, especially if trying to hold the hand natural and relaxed as Mark suggests. The only way I reckon I can get the index finger to fret 'centre tip' near the headstock would be if all my fingers were the same length and my upper arm was 3" longer allowing me to get the forearm more at 90 degrees.

bobclarkbobclark replied on October 19th, 2012

I have been playing for about 6 months and had the same concern. I have noticed that my index finger is straighter now. I have made an effort also to stretch my hand very wide down the neck to improve my reach. My left hand now actually stretches a full inch more than my right when I open them wide and put them on top of each other. Keep stretching your hand and it will work out.

paulwilson1992paulwilson1992 replied on October 8th, 2012

Hi Mr Mark I really enjoy this lesson especially your variation of Stairway to Heaven is there anyway I could get the Tabs for that or is it like a trade secret

vhrulz5150vhrulz5150 replied on August 3rd, 2012

Hi Mark, New here. I like the lesson plan so far. Need to do some more work on it though. I'm a truck driver and I work really strange all over the place hours. I'll make the time though. Thx, John

kumararkumarar replied on July 6th, 2012

What was the song you played at the start?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on July 7th, 2012

Stairway To Heaven, of course....then Is There Anybody Out There from Pink Floyd"s The Wall........

reoringoreoringo replied on November 4th, 2013

Stairway To Heaven, My class song when it was a new song. :) One of my favorites.

dshowdshow replied on April 25th, 2012

Hi Mark, great advice on the thumb here - I will work on it to adjust my left hand technique a little since I sometimes get tensed up - I was always unsure if I'm doing it right.

crick riddlecrick riddle replied on January 18th, 2012

Is anyone else experiencing a problem using the metronome to the left of the video? When i scroll down the page the metronome slows down.

rayrainierirayrainieri replied on July 9th, 2013


cannimalcannimal replied on January 19th, 2012

Yes, that happens for me too.

bladerunner1bladerunner1 replied on September 11th, 2011

Hi Mark Great lessons ,I am a late in life learner with very small hands is there any advantage to buying a flat necked guitar or should I stick to the fender copy.

vulture711vulture711 replied on September 10th, 2011

Enjoying the lessons Mark. What is the make on that "strat" you 're playing. The pickups are clear as a bell.

a32522a32522 replied on September 2nd, 2011

While working with the left hand technique, my hand tend to cramp up. Is this normal for the beginner, or am I doing something wrong?

happybirthdayhappybirthday replied on August 9th, 2011

This is a very good lesson for me as a beginner ( a late in life beginner), however your left is my right but still easy to translate the posture. I have smaller hands but able to reach an octave on the keys I will watch this lesson for a while, really want to get this down, starting with an Ibanez G10 lefty and I think the neck is a little rounded but I will stick with this one for now. thanks Mark, your patience shows.

SteveP1961SteveP1961 replied on June 20th, 2011

Great lesson, however......I find myself cutting off strings....c chord I tend to lay my d string finger on the g string......I don't think I can get any farther on the tips....they are numbing and callused up from my acoustic practice........what should I do....I find myself rolling my wrist forward to stop, but after awhile that starts to hurt? any suggestions?

hastern1hastern1 replied on February 26th, 2011

Mark, great lesson on hand position. You pointed out all my mistakes, which I will now be more aware of. I have found when I play the D chord my thumb moves towards around the neck. This allows me to play the higher e string without too much vibration and interference from the other fingers. Is it ever ok to move the thumb from the position you described? Thanks, Harry

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 26th, 2011

Hey Harry....The thumb may move around with certain grips, Like it might when you are playing barre formation....but try to keep it, for the most part, straight up and down, and don't bend the knuckle.

drapeupdrapeup replied on January 20th, 2011

These lessons need to be the very first for anyone learning guitar

flhendersonflhenderson replied on January 7th, 2011

Hello everyone. New member here. Really enjoying the the program so far, i have a problem though. When im playing a scale and i move my finger off the string to go to the next string I get noise from the string as if im plucking it, kinda like a pull off. Is there something im doing wrong. I hope that makes sense. Thanks.

raul5raul5 replied on January 7th, 2011

Mark Thank you for this lesson at first I found it frustrating how my fingers would keep touching the bottom strings but as I practiced the hand position more it started to feel natural and not forced. Thanks again.

hintzschehintzsche replied on December 12th, 2010

Hi mark, i watcht your left hand technique lesson. but i cant hold any chords i mean i cant get my hand in the right position. i have an les paul electric guitar, maybe i've got the wrong guitar. Can you help me please my left hand is hurting when i try to hold chords ^^

gromlomgromlom replied on November 17th, 2010

You sure put the Rightous melody in stairway!

fugazi885fugazi885 replied on September 26th, 2010

Just finished lesson 21 and loving the series! I have a question though and it seemed more relevant here. I have double jointed thumbs and made the observation tonight while kicking up the tempo on some scale excercises that I have a tendency to curl my left thumb in that weird position. It feels comfortable for me but I'm just wondering if that's a bad habit or even a blessing? Keep the lessons coming!!!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on September 27th, 2010

I don't see this as being a problem, as long as your getting your fingers around on the strings cleanly, and not bumping adjacent strings. Try to relax your left hand as much as possible.

thezverthezver replied on September 2nd, 2010

when i put all four fingers on sixth string , first frets - all of my arm and elbow tends to "swirl" and become almost parallel to the guitar neck. when i try to get the arm to be more vertical to the neck ( and the wrist parallel to it.. ) , i feel pain all along the arm. by the way, it's not that i'm having some abnormal hands or lack of flexibility.. i'm almost sure i'm doing something wrong.. but can't determine what . can you advice please ?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on September 27th, 2010

I would try to keep your arm in a more relaxed, natural position at your side. Sounds like you're putting a lot of strain on your wrist. Keep your arm more vertical to the neck and bring your wrist under the neck more to facilitate the reach to the low 6th string.

vinnie13wvinnie13w replied on September 4th, 2010

Exellent rendition of Stairway.

timalewistimalewis replied on July 18th, 2010

I have to say Mark that I really appreciate the lessons, I feel like I have learned so much in just a few weeks. All -- good stuff as well, feel like I have learned quite a bit from others questions too. I did have one question about something I've been struggling with -- as I'm working on developing my left hand, I'm having a real hard time with moving my ring finder independently of my middle finger. When I try to stretch one one way, the other one seems to follow. Makes it hard to hold a note while I move to prep for the next. Other than just walking around and throwing up Mr. Spock to people all day, do you have any exercises to help stretch/develop the middle vs. the ring finger?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on July 19th, 2010

Hey Tim....let me suggest a great book...It's part of the Aaron Shearer classic Guitar Technique. It's the supplement Slur, Ornament, and Reach Developement Exercises. Though this book it meant for classical guitarists, there are great technique builders for the left hand that will apply to any style. I found that these exercises helped with finger independence and stretching, along with building strength. Hopefully, you can fing this book on line...Mark B.

joeziglerjoezigler replied on July 8th, 2010

Good lesson, very well explained and filmed. Great opening set too.

lilbikerlilbiker replied on May 4th, 2010

Hi Mark I am enjoying your lessons and I am learning/own both an electric and an acoustic and I have learned alot from you. My question is this, any suggestions if you do not have a left thumb. I manage for the most part but I definitely have some issues when I have to fret say the sixth and first string if the frets are more than 2 apart.

JanFeeJanFee replied on March 25th, 2010

Hey Mark, these are really nice recommendations. I've just noticed I have some of these bad habits so I'll try to correct them. Thanks !

overlord1111usoverlord1111us replied on February 5th, 2010

Hey mark, I have been having an issue with my 6th string still buzzing. I have tried to make sure i am on the tip of my finger and that i am not on the fret, but as close as I can get. It only buzzes on the 6th string. Keep in mind I do have a guitar with a floyd rose tremolo. I have had to replace a string quite some time ago, I am concerned maybe i didnt do it right. Could that be causing the buzz?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 5th, 2010

If you're fretting the string properly and it's still buzzing, then you have a problem with the action...The heigth of you 6th string is too low and it buzzing on a fret somewhere up the neck. You need to raise the heigth of that string. I think a Floyd Rose has individual bridge saddles to adjust each induvidual string. Try raising up you 6th string a bit and see if that takes care of the problem. You might want to have a good guitar tech look over your guitar (someone who's good with a Floyd Rose!), and maybe get a setup done....Mark B.

jdsal5jdsal5 replied on February 4th, 2010

Mark, you are an amazing teacher! Thank you! . . . I am having trouble with my left hand. I can put the tip of my index finger on the first fret, no problem, but as soon as I put my middle finger on the second fret my index finger rolls so that I am holding the string down with the "side" of the tip of my finger. No matter how much I try, I can't keep my index finger straight. I am 46 years old and have never touched a guitar in my life ... so this is new and very fun for me. Am I just stiff? Or is it OK that my index finger rolls? I am afraid I will block strings with my index finger in later lessons. Any suggestions?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 4th, 2010

Hey Debbie.....I don't think rolling your index to the side would be much of a problem...as long as you are not bumping adjacent strings. This will cause a problem when you start to learn chords. Just keep practicing and see how it goes. You might have to make an adjustment later....keep me posted. Mark B.

nolannutnolannut replied on January 12th, 2010

great lesson, I have a problem with my fingers being bigger than most . I see B B King and his big fingers so I know it can be done , any suggestions?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 13th, 2010

If you're having trouble getting clearance and bumping adjacent strings, try rolling your wrist under the neck a little more and get straight up on the tips of your fingers. Maybe you need a guitar that has a wider fretboard, try a Gibson or Epiphone. The key it to keep making adjustments with your fingertips so you get clearence and clean ringing tones on all strings. Good luck..Mark B.

renarena replied on January 9th, 2010

This lesson was so helpful - the 'straight thumb' was an epiphany! I wasn't sure where I had been going wrong, having small hands and struggling to reach to certain frets at times. Thanks for the great lesson.

cryptocrypto replied on January 2nd, 2010

Man stairway to heaven is the main reason for me wanting to start playing guitar :Q

highlatencyhighlatency replied on December 15th, 2009

Hey Mark simple question for you, how much time do you think we should give between each lesson before we move on to the next one? considering practice time and all that, or is it just until we are comfortable with what you taught us in the previous lesson?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on December 15th, 2009

Hey Tyler.....I'd would get comfortable with the lesson material, not necessarily mastered. Feel free to look ahead or jump around, too, even though these are set up to be progressive...good luck, Mark B.

muttmutt replied on December 5th, 2009

hi mark well, I can not get my left wrist to lay flat (it got broke when i was a kid) I tried stretching with a 40lb bar stock , not working . to top it off I have short carrot fingers from 20+ yrs as a steel worker. I seem to be able to get a somewhat of an angel on it if I hold it like a classical guitar. but then my right hand get's all goofy then , any advice ?

rktectrktect replied on September 14th, 2009

I have been playing on and mostly off for a while and either have a bad habit or something that I can't seem to do correctly. After this lesson I noticed that I have the problem with my thumb overhanging the top of the fret board. But without doing this my wrist just does not seem to be able to bend enough to keep it behind the neck as you have shown when playing certain chords like G and C. Should my wrist be bent at about a 90 degree angle when holding a G chord? I keep the guitar either level/parallel to the ground or raised slightly (angles upwards)

zootzooterzootzooter replied on September 2nd, 2009

hey mark, any advice on getting my pinky stronger? im always missing notes when i have to stretch my pinky finger.

pneumapilotpneumapilot replied on July 13th, 2009

Hey Mark, I'm loving your lessons. I've been playing guitar for quite a while, but I've never really gotten good, so I wanted to go back through these beginning kinds of things to see if there's something I've screwed up along the way, and this may be it. I use a combination of gripping the neck sort of in my palm when I play some chords (C, Bluegrass G, E, etc.) and then I switch to a thumb straight up on the back position when I play things that I have to squeeze, like barre chords, etc. Now, I know that this makes for a lot of movement of the left wrist, but when I try to switch to what I think you're saying (thumb needs to always be straight up on the back of the neck), it just kills that thumb muscle after only a short stint of playing. Am I doing something wrong, or am I maybe interpreting your instruction wrong, or is this thumb muscle pain just something I have to 'tough it' through? I wish I could show you what I'm talking about, but you may get it just from what I've said. Let me know if you need more detail.

pneumapilotpneumapilot replied on July 13th, 2009

I was just watching Mark Lincoln on the Live Chat and he holds the neck the same way I do while he is strumming chords for a song. It certainly feels much more comfortable/natural that way.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on July 14th, 2009

Hey Corey....great to hear from you. The thumb on the back of the neck to me is a basic for good hand position. But, for each individual guitarist, they will make adjustments with the left hand to make it work for them. Different hand sizes, hand strengths, etc will come into play with this. So what you're doing is fine if it works for you. The bottome line I guess is smooth transition from chord to chord and all chord tones are clean and resonant. This becomes a by product of economy of hand movement. But if what your doing feels comfortable and smooth.....your good! Godd luck and I'll talk to ya soon....Mark B.

pneumapilotpneumapilot replied on July 14th, 2009

Thanks for the response. I'll be watching your thumb very carefully in lessons 8 & 9 (the next ones for me) to see how you hold your left hand while chording.

rcwis02rcwis02 replied on June 9th, 2009

Mark; Wonderful lesson on left hand positioning--something often ignored , but critical for good technique! I can see your classical guitar training coming through. You might also want to mention that the neck is never pulled into position by the left hand. I sometimes catch myself doing that!

bassettguitarbassettguitar replied on April 28th, 2009

Mark, great lessons. I've noticed that it is much easier for me to play the frets on the lower E string if I have my right leg slightly elevated as opposed to keeping it on the floor along with my left leg. I use a small foot rest, or the rung of a chair to raise my knee which seems to help stabilize the guitar and makes it easier for me to curl my wrist perpendicular to the neck of the guitar. Is this practice OK to do, or am I creating a BAD HABIT?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 29th, 2009

Hey Wendell.....this is good what your doing. Having the neck a little higher by raising your leg with a foot stool or rung of a stool seems to make it a little more comfortable on the wrist. If the neck is too low, either sitting or standing, you need to bend your wrist more to get around on the low strings. When standing, I suggest to students not too sling your ax too low for this reason, although I have good friends that have their guitar down real low.....but ultimately, do what's comfortable to you. To me, it's all about good hand position.

lucretialucretia replied on April 8th, 2009

I'm having massive problems with my left hand. My thumb in flat on the back of the neck between the first and second fingers (like I've been told to do by my teacher). Problem is, my wrist hurts and when I try to use my little finger, on the 4th fret, my thumb either moves or turns around so that the side (rather than the pad) of the thumb is on the back of the neck. Do you have any advice? FWI, the guitar is a Tele copy..

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 9th, 2009

Hey Luke.....try this exercise: start with your index on the first fret of the first string and play the note. Try to relax your hand as much as possible without the note clunking out of buzzing. Check the thumb that it is relatively straight up and not bending the knuckle. The palm of your hand should be parallel to the bottom side of the neck. Now, while holding down the index, fret the second fret, same string, with the middle finger, keeping everything stable. Play the note and hold it. Listen for clean tone. Again, try to relax your hand, wrist, and forearm. Continue on with the ring finger on the third fret. Now you get to the pinky on the fourth fret. Keep holding the other fingers down. Your hand should stay in the same position as you add each finger. Next, play the notes in decending order lifting each finger as you go. You can repeat as many times as you like. Try this exercise on all six strings, bringing your wrist slighly under the neck with each lower string. Keep the hand position the same for each string, and again, relax. This is also a great stretching execise, too. Hope this helps you out....let me know. Mark B.

lucretialucretia replied on April 9th, 2009

Thnks for the reply, will try this tomorrow. Just for info, I posted this to the forum too http://www.jamplay.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4214

baileychamblee1996baileychamblee1996 replied on April 6th, 2009

hey i just wanted to say thx for all the lessons!! theryre really helpin me a lot. v

jdorsmanjdorsman replied on February 28th, 2009

Ah, this was helpful Mark! Now I know why I muted so many notes until now, I was resting the guitar in the palm of my hand too much. But this position should help, thanks!

cmp1969cmp1969 replied on February 24th, 2009

Any recommendations for finger exercises? Especialy when it comes to the pinky?

gearyrichardgearyrichard replied on January 24th, 2009

Mark, a couple questions ... hope you can give me some tips without seeing ... 1) when I'm trying to hold down the bottom strings (E, B), no matter what fret, I'm having difficulty without part of my hand touching the other strings ... any tips? 2) when playing Aura Lee I notice some "humming" in my amp. If I mute the strings my touch, the humming disappears ... any idea if it's something I'm doing with my left or right hand? I've tried different settings on the amp to no avail. Thanks.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 16th, 2009

Hey Geary....try rolling your wrist under the neck a little bit more to get straight up on the tips of you fingers. You should be able to "feel" the clearance of your fingers not touching adjacent strings. As far as the humming of your amp...it's probably your guitar. Try a different pickup selector position. This is a common problem with less expensive guitars with cheaper pickups and electronics. Try a ground lift on the power chord of your amp...hope this helps, Mark B.

bdhannabdhanna replied on January 26th, 2009

Mark, good rundown of the left hand! I have a few 1st position chords that I learned a bit incorrectly, but they work. Everything since has been with a pretty good left hand position, just about like you show. The details of what to watch for were really good. And keep on throwing in Floyd, I loved the Wall... over and over and over... Love to see you do a few Floyd song breakdowns in Phase III!

rickywailerrickywailer replied on January 18th, 2009

"Stairway, Denied" Wayne's World...anybody? One of the best imitations of the Guitar Center experience. Also they don't like when you play Metallica.

lucashollandlucasholland replied on November 22nd, 2008

REALLY GOOD advice! Just forcing myself to use the position you recommend (which really is natural, I guess I have some bad habits to correct now) I can more easily fret notes the low E string!

ideologicideologic replied on November 17th, 2008

Hi, great lessons as always, the only problem is that I can't view the fourth lesson, the video player skips directly to the first one again. I don't know where to report, so i did it here. Thanks for the classes and keep on the awsome job!

ravvenravven replied on November 13th, 2008

Hey, Mark. I've just finished your first seven lessons. I've been playing for a couple of years now (mostly home, first on classic and now on electric guitar) and I gotta admit, that there are many things for me to catch up with! It seems that learning by myself didn't paid of after all. It's especially hard with different explanations for me (scales stuff here)! English is my second language, you know! :P The biggest and most important thing for me right now is good grasp on left hand technique. I tend to grab the whole guitar instead of pressing the thumb. But I'm working on that already. Also when I play C chord my middle finger mutes the G string (even when I'm using correct thumbish grab). ;( Got any practice exercises for that?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on November 15th, 2008

Hi Tomasz....great to hear from you. In upcoming lessons, I'll be talking about chords, and particularly the C chord. I would suggest you start by playing the chord on the top three strings with just your index finger down, then place your middle finger on the 4th string, 2nd fret, and check your clearance on the open 3rd string. If you're still bumping the string, roll your wrist under the neck slightly, and get up on the tips of your fingers. You want to get all four strings ringing clearly. Then place the ring finger on the 5th string, 3rd fret, and hopefully the whole chord will ring cleanly. Good luck, talk to ya soon...stay tune for more lessons coming in the near future...Mark B.

mixaelmixael replied on October 29th, 2008

Mark, what kind (brand) of guitar is that? I keep looking at the logo, but the shine and the lights are conspiring against me :)

cdawsoncdawson replied on October 29th, 2008

To quote Mark from a previous lesson, "It's a 1994 Tom Anderson Classic...swamp ash body w/ translucent white finish, maple neck, rosewood fretboard."

hokypokymanhokypokyman replied on October 18th, 2008

I have to say Mark, you have given me a humongous boost in confidence. Before these lessons, I was reluctant to even touch my guitar because I didn't know how to do almost anything. These exercises and lessons have brought me to the next level, and I sincerely thank you.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on October 20th, 2008

Hey Jack..good to hear form you. I'm very glad you'ver been re-inspired. Keep practicing and jamming.....more good stuff to come. Talk to ya soon..Mark B.

millermoomillermoo replied on September 18th, 2008

mark rocks

Don.SDon.S replied on September 12th, 2008

Stairway to Heaven, Mark? What's next, Freebird? lol One problem I have is bumping those other strings, like you discussed. My fingers are pretty big around, I'm hoping that keeping focused on your instruction in this lesson helps with that, otherwise the Strat will stay in the closet. Thanks, Mark. Don

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on September 12th, 2008

Hey Don.....yea, I know...No Staiway! lol...just had to throw it in...still love playing it. Try getting up on the tips and try to find the right spot on your finger tip so not to bump the adjacent strings...it can be a bit frustrating but keep working with it. try working with simple three and four string chords and strive to get all chord tones ringing freely. Talk to ya soon...Mark B....More Staiway!!

Don.SDon.S replied on September 13th, 2008

Ha, ha, ha . . . I had to rib you just a bit about Stairway (truth be known I think it's a great song, that's got a bad rap because of the Guitar Center crowd). I'm working on concentrating on the technique you described about hand position. You know what they say about those old habits, though. CyA

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on September 9th, 2008

Had to sneak a little Floyd in....go figure

pbrad74pbrad74 replied on September 9th, 2008

Ha!! General rule of thumb, haha, I get it! On a serious note, what is that second song you were playing? God it's like in my head somewhere but I can't recall what song it's from. Great lesson Mark!

pbrad74pbrad74 replied on September 9th, 2008

I know it's floyd but can't place it. The Wall?

pbrad74pbrad74 replied on September 9th, 2008

"Is There Anybody Out There?" - I knew I would get it!

VinnyBVinnyB replied on September 9th, 2008

I had to leave you hanging on that one, hahah! I couldn't think of a good clue without giving it away, well done though.

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Mark's Phase 1 series will take you through the basics of playing electric guitar.

Lesson 1

Series Intro - Guitar Parts and Tuning

Mark introduces his Phase 1 series and covers some fundamental electric guitar basics.

Length: 30:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2


Mark provides a detailed overview of amplification. This lesson has some great info for any electric player.

Length: 33:55 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Using Tablature and Learning the Fretboard

Before we start rocking, Mark goes over some tools and training necessary to every beginning guitarist.

Length: 12:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Right Hand Technique

It's time to get some sound out of your guitar. Mark begins with picking hand technique.

Length: 31:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Left Hand Technique

Mark explains proper left hand technique from the ground up.

Length: 10:36 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Notes in the 1st Position

Mark teaches you all of the natural notes played in first position. He uses two classic melodies to supplement this information.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

The C Major Scale - 1st Position

It's time to learn your first scale - the C major scale in first position. Mark also explains how the major scale is constructed.

Length: 21:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Chords in C major - Part 1

Mark covers 7 basic chords in the key of C major.

Length: 35:14 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Chords in C major - Part 2

Mark expands on chords in C major by showing full forms of the chords you learned in Part 1. He also teaches you the chord progression to a familiar tune.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Power Chord Primer

It's time to start making some noise by using power chords and palm muting. Mark gives you the framework to start rocking with the 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 36:43 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Open Position Minor Pentatonic

Take your knowledge of the notes in the first position and start jamming on a simple pentatonic riff.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 12

Blues Scale Basics with Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, and Vibrato

Let's build on lesson 11 with an extended discussion of the pentatonic scale. For lesson 12, we'll simply add one note to the minor pentatonic scale to give us the famous minor blues scale. We'll also...

Length: 36:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Movable Power Chords

Mark explains how to finger power chords and how they can be moved anywhere on the fretboard. He also shows an exercise that will help you remember the name of each power chord.

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythmic Notation Part 1

Mark Brennan explains rhythmic notation, tempos, time signatures, note values, and more in this lesson.

Length: 32:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Key of G Major

Mark explores the key of G major in this lesson. He covers the first position pattern of the scale and explains how it can be harmonized in thirds.

Length: 33:22 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Chords of G Major

Mark teaches the basic chords of G major as well as some other exercises to get you acquainted with this key.

Length: 34:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

The Key of D Major

Mark explains the basics of D major.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chords in D Major

Mark takes you through the chords of D major and explains some new ones that you haven't encountered yet.

Length: 35:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

More Movable Power Chords & the Circle of Fifths

Mark continues his discussion of power chords. This time around, he explains the circle of 5ths and demonstrates some power chord progressions that illustrate this concept.

Length: 33:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

The Movable Minor Pentatonic Scale

Mark teaches the 1st box of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 32:31 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Minor Blues Scale Transposed to A

Mark explains how you can transpose the pentatonic pattern covered in lesson 20 to the key of A minor. He also shows the "lower extension box" and "home plate box."

Length: 26:09 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Blues Boogie Shuffle

Mark teaches the difference between straight eighth notes and the shuffle feel.

Length: 42:33 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Amplification Part Two

In response to member requests, Mark added another amplification lesson to his growing phase 1 series. In this lesson, he compares 3 classes of amps from entry level models all the way to a Mesa Mark V.

Length: 40:45 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Introduction To Improvisation

In this lesson, Mark teaches some blues licks that can be used when improvising over a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 24:01 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

The Key of A Minor

Mark covers the key of A minor.

Length: 29:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Two Movable Major Chord Forms

Mark teaches two movable major chord forms and gives many examples of how to practice playing them.

Length: 26:10 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

I-IV-V Progression Revisited

Mark Brennan shows you how to apply the chord forms learned in lesson 26 to a I-IV-V progression.

Length: 21:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

Movable Dominant 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan continues his teachings on movable chord forms. In this lesson he shows the dominant 7th chords and how to use them in a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 19:49 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Movable Minor and Minor 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan teaches these minor chord forms and how they are movable up and down the fretboard. He also shows how to use these chords in common progressions.

Length: 21:29 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only

About Mark Brennan View Full Biography Mark Brennan, born August 12th, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio, began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first influences were from the Ventures and the British Invasion, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards he was playing in rock bands with his brother on drums, developing his ear by learning songs straight from records. Playing in a band became a passion.

In high school, he grew to love acoustic and classical guitar. He spent time playing acoustic music, influenced by The Eagles, CSN, Dan Folgelberg, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc. In the 70's, he headed a very popular Cleveland band, The Brennan-Cosma Band, which played a variety of acoustic and rock music, along with originals. He also took up classicalguitar, and began developing his fingerstyle technique.

Mark is a graduate of Cleveland State University (1980), with a Bachelor of Music in Classical guitar performance. He also studied Music Composition, and took many Music Education classes. After graduation, he began his private teaching career, teaching electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, along with music theory. He taught in various studios and guitar shops throughout his career, and currently has a private practice at his home in Fairview Park, Ohio.

In the 80's Mark took an affection to Progressive rock. With his band Polyphony, he was influenced by the music of Yes, Genesis, Kansas, ELP, Styx, along with a set of prog rock originals.

Currently, Mark is in the regionally successful Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here. The band performs faithful renderings of the Floyd classics spanning their entire catalog, along with a strong visual stage show. Here, Mark displays his command of the David Gilmour style.

Mark is excited to be part of JamPlay.com's fine roster of teachers. He's looking forward to extending his 35 years of performing and teaching experience to the JamPlay members. His philosophy is about developing a passion for guitar and being the best musician you can be; being true to yourself and developing a personal style, and truly expressing your heart through your music.

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

Our acoustic guitar lessons are taught by qualified instructors with various backgrounds with the instrument.

Freebo Freebo

In this lesson, Freebo covers the basics of right hand technique. This lesson is essential for all up and coming bassists.

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Robbie Merrill Robbie Merrill

JamPlay welcomes bassist and founding member of Godsmack, Robbie Merrill. In this short introduction lesson, Robbie showcases...

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Peter Einhorn Peter Einhorn

JamPlay is proud to introduce jazz guitarist Peter Einhorn. In this lesson series, Peter will discuss and demonstrate a way...

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Justin Roth Justin Roth

In this lesson Justin introduces his series on playing with a capo and dishes out some basic tips, including how to properly...

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Mary Flower Mary Flower

Mary talks about the key of F in this fantastic lesson.

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Jim Deeming Jim Deeming

Jim discusses the importance of setting goals. He provides some tips that will help steer your practicing in the right direction.

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Eve Goldberg Eve Goldberg

Eve talks about the boom-chuck strum pattern. This strum pattern will completely change the sound of your playing.

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Hawkeye Herman Hawkeye Herman

Hawkeye teaches several Robert Johnson licks in this lesson. These licks are played with a slide in open G tuning.

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Rich Nibbe Rich Nibbe

Rich Nibbe takes a look at how you can apply the pentatonic scale in the style of John Mayer into your playing.

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

Our electric guitar lessons are taught by instructors with an incredible amount of teaching experience.

Brent-Anthony Johnson Brent-Anthony Johnson

Just like with the plucking hand, Brent-Anthony shows us the basics of proper fretting hand technique. In addition, he shows...

Free LessonSeries Details
Glen Drover Glen Drover

Lesson 25 from Glen presents a detailed exercise that firmly builds up fret hand dexterity for both speed and accuracy.

Free LessonSeries Details
Alex Scott Alex Scott

Find out what this series is all about.

Free LessonSeries Details
Steve Smyth Steve Smyth

JamPlay sits down with veteran fret grinder Steve Smyth of Forbidden and The EssenEss Project. He talks about how he got...

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David Wallimann David Wallimann

This is a crucial lesson that explains tablature, how to read it, and why it's important.

Free LessonSeries Details
Yvette Young Yvette Young

Welcome to Yvette Young's series! Join Yvette as she gets creative with open tunings.

Free LessonSeries Details
Nick Greathouse Nick Greathouse

Nick starts his series with Alternate Picking part 1. Improve your timing, speed, and execution with this important lesson.

Free LessonSeries Details
Will Ripley Will Ripley

Join Will Ripley as he gives us all the details of his series, "Rock Guitar for Beginners". You'll be playing cool rock riffs...

Free LessonSeries Details
Bumblefoot Bumblefoot

Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal pulls out all the stops in his blistering artist series. Dive into the intense,...

Free LessonSeries Details
Evan Brewer Evan Brewer

Evan Brewer explains everything you need to know in order to get going with your bass guitar. Topics include the parts of...

Free LessonSeries Details

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Chord Library

Each chord in our library contains a full chart, related tablature, and a photograph of how the chord is played. A comprehensive learning resource for any guitarist.

Scale Library

Our software allows you to document your progress for any lesson, including notes and percent of the lesson completed. This gives you the ability to document what you need to work on, and where you left off.

Custom Chord Sheets

At JamPlay, not only can you reference our Chord Library, but you can also select any variety of chords you need to work on, and generate your own printable chord sheet.

Backing Tracks

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Interactive Games

We have teachers covering beginner lessons, rock, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, fingerstyle, slack key and more. Learn how to play the guitar from experienced players, in a casual environment.

Beginners Welcome.. and Up

Unlike a lot of guitar websites and DVDs, we start our Beginner Lessons at the VERY start of the learning process, as if you just picked up a guitar for the first time.Our teaching is structured for all players.

Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

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Money Back Guarantee Sometimes n/a
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Track Progress
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Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
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I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


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