why does my hand hurt when i play guitar
Hold the guitar properly. The way you hold the neck of the guitar effects how long you can barre chords before your hand cramps and hurts. Anchor your thumb close the center-back of the neck and not over-the-top as if it was peeking from the fretboard. Placing your thumb in the center-back of the guitar's neck should help you with the proper form. The proper form will increase your handвs stamina. Look at the angle of your arm and wrists. You will notice that the more acute the angle of your wrist, the less strength you have in that hand. Keep all your joints from your wrist to your fingers at natural rounded angles. There isnвt a golden rule with hand placement. Jimi Hendrix held his guitar in a way that his thumb wrapped around the guitar. Do whatever makes you comfortable. In this example, youвd hold the guitar like a tennis racket.
I agree with others saying that you are probably muscling the neck too much.
You only need to press just hard enough for the note to sound clearly. Make sure you keep your thumb UNDER your middle finger, as if you are pinching those fingers together. Many guitarists (and bassists) have a habit of stretching their thumbs out, which causes you to need to use more strength to put enough pressure down on the strings. Having your thumb in the correct position allows you to get more pressure with less strain in your fingers, forearms and wrists I think this may be my problem. But I have quite small hands (delicate, girly hands. not ideal for a guy :P) and I struggle to make even basic power and barre chords without really having to stretch and contort my wrist into painful positions. I tried out the 'classical' position and it is less painful, I'll stick with that for a while and see how it goes, but I may also have to accept my physical limitations.
Thanks for the advice, folks :) Gonna say real quick here that hand size isn't the issue here. I've seen and played with people with all sorts of hand types and some of the best guitarists I've had the pleasure of playing behind (I'm a bassist) had small, slender hands, guys and gals equally. The issue is what folks have mentioned: bad fretting posture and too much strain moving your hand to fret. It's a not uncommon issue, sadly; I've seen lots of beginners with this issue. I've a few frankly very bad habits myself, for example the wandering thumb issue Buck mentioned. I also do quite a lot of thumb-over when fretting on the D and G strings, with higher fretting actually causing thumb stretch.
I'm aware of the deficiencies in my posture, and have been working on correcting them, but it's darned slow and really easy to revert in the midst of play without noticing until something requires a glance down. A lifetime of ingrained bad habit can be really tough to change, so I'd recommend what others have: see about changing how you handle the neck, and definitely see about getting at least a couple of basic 1-on-1 sessions with a tutor. As the commercials say, If the problem persists, see your physician. You could really cripple yourself doing it as you are, especially if you try to power through anyway. It's been said a few times, but it's solid advice. If you're having that much physical pain from it over such a short period, you definitely should have it checked out by a doctor.
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