Guitar is one of the more challenging instruments to take up because it requires completely new and unique strengths and coordinations. It is very physical, and requires the player to get their hands up to a certain strength before being actually able to play great sounding music.
Muscles need to be built and calluses need to be formed; those strings can hurt!
Practice is the key! But here are some tips to get you started:
1. Keep an eye on your body posture and make sure the guitar does not drift away. The body should rest on your leg, allowing you to strum directly over the sound hole. If you find yourself strumming closer and closer to the neck, take a second and reposition the instrument.
2. Do your best to keep the thumb of your fretting hand centered on the back of the neck. It will of course move depending on the notes and chords being played, but its home should be in the middle.
3. Remind yourself as you are playing to arch your fretting hand. This arch is the key to getting chords to ring out clear, without having muted strings. Arching is tough and takes a lot of hand strength, but it will improve if you are conscious of it!
4. It is useful to play both with and without a pick, as they allow for different types of playing. However, both styles are different and require shifting. When playing with your fingers try to float above the strings, almost as if your hand was a claw. When playing with a pick, hold it with your thumb and pointer finger and place the remaining digits in a fist to keep them out of the way.
5. The guitars frets are further apart at the top of the neck, making certain chords more challenging to play up there. If you are finding certain shapes too much, try placing a capo on the 5th or 6th fret and doing them there so the fingers don’t have to stretch as far. Once they become easy you can then back the capo up until you reach their natural positions.
Follow these tips and your strength and comfort will improve. Good luck working out those fingers!