Guitar Positions Basic Concepts and Definitions

Learning guitar positions.

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There are as many positions as there are frets on the Fingerboard.


The term position can be used to describe two different things:

  • a musical concept related to scales, or
  • a way to specify your location on the guitar fret-board.

In this case we are dealing with the guitar instrument concept.

It is the first finger that determines in which position the hand is.


When the first finger is placed on the first fret, the hand is in the first position and so on with the other positions.

There are twelve positions on the finger-board of a Guitar.

Principal Positions

Among those, there are five which are called principal positions, as they are most in use, and a knowledge of them is sufficient to get acquainted with the others.

These positions are:

  • 1st
  • 4th
  • 5th
  • 7th
  • 9th

To learn these positions thoroughly, for each one it is necessary:

  • the study of the Gamut
  • doing exercises
  • practice musical compositions


In the following diagram, the figures placed over the notes indicate the fingers of the left hand, and also the frets on which they are to be placed:

  • The open strings are indicated by 0,
  • the first finger and first fret by 1.
  • the second finger and second fret by 2.
  • the third finger and third fret by 3.
  • the fourth finger and fourth fret by 4.

For the right hand, fingers are indicated by:

  • x for the Thumb
  • . for the first finger
  • .. for the second finger
  • ... for the third finger


  • “The Positions.” New and Improved Method for the Guitar, by Matteo Carcassi, Boston : Oliver Ditson & Co, 1853, p. 13.,
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