Last Friday night, I went out to watch this new semi-pro rock band perform. The whole set was really good until I noticed a few glitches in the melody of their final song. I knew I wasn’t the only one who realized this because my friend looked at me and gave me a weird look. We both turned our attention to the guitarist and dissected the way he played.
While I’m not one to openly criticize a musician’s style, this isn’t the first time I’ve observed this problem. There are guitarists, some even in the intermediate levels, who have poor posture and hand location. As a result, errors regularly occur because they can’t move their fingers fast enough or fatigue sets in.
It may seem like a minuscule detail but it has adverse effects on your overall performance.
Thanks to that incident, I was inspired to re-learn the correct way of how to hold a guitar. Here are a few things that I discovered.
Your arms have the most vital role in the guitar playing process. They’re completely in charge of strumming and fretting, not to mention keeping the instrument upright. Therefore, proper positioning of these limbs is of utmost importance.
To start, you’ll need to assign a specific role to each of your hands. Your strong hand, as a standard instruction, is used for strumming, while the other is for fretting. This allows you to control the speed and power more easily. Here’s a more detailed description of this.
Assuming you’re right-handed, position your right forearm on the upper portion of the guitar. Keep it at an angle that’s both comfortable and flexible to give you a wide range of motion. Then, place your strong hand slightly above the sound hole and be sure it’s relaxed. You need it to be as fluid as possible so you can strum more effectively.
As for your left hand, or fretting hand, it needs to be rested on the top-most part of the neck, without touching the actual fretboard. Use your fingers to firmly hold down the strings. While moving them, you’ll notice how only three of your knuckle joints are actually moving; that’s how it is supposed to be. The thumb and pinky will primarily be used for support.
Before even playing a note, try familiarizing yourself with these stances first. This practice should help set a good foundation for future lessons.
It may not be as obvious, but the arrangement of these body parts can greatly affect your playing quality. If not postured properly, these can cause a great deal of discomfort and may even lead to serious injuries. Avoid those situations by observing the following principles.
The most important thing to remember is keeping your back straight at all times; avoid slouching or bending in awkward positions. Ensure also that both your neck and shoulders are loose. Having too much tension in these areas can restrict your upper body, resulting in poor coordination and unnatural movements.
Similar to your arms, it is imperative that your torso and spine maintain a relaxed disposition, especially when playing for prolonged periods of time. Doing this should help increase your endurance and help protect your muscles away from any cramps or strains.
Lastly, try to incorporate some stretching exercises before using your guitar. This should help your body prepare for the rigors of this task. Make sure also that you take ample breaks in between. While it may be good to push yourself to higher levels, it is also equally important to know your restrictions and rest once in a while.
Not all guitarists play while standing up. Some, specifically in the acoustic or alternative genre, prefer to be in a seated position. It allows them to add more drama or connect better with their audience. Whichever the case, here is the proper way of sitting.
Firstly, set your feet securely on the floor and avoid crossing your legs or resting them on a different structure. It may feel relaxing at first but trust me; you’ll slowly start feeling tense and uncomfortable if you do.
Then, allow the guitar’s body to rest on your right leg, with its rear near your chest area. Also, keep your back in an upright and straight position. It would be better to choose a chair with a spindle so it helps support your vertebrae. If you prefer using a pillow for added comfort, that’s fine, too.
Finally, the instrument’s neck should be parallel to the floor. Control the angles using your left arm (still, assuming you are right-handed) and prevent it from facing too high up or down. Use both hands to maintain this setup.
Generally speaking, these are the three major aspects to keep in mind when learning how to hold a guitar. I’ve also prepared some extra tips that should complement the above information.
1. Use A Pick – If you are finding it difficult to control the fingers on your dominant hand, you can opt to use a guitar pick. This tool helps you pluck or strum a stringed instrument, all while reducing stress on your hands. This is especially useful for instances when you need to practice for long hours.
2. Watch YouTube Videos – Some people learn more quickly when they’re watching someone do it first. If you feel the need for visual aids, you can easily search for a simple tutorial on YouTube. Observe them until you get the hang of things, and try it out yourself.
For your reference, here’s a sample video:
3. The D Major Test – Several experts have shared that an effective way to assess your position is through this quick experiment. If you are able to consistently hit the D Major note, then chances are, you have proper playing posture. Otherwise, there could be something wrong with your stance.
While there could be other causes, nevertheless, this is a good litmus test to try.
Knowing how to hold a guitar won’t just increase your overall effectivity, but it also protects your body from injuries and allows it to relax more. Just like any other task, we always perform better when our mind, body, and soul are at ease.
I think that these are the greatest benefits about mastering this area and truly in essential step to improving as a guitarist.
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