While having enough practice is essential, taking care of your body and doing it properly is almost equally important. The main problem with improper practice is that you can hurt your wrists, hands, back or other parts of the body.
It is important to remember that the only type of hurt you should feel is at your fingertips, and even if that becomes too much, you should take a break. People often forget about this and try to push on through the pain, but any kind of pain and discomfort is bad for you and means that you are doing something wrong.
Correct Guitar Posture While Sitting
The first scenario you might find yourself in is playing the guitar while sitting. This is especially common with acoustic guitars since you will rarely play them while standing. It is no secret that many people across the globe have issues with their posture. Unfortunately, when you play the guitar, your posture can also be bad. This can cause back pain and several other aches which can only worsen over time.
The main thing you need to do while sitting is to find a way where you won’t have any back pain, even after a longer session. To achieve this, you will need to find a proper chair. While it might sound weird, having a bad chair can have a major impact on your back. Besides the chair, you can always try to slightly stick your chest outwards. The most common mistake is to lean over the guitar. Of course, the need for that is so we could see what we’re playing, but it just puts additional strain on our backs. Try keeping your back as straight as possible. If you imagine how you’d play with a lot of pride and dignity, that’s the position you’ll want to aim at.
one of the best things that can help you maintain a correct posture while sitting with a guitar is a footstool. If you don’t have one make sure to check my post Best Guitar Footstools(Footrests) And How To Use One?
Finding A Perfect Chair
One of the main reasons why you need a practice chair is because other types of chairs aren’t usually suitable for guitar. For example, if you have armrests, you will struggle with sitting and as a result, you’ll be forced to invent weird positions to be able to play at all. So the first thing you’ll need to look out for is the chair without armrests. Furthermore, it would be great if you had a chair with a place for your leg. Guitarists usually play with one leg elevated, to ensure the better grip of the instrument and its stability.
Naturally, you could always get a guitar chair to avoid any confusion since they are made to serve that very purpose. Interestingly, using a bad chair or a bed can mess up with your posture. But the worse thing is that it can seriously affect your technique. So, investing in something like a proper practice tool is always a good idea. If you have a simple bar stool, it can prove to be a great chair for practicing guitar. While you might want to look for something that has a backrest, it is essential that nothing gets in the way of you and your guitar, like armrests.
Set Your Fretting Hand Right
This is where most people make mistakes. They twist their wrists to better fret notes, instead of positioning their guitar better. The thumb of the fretting hand should be on the center of the backside of the neck. Of course, this doesn’t mean all the time and with every practice. Most self-taught guitarists will keep their thumb over the neck since it is more natural, and some will even use it while playing. You shouldn’t go farther than Jimi Hendrix to see this.
However, this is not a mistake per se. In my opinion, the best option is to combine the two. While playing scales, for example, or something that requires stretching, using a school method is your best option (meaning thumb behind the neck). On the other hand, if you are doing bending and something on the higher frets, the neck over the fretboard is a great option. This way, you will reduce the stress on the wrist and allow for more comfortable playing.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t keep your wrist in a twisted weird position for a long time. If it starts hurting, it means that you are doing something wrong. Try relaxing the wrist, and keeping it in a natural position at all times by combining these two methods, or thumb positions.
Lock Your Strumming Hand
The second hand is the strumming one. The common problem here is keeping your wrists locked. If your wrist is locked, the pressure will transfer on the elbow. If your elbow is locked, the pressure will go to shoulder and so on. The main goal is to be as relaxed as possible. Of course, this is not something that is easily achievable by beginners. They don’t have the knowledge and enough practice to focus on their bodies. What you should do if you are a beginner is to keep in mind that your hands shouldn’t be stiff.
If you are playing using a pick, your strumming hand should be relaxed and all the movements should be fluid. You don’t need to hold it as your life depends on it. It is better to keep spare picks nearby and relax your wrists and fingers. This way, even if you drop it, you have a spare one near you.
Furthermore, if you are relaxed while playing, you will have better control of your movement and you’ll be able to change the attack or volume or add something special to your technique.
If you have trouble holding the pick right or just not sure if this is the proper way then you should check my post How To Hold A Guitar Pick – Best Way, Techniques And More
Correct Posture While Standing
Now, many guitarists play while standing. This is the case for all the electric guitarists out there. Some guitars like Stratocaster or Gibson’s ES series are great either way. However, if you own a Flying V or any other guitar with an unusual shape, playing the guitar while sitting can prove to be quite a challenge. This is where the guitar strap comes in place. It is worth mentioning that putting a strap is not the only thing you should worry about.
As with our sitting colleagues, players can often lean forward while playing. Naturally, this will allow you to see better and never skip a note, but it can be challenging for backs. Especially after longer sessions. The posture should be the same regardless if you are sitting or standing. This means that your back should be straight, and you should try to relax as much as possible.
While you won’t have a great view of your fretboard, it is healthier than leaning over to see everything better. Almost everyone started learning how to play an instrument while sitting and making this important change can sometimes be difficult. The best idea would be to position the guitar the same way it was while you were sitting down.
Set Your Guitar To A Perfect Height
Now, I don’t talk about the height of the instrument here, but the way you need to set up your strap. Furthermore, the most common mistake we can see is in rock and metal music where guitars place their instruments incredibly low. While it looks super-cool, it will put so much pressure and strain on your shoulders, wrists, backs, and everything. It is always a better option to place it higher. Of course, it won’t look as cool, but you will keep your wrists for a longer period of time.
Usually, the perfect way to set up the height of your instrument is to adjust the straps until the guitar is in the same position as when sitting. This way, you will find it easier to play since it was the same way as it was while you were practicing.
It might be tempting to lower it down, and even if you do just that, you won’t be wrong. As long as you don’t lower it too much. Besides injuring yourself, you will need more time to adjust your play style and technique to this new position of the instrument. Of course, if your guitar is low and you are already used to this, there is no reason to change anything. You should do it in the way it works best for you.
Avoid Wired Poses For A Long Period Of Time
You might have heard about carpal tunnel syndrome, and here, I’ll mention a couple of things about it. There is a nerve called the median nerve that travels from your neck all the way to the inner part of the palm. This nerve controls all the sensation in your fingertips, and it goes through a “tunnel” in your wrists. There are many people in the world suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, and it can be quite a problem for guitar players. While most of the reasons for this syndrome are in genetics, you can increase the chances by getting if your wrist is constantly pressured or under stress.
This is why it is important to keep your wrist in an optimal position and avoid keeping it in a weird pose for a long time. For example, Eric Clapton is not able to play as much as he could before because of the pain. The pain occurs when he tries to play barre chords, and it travels all the way from the wrist to the neck.
Adjust The Guitar Orientation
When it comes to the orientation of the instrument, it is probably the best to place it comfortably on your lap. Of course, if you are playing while standing, you will balance it in a way where you won’t have to turn it around. While it is recommended to move your guitar around, you don’t want to hold it all the time, that’s what the strap is for. For example, if you are playing something on higher notes, you can move your guitar to the side or anywhere where it will be easier for you to approach higher frets. However, you don’t want to hold it like that for the rest of the show because it would put too much of a strain on your body.
The other kind of orientation is rotating it to see the fretboard better. Of course, this can also be difficult to do for the entire show, and the best idea is to just leave it as it is and adjust the position by moving the strap.
Take Care Of Your Spine
The spine is under a lot of pressure every day and sitting in an incorrect position will not help you at all. The problem that many guitarists have is with their backs because of the incorrect practice. This applies to both the back and the neck. If you are practicing hunching over to see everything better then you are doing something wrong, whether you are sitting or standing. The second common issue is to turn your neck either to see sheet music or to hear better and sitting in the same position for a longer period can cause you problems in the future.
you should keep your back straight as much as possible. When it comes to neck, it is perfectly normal to turn your head to see better what you’re playing, but don’t keep it in a weird position for a long time if you want to avoid neck-ache. Finally, with proper posture, you will also lower the chances of any pain in your lower back.
Relax Your Shoulders
Similarly to the rest of the body, there will be a lot of stress on your shoulders as well. Your guitar strap will go over your one shoulder, and you will always have that extra couple of pounds on it. Try relaxing your shoulders, and keeping them relaxed during your session. This way, you’ll lower the chances of real consequences that come from the wrong posture or playing.
When you play, try to keep your shoulders leveled and some small pressure on the shoulder blades. Naturally, it will be nearly impossible to play in this position all the time. However, small changes won’t hurt, and if you feel any problems, it probably means that your guitar is not in the perfect position.
Correct Posture Will Protect Your Wrists
Your wrists are important. I couldn’t stress this enough. If you are a beginner guitarist, you might not think about it too often, but there are many players that are unable to perform as they could because of the injuries from the guitar. This applies especially to electric guitars. As we all know, they are not as light as a feather and having a constant weight can take a toll after a while. Of course, almost every guitar player is willing to make this sacrifice but you can still take care of yourself to minimize the risk.
If you take all precautions, there is less chance that your wrists will hurt and that you’ll be unable to play. You should remember that the only type of pain that is ok is at your fingertips, and anything other than that should worry you. If you feel pain in your wrist, take a break. Worm-up, the way the athletes to, and you’ll feel better.
Our hands are important, and taking care of them should be your priority. So focus on your posture, your wrist position, and be safe.
There are so many things that I mentioned here, and it might sound scary. But you should remember that these things come with time. You should focus on your practice while trying to stay relaxed and avoid any kind of pressure or pain. No one expects you to play like a robot in a strict position. But what you can do is lower the chances of any injury by taking the necessary steps and implementing them in your everyday practice. This way, your playing will improve along with your posture, and over time you will get used to it.
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