Holding the Guitar

Question by Ron S.
(Valley Forge PA)

Bon Soir, Gilles!

I’ve been having some fun browsing the site. Its been awhile, and I’m enjoying some of the ideas, questions, and suggestions I see from others, in the blog and in question form. (And feeling like I should be upstairs playing, instead of reading! LOL)

Such a simple thing – how to properly hold a guitar. Silly question right?

It occurred to me while I was working on the whole “economy of motion, curing the flyaway fingers, playing without tension” thing. At times, without realizing it, I’m using great pressure to fret notes clearly with the left hand- and I know (as in your explanation) that it can be done far more economically with the large muscle groups of the shoulder and upper arm.

Similarly, I started with the instrument on the right leg (right hand player) then moved to a more “classical” position. (More stable – made some things easier.) Then, finding that my wrist was quite bent inward, with lots of tension,(to the point of having muscle tremors) raising the neck to allow it to straighten.

Mind you, this is with a flattop instrument. With a large jazzbox I don’t even think you could use the classical positioning successfully.

Should one strive for a consistent position so the muscle memory developed is consistent? Is it so very different playing a jazzbox vs a flattop, vs. a tele and that it demands a different physical approach? Is keeping the wrist straight (in line with the forearm)important enough to change the way you go about playing?

In other words, what constitutes good efficient mechanics?

Thanks as always-

Ron S. in Pennsylvania

M-A’s Answer :

Hey Ron. Fewer and fewer people call me “Gilles” nowadays… (-:

I guess the “trend” has faded, strange! Anyways, thanks for your question, I decided to “give it a shot” in video format. Basically, I believe that “efficient” really means relaxed and comfortable when it comes to playing.

Please feel free to leave comments / further questions using the form on this page. Thank you!

Marc-Andre Seguin

Old Comments for “Holding The Guitar”

Apr 30, 2012
A few musings on this problem
by: David

Marc, I just watched your video reply to this question and agree with much of your advice. However I find myself in the situation of having developed pretty serious spinal problems – probably due to poor posture over the years while playing and practicing. What I find is that it is pretty much impossible to get comfortable. I am presently exploring the idea of an ergonomic headless instrument, because I find the typical guitar both uncomfortable and too heavy. One of my teachers, the late Amancio Da Silva, an Indo-Jazz Fusion player who was a great friend of John McLaughlin taught me that it was necessary that the guitar become so much an extension of one’s body that it ceased to exist for the player. Only at that point would it be possible to enter the meditative state you mentioned and truly become one with the instrument and lose oneself in this expression. That has been one of my goals since the early ’80s, but has been hampered by the discomfort I experience. I also agree with you about the importance of body awareness, yet none of the methods already discussed has really been able to help me. I wondered whether any other contributors to this site had suffered a similar difficulty and how they had managed to work around the problem or what strategy they were currently employing. Thank you all.

2 thoughts on “Holding the Guitar

  1. Hi Marc

    Just wanted to find out your thoughts regarding using a guitar stool to improve holding the guitar when practicing? I’m considering getting one but they’re quite pricey and not sure if it will be worth investing in my guitar playing.

    Thanks so much in advance!


    • Hi Justin, Nathan here. It doesn’t matter what kind of seating arrangement you use when you practice – be it chair, stool, box, horseback – so long as it fits a few pieces of criteria for you:
      -Proper posture: for a practice stool, this is probably the most important thing to consider. A stool that puts your spine out of alignment or your arms in a weird position or messes with your tailbone or forces you to hunch over will destroy your body over hours, days, weeks, months, and years of practice. If you can, get a cushioned seat that allows your feet to be firmly planted, where you’re supporting your body with your core muscles and your arms are free (no armrests!).
      -Gig stool: if you’re bringing this stool to performances, consider portability, lightweight, small footprint, and ease of setting up
      -Standing up? If you have a decent strap and you perform standing up, at least part of your practice routine should be spent standing up as well.
      If you can accomplish these things with a kitchen chair or a wooden box with a cushion, use that instead! There’s no sense in going high-tech if low-tech can fulfill all your needs.

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