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How do you hold a guitar correctly?

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Homeless 13 Jul 03 - 04:38 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Jul 03 - 05:15 PM
Liz the Squeak 13 Jul 03 - 06:32 PM
Walking Eagle 13 Jul 03 - 06:51 PM
Uncle Jaque 13 Jul 03 - 06:54 PM
Mark Cohen 13 Jul 03 - 08:59 PM
JennieG 13 Jul 03 - 09:19 PM
Homeless 13 Jul 03 - 11:07 PM
Homeless 13 Jul 03 - 11:16 PM
M.Ted 14 Jul 03 - 12:26 AM
Marion 14 Jul 03 - 01:25 AM
DADGBE 14 Jul 03 - 02:00 AM
GUEST,MCP 14 Jul 03 - 04:25 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Jul 03 - 06:55 AM
Roger the Skiffler 14 Jul 03 - 09:51 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Jul 03 - 10:02 AM
Gary T 14 Jul 03 - 10:12 AM
Roger the Skiffler 14 Jul 03 - 10:15 AM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Jul 03 - 11:54 AM
Don Firth 14 Jul 03 - 12:09 PM
Frankham 14 Jul 03 - 01:23 PM
Gary T 14 Jul 03 - 03:16 PM
CraigS 14 Jul 03 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Jul 03 - 03:57 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 14 Jul 03 - 05:09 PM
CraigS 14 Jul 03 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 14 Jul 03 - 05:38 PM
CraigS 14 Jul 03 - 05:39 PM
PoppaGator 14 Jul 03 - 05:48 PM
Homeless 15 Jul 03 - 11:54 AM
HuwG 15 Jul 03 - 01:00 PM
M.Ted 15 Jul 03 - 06:59 PM
Ely 15 Jul 03 - 09:15 PM
Mark Cohen 15 Jul 03 - 11:25 PM
DADGBE 16 Jul 03 - 01:34 AM
Homeless 16 Jul 03 - 10:08 AM
PoppaGator 16 Jul 03 - 12:15 PM
Homeless 16 Jul 03 - 01:08 PM
NicoleC 16 Jul 03 - 01:54 PM
DADGBE 16 Jul 03 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,doodlebug 03 Apr 13 - 01:03 PM
GUEST 14 Feb 18 - 02:28 AM
Big Al Whittle 14 Feb 18 - 07:22 AM
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Subject: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 04:38 PM

After years of intermittent playing around with the guitar, I've reached the point where I can (arrhythmically) strum a bunch of open chords as well as a B minor. And in the last 6 months, I've finally gotten to the point where I can boom-chuck. Not satisfied with that, I ran across the AGW guys the other day and decided that I want to learn to play fingerstlye blues since that's what I listen to and enjoy the most. What I'm finding out tho is that I don't hold the guitar correctly.

Usually when I play I'm scrunched way down in my office chair, which has arms, nearly lying down, with the guitar laying on my belly and leg. This has always allowed me to see what I was fretting. Now that I'm trying to play single strings I find that the side of my left hand dampens the 1st string, and that my thumb is in the wrong place (next to the 6th string) to move that hand easily. I tried sitting up straight and putting the waist of the guitar on my right leg, but that puts my hand in line with the strings below the bridge. I tried putting the lower bout between my legs, but have problems with that too.

I found this thread, Odd Ways of Holding Instruments, but can't find one that describes how to hold the guitar correctly. How do you hold it so that you can fingerpick, still palm damp the strings, and not drop that blasted thing on the floor?


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 05:15 PM

Homeless, check out this guitar lesson links page. One of these dozens of links should help you. For example, try this -- scroll down and you'll get to a picture with some tips on position.

But really, just keep experimenting until you find a position that's comfortable for you. Using a chair without arms will help. You've already discovered that the position that lets you stare at the fretboard while you're learning may be different from the one that is most comfortable to play in. Keep it up!

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 06:32 PM

Two hands, grasp the neck firmly, hands about 6 -8 inches apart, in cricket bat grip. Raise guitar over head and lower rapidly onto a large solid object, a Marshall amp is perfect..


Well that's how Black Sabbath do it......

(LOL!)

LTS


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 06:51 PM

That is a great website Mark! Thanks a whole, whole bunch!


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 06:54 PM

You think that your position is awkward!? Ha!!

According to my 19th Century Guitar Instructor by Justin HOLLAND (reputedly the Pioneer of the American Guitar, circa 1830s- 1880's) published by Oliver O. DITTSON, you were supposed to lay the waist of your "Parlor" guitar over your left leg, sitting erect in a chair , with the left foot resting on a little miniature hassock about 6" high. Sometimes Antique shops have these show up and folks wonder if they are coffee tables for dolls.
The neck was held up at about a 45 degree angle, a little more up-pointing than most players do it today.

The practice of resting the little finger on the deck to steady the right hand in playing was to be highly condemmned, and avoided at all costs; the right hand must "float" above the strings with no contact at all with the instrument itself.

It takes a little getting used to, but that's how we play when we are doing a 19th Century musical "impression", since that is probably the way most Guitarists held a guitar back then.

I have a scanning of the full-page illustrative engraving which I would share here... if but I could!

BTW; they used a "capo" back then, although it was more often called a "choker", and it wound up with a fiddle-peg stuck through the top.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 08:59 PM

Uncle Jacque, that is a fairly good description of the "standard" position for playing classical guitar. Here is an abbreviated version of Aaron Shearer's instructions on "Holding the Guitar," from his book, "Classical Guitar Technique":

1. Place a footstand on the floor about six inches in front of the left fron chair leg so that it lines up with it and the right rear chair leg.

2. Sit on the forward part of the chair and place the left foot on the footstand so that the foot and the left leg line upwith the left front and right rear chair legs...In order to do this properly you will have to sit forward and a little to the left. Sitting in this manner allows the performer to drop the right thigh down to support the guitar.

3. Fit the waist of the guitar over the left thigh. Place the right leg back, thgigh down, so that it is supported by the toes and ball of the foot. A perpendicular drawn through the long axis of each foot will form about a 35 degree angle. Move the left leg toward the right slightly to cradle the guitar between the thighs.

4. Adjust height of footstand to lace the guitar as follows (an adjustable footstand is almost a necessity in order to find and maintain the correctly relaxed position shown):
   a) Neck of guitar at 45 degree angle to the floor
   b) Head of the guitar at approximately eye level
   c) Forearm horizontal to the floor when fingers and thumbe are placed correctly on strings

5. Performer should lean forward slightly so that the edge of the guitar rests against the right chest. Shoulders are relaxed nd on an even horizontal plane; torso turned slightly toward the left knee.

I didn't quote this for a humorous effect. Shearer's biggest teaching point is that in order to play the guitar well, the performer's whole body should be relaxed. He (and many others) found that for most people who play classical guitar, this position makes that most possible. So if Homeless doesn't have any better alternatives, this might be a place to start, even though it's not "traditional" for steel-string acoustic guitar players. Again, you gotta go with what works.

Aloha,
Mark

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: JennieG
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 09:19 PM

I learnt to play classical guitar before folk, and still prefer this position. It means too that my right shoulder isn't hunched up while I play which is more comfortable for me. I have an elbow problem (no playing for a while on medical orders, bummer) but the classical style lets me play without much discomfort.
Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 11:07 PM

Thanx for that page Mark - I'll have to start wading thru it when I have a bit of time.
The position that you describe above is about where I am now. It gives me a good angle for my picking hand and I don't have to wrench my fretting wrist around too bad. The problem I have tho is that the guitar neck drops every time I go to move up the neck, and the whole thing tends to slide down my lap. That's where the "not drop the blasted thing" came from earlier. Would a neck strap cure that?


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 13 Jul 03 - 11:16 PM

BTW, I do have some guitar how-to books that I've gone thru to find out how to hold it. But I seem to be having problems that they don't address. Like the old set-it-on-your-right-leg-with-the-neck-horizontal position - if I use that with the guitar against my side, it really twists my shoulder back which start hurting after about 2 minutes. If I move the guitar body around to where my shoulder isn't strained, I can't reach around it to the strings very well. I don't know if it's a problem with how I'm built, or if they are naturally awkward positions and I just have to get used to it.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: M.Ted
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 12:26 AM

I don't want to seem rude, Homeless, but that sounds like a pretty bad habit you've gotten into. No wonder you play arhytmically. I'd advice you to really work seriously on reforming your way of holding the guitar--when you hold it right, you can do so much more, with so much less effort. And don't feel bad, looks like Uncle Jaque held it the wrong way for a long time, too--


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Marion
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 01:25 AM

Homeless, this is the position that works well for me when seated:

The (acoustic) guitar's waist goes on my right thigh, and I put my right foot up on something. I find a hard shell case is the perfect height for a foot stand when seated on a normal kitchen chair. Putting right heel on chair/stool rungs is another option - if there's nothing available, I sit with my right foot on tiptoe. Having that right foot up really helps me to hold the guitar in a comfortable position, and prevents it from sliding along my thigh.

Marion


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: DADGBE
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 02:00 AM

Hi Homeless,

The classical position wich is taught as the true gospel in the clasic guitar world has lots to recommend it but other positions do as well. There is most likely a better position for you. I started playing classic guitar about 50 years ago but age, arthritis and a contrary nature have brought me around to rethinking the standard method.

First of all, try this little experiment. Get a pen and place it on your left palm; then close your fist around it. Now, try to spread your fingers apart so your index finger and pinkie reach opposite ends of the pen. It's not possible with your fist closed, is it. That power grip and is automatically used when you want to squeeze something as hard as you can. That's the grip most people use on their guitar.

Now put the pen beteen your thumb pad and your finger pads and try the stretch again. Suddenly an impossible stretch becomes possible. This dexterity grip is what you need to allow you to stretch the needed one-fret-per-finger for guitar playing. That's why you've been told to keep your thumb at the mid-line of the neck.

With that in mind, hang your left arm at your side. Now bend your elbow until your palm comes up to about shoulder height and your hand is about a foot to a foot and a half in front of you. That's the optimum position which will let you use that dexterity grip and keep your wrist straight. If your wrist bends too much, you're headed for repetitave motion injury and/or arthritis. (Trust me on this, it's really nasty!)

That's it. Now all you have to do is find a way to hold the guitar so your left hand will reach the neck and stay in about that position. Bring the guitar to your hand. Don't try to bring your hand to the guitar.

Flamenco position gets a good position by placing the lower bout on your seated right thigh with the instrument at about a 45 to 60 degree incline. Your right forearm is supposed to support the instrument. I know it sounds unlikely but it's doable.

You might also use a strap which holds the instrument at about that same angle of incline. That's the most common solution and will work to perfection.

The best positions for you left hand won't let you see the fingerboard but guitar playing is a tactile skill like rapid typing. You'll eventually play better when you stop looking at your hand. That's why the likes of Doc Watson and Jose Feliciano can do what they do.

An inefficient left hand position is the greatest bottleneck to improving your playing. There! The sermon is over. Let us pray...

Best regards,
Ray Frank
ps, Hi Mark! Great to see your name.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 04:25 AM

Homeless

Re the dropping neck of the guitar, the 'classical' position will avoid this and reduce strain. (I play songs usually standing up using a strap, but for instrumentals I still prefer the classical position, usually using the guitar case as a footstool for the left leg. (For actual classical playing I usually use a guitar pillow that goes on the left thigh, leaving the left foot flat on the ground!)). In the classical position the guitar has 3 points of support. It is supported by the resting the waist over the left thigh, by having the lower bout in contact with the right knee (as described by Mark above) and the right arm, just below the elbow, on the top edge of the lower bout requires on the slightest pressure to keep the guitar upright, even when the right hand is removed from the neck. The point is to have the guitar supported while leaving the left arm entirely free to move - not having any support function. The right leg is slightly forward of the left and head of the guitar roughly level with your shoulder (the 45 degree position mentioned above) mean that you can actually see the fingerboard from this position without strain. Have a look at Carlevaro Technique for a description of this and ways to reduce strain.

The other main non-classical thing you see guitarists doing that causes left hand problems is not moving the left elbow away from the side of the body when playing down the nut end. When playing further up the fretboard, having the elbow near the body doesn't cause problems, but when playing near the nut having the left elbow by your body will cause the left wrist to be bent at an uncomfortable angle and will make playing harder.

This is not the only way to do it - many good guitarists hold their guitars in all kinds of ways, but classical guitarists have spent many years trying to get a position that avoids strain, so it's worth a try.


Mick


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 06:55 AM

"Now put the pen beteen your thumb pad and your finger pads and try the stretch again. Suddenly an impossible stretch becomes possible. This dexterity grip is what you need to allow you to stretch the needed one-fret-per-finger for guitar playing. That's why you've been told to keep your thumb at the mid-line of the neck.
"


That works as well if instead of the pad of the thumb you use the bit of the thumb where the joint is, and that seems to lend itself to a more natural guitar hold, for me anyway, and easier to exert firm pressure.

To hold the guitar at the right angle a strap is the way. Or the type of neck strap that classical guitarists use probably does it even better, though I've never used one - Willie Nelson does, so it's got street cred!


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 09:51 AM

So let's see if I've got it right. The side with the hole in and the lengths of wire on faces outwards, the solid wooden side faces the body...

RtS


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 10:02 AM

For skiffle the other way round can work about as well...


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Gary T
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 10:12 AM

I use a classical-type position, and find it generally better than having the neck nearly horizontal, as I see many others do (and as I used to do--and sometimes still do). I usually stand up, as there's generally not a footrest available.

It's very helpful to have the guitar body perpendicular to the floor. This means getting away from having to look at your fretting hand. Takes some practice, but well worth it (kinda like learning touch typing, so much easier and quicker than looking for keys, once you learn it). Roundback guitars (Ovation, etc.) are difficult to keep straight this way. And I find that many guitars with a strap peg on the heel have the peg located where the instrument tends to roll toward or away from the body. I very carefully find the balance point for the strap peg before installing it to avoid this problem.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 10:15 AM

Kevin, fortunately my washboard is double-sided so I can't get it wrong (or right, depending on your point of view!).

RtS


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 11:54 AM

Am I doing something wrong if the front edge of the guitar digs into my right arm just above the elbow and makes it sore? Or is it just a question of a short arm versus a big guitar?

At present, I cushion the edge with something soft. A pot-holder will do.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 12:09 PM

Used the classic position as described above for forty-five years (Mark's post quoting from Aaron Shearer's manual--in fact, I taught guitar using that manual). Solid position, and everything is within easy reach, right there where it's supposed to be.

Another good book (that can really seperate the men from the boys and the women from the girls) is Scott Tennant's Pumping Nylon. This is a group of real finger-buster exercises, and if you can get through even part of this manual, you're pretty nimble-fingered indeed! It's specifically for classic guitarists, but anybody who plays any kind of guitar can benefit from taking a whack at it.

Howdy, Mark!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Frankham
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 01:23 PM

I think that you hold it the way the greatest guitar player in the world holds it. :) (Who is that masked man?)

Or hold it so they can see your face clearly when the publicity photographer takes your picture.

Segovia doesn't play blues. No thumb over the top of the neck.

B.B. King doesn't play two or three-part Bach inventions. Only one pick.

Point: what kind of music do you want to play and who does that best and are they built the same way you are with the same size body, and hand, with the same musical intuition? Then the question ought to be answered easilly.

Solution: Do what works for you. Study different ways by observing different players and find your own way of holding the guitar. That's the correct one. Also, attitude. Sometimes being a perfectionist inhibits rather than helps. Mess around and get to know the guitar like an old friend.

Let it happen over time.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Gary T
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 03:16 PM

Am I doing something wrong if the front edge of the guitar digs into my right arm just above the elbow and makes it sore? Or is it just a question of a short arm versus a big guitar?

This happens to me with one of my guitars, but not with the other. The difference? The thickness of the guitar at the big end, and the one is only about 1/2" thicker than the other. I suspect your problem is a combination of arm length and how far away from you the guitar is. A thinner instrument would probably feel better.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: CraigS
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 03:51 PM

Classically, sitting on a kitchen chair with legs spread open, you have the waist of the guitar resting on your left thigh, and raise the height of your left leg (usually with a heap of books) until the top of your thigh is parallel with the floor. The Jazz or Ladies Position is to cross the left leg over the right, which gets the thigh at the right height without needing the books. The neck should be raised until the nut is about level with the shoulder. KEEPING YOUR ELBOW AWAY FROM YOUR BODY you should be able to keep your forearm at right angles to the neck if you are fingering around the fifth fret. The face of the guitar can incline back at an angle of about 15 degrees, which will allow you to see what you are doing. Your fingers should be in line with the frets, and your thumb midway up the back of the neck. If you can't remember to keep that elbow out, tie a pillow against your left side to remind yourself. I couldn't play bar chords at all until I got the hang of this positioning.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 03:57 PM

Just buy a strap and stand with it.

Much better for posing.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 05:09 PM

I go with the strap; however, there is a difference between how you would hold a guitar for fingerstyle and pick( plectrum) style. Django - the greatest pick playe on an acoustic guitar ever - always sat and seem - from photos - to hold the guitar horizontally. Fingerstyle players! That's a different ball game. And of course, if you sing, you should stand up - in theory! But didn't Nick Jones usually sit?


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: CraigS
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 05:31 PM

An addition: It is important to keep the elbow out, the nut level with the shoulder, and the forearm at right angles to the frets when learning, whether you stand or sit. Nic Jones did tend to sit when playing, as do John James, Dave Evans, Doc Watson, David Lindley, Stefan Grossman and Leo Kottke, to name a few. It's easier to play the hard stuff sitting down, but you can play it standing up with practice. The thing is to learn whilst in the correct position for easy fingering. You can end up in all sorts of positions after you've learned to play, but it is easier to learn if you adopt a good position to start with. It is very easy to say that certain great guitarists learned to play with the guitar in a strange position (Django was a little odd, but if you want UUUUUUH watch a film of Wes Montgomery), but they got good DESPITE the handicap of a bad position.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 05:38 PM

I think Django held it weird to compensate for his missing fingers.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: CraigS
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 05:39 PM

Sorry - I meant forearm at right angles to the NECK in the above, not frets!


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 14 Jul 03 - 05:48 PM

I favor standing up -- better for singing, definitely, to have the air column from diaphragm through throat to mouth line up straight, not hunched over. The "top" of the guitar, then, is parallel to your spine, perpendicular to the floor.

As far as the position of the instrument, you HAVE to get over wanting to look at the fingerboard. Positioning the guitar so that you see the frets forces your left hand to curl back over itself much further than necessary, or even healthy. It's understandable to want to see what you're doing, especially when starting out -- I remember feeling that way myself. I didn't really get over it until I started to try making barre chords -- they're impossible unless you're ready to allow the fingerboard to face straight out in front of you where you can't see it.

I played a nylon string guitar, barehanded, for the first five years. Took classical lessons briefly after about two years (not at the very beginning), but I was trying to learn folk guitar all along. The one summer of classical lessons wasn't an effort to switch genres as much as a general overall musical learning expereince.

When I first began learning to fingerpick, I kept that right pinky glued to the guitar for years -- even after switching to steel-strings and fingerpicks. Only after becoming more and more comfortable and loose was I able to detach my right hand from the instrument and develop a freer style of playing with picks, combining single-string picking, double & triple string picking, and full-six-string strumming.

When you stand up to play, the length of your strap becomes an issue. My personal preference, which I (of course) recommend for everyone, is to keep the guitar at a moderate height, with the lower edge of the guitar just about at your waist -- not crammed up under your chin like Jerry of Jerry and the Pacemakers, not down around your knees like some current rockers, but somewhere in between. If the height (i.e., strap length) is comfortable, you should be able to vary the angle of the neck to find the best position(s) for you. (I play at a variety of angles, with the headstock pointing anywhere from just below level to maybe 15-20 degrees above -- no rhyme or reason, just acording to how I feel.)


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 11:54 AM

I no longer have the need to look at the fretboard (I only hold it that way out of habit) so where the guitar faces isn't a problem for me. And I've got the left hand/guitar neck positioning where I'm comfortable. My problem is with the right hand. From what I've read, you want to keep your wrist straight and the line of the forearm purpendicular to the strings. When I sit with the neck horizontal, my arm is directly in line with the strings. If I hold the guitar in classical position, it's at about a 45 degree angle. Where this causes problems for me is in palm muting the bass strings. As I understand it, you're supposed to mute with the side of your hand near below your pinkie. But for me it's the ball of my thumb that rests on the strings unless I really cock my wrist around. And the ball of my thumb is shaped so that it mutes everything, or just the center strings. I can't get positioned to mute the bottom two strings with the ball of my thumb and still be able to reach to play the string with the tip of my thumb.
As for standing up, because of back problems it's out of the question. I can stand in place for a maximum of 3 minutes at a time.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: HuwG
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 01:00 PM

You might try copying famous guitarists' stances. There is the Keith Richards just-about-propped-up-against-the-studio-wall method. However, I would heartily recommend the famous Hendrix resting-the-guitar-on-the-back-of-the-head technique.

As a tuition aid, to remove the need to see the fretted strings, it cannot be bettered.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 06:59 PM

I have generally agreed with you, PoppaGator, but this:

>I didn't really get over it until I started to try making barre chords -- they're impossible unless >you're ready to allow the fingerboard to face straight out in front of you where you can't see it.

Is just plain wrong--If the fingerboard is pointed straight out in front of you, you are really limiting what you can do with those barre chords, in addition to putting way too much stress on your wrists--


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Ely
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 09:15 PM

With the caveat that I'm largely self-taught, I always play standing up--I can't get the guitar at the right angle if I sit down. This might be another case of full-sized guitar versus not-so-big human (I had less trouble with my mother's slightly-smaller F-30). I've finally gotten past the point of needing to see my left hand and that frees up position a lot. I also tend to have the strap adjusted so the guitar is carried "waist-high", as mentioned by PoppaGator, to avoid bending my left wrist too much; I have small hands and short, crooked fingers anyway and having to keep my wrist bent means I have to work a lot harder to reach and "squeeze" the strings (this is on a steel-string guitar with a fairly narrow neck and slightly high action). The angle of the guitar neck away from my body, and the angle of the guitar neck away from the floor depend on how high up the neck I have to play.

Basically, how do I have to hold the guitar to get through a six-hour square dance without causing pain or numbness in my upper extremities?


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 15 Jul 03 - 11:25 PM

Homeless, you've got Ray Frank and Frank Hamilton and some others teaching you here...it don't get much better than the Mudcat, let me tell you! But I would suggest that you might consider springing for at least one lesson with a good guitar teacher. He or she might be able to fix in six seconds a problem that's been bugging you for years. Or at least, point you in the direction of fixing it. I didn't see you listed in the profiles or locator pages. If you mention your general location, you're likely to find quite a few suggestions here for where to look. Generically, try a bulletin board at a local music store (especially one that specializes in acoustic instruments) or college, or look in your local newspaper or alternative weekly.

As far as the right arm problem, it may mean you're playing a guitar that's too big for you. If that's something you can't or don't want to change, then I'd go with padding. But what do I know? I'm only a doctor.

Hey, Ray, one of these years I'm going to get back to Harmony! Good to see you here again.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: DADGBE
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 01:34 AM

Hi Mark,

I'll be looking forward to it!

Best,
Ray


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 10:08 AM

Mark,
I wish I could find a guitar teacher around here that could teach fingerpicking blues. Most around here teach rock, and I've got no interest in power chords. I work in the same office area as some sound and lighting guys (who are all accomplished musicians) and know literally everyone in the music biz around here, and they say there just ain't a teacher I'm looking for. If there was someone available, I wouldn't be trying to learn thru pdfs and mp3s, believe me. So as second best effort, I'm tapping into the vast wealth of knowledge that is the Community Mudcat.
As for the guitar being too big, I can't believe that's so. Actually, I was thinking it was too small. It's a (borrowed) Gibson B-25, and I'm 6'0" tipping 205 with long limbs and a short torso. I'm thinking that the difficulties with my right hand positioning is because my arms are too long for this guitar. Is that a likely possibility?


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 12:15 PM

Homeless,

Maybe you *do* need an in-person consultation with a good guitar teacher -- i.e., a single "lesson" -- so that the person can actually observe your posture, position, etc., and give you some input that might address your frustrations. There's only so much that we can convey to each other in verbal messages; physical presence and observation might make things immediately clear, where verbal descriptions can easily create misunderstandings (see below).

For such a brief single-session "course" in guitar-playing, any decent instructor should be able to help, even one who would not be able to guide you any further into fingerpicking, etc. Of course, it would be best to find someone familiar with *acoustic* playing, if at all possible. Neither a strictly-electric rock specialist nor a classical teacher would be quite as helpful.

If you can't find a fingerpicking teacher, see if you can't learn something from Stephan Grossman's books and tapes. I learned most of what I know (whatever that's worth) from from his books and other Oak Publications back in the mid-60s, and nowadays there are audio and video tapes to go with the books, making the material much more accessible. Not the same thing as a live teacher, of course, but nevertheless quite enlightening.

(Happy Traum's stuff is probably comparable -- I believe he was a pioneer in creating tapes to go with his instruction books -- and if you can find any material from Dave Van Ronk, reportedly the greatest in-person picking teacher of them all, go for it.)

Aside, to M. Ted -- you posted:

>>I have generally agreed with you, PoppaGator, but this:

>>I didn't really get over it until I started to try making barre chords -- they're impossible unless >you're ready to allow the fingerboard to face straight out in front of you where you can't see it.

>>Is just plain wrong--If the fingerboard is pointed straight out in front of you, you are really limiting what you can do with those barre chords, in addition to putting way too much stress on your wrists--

This has to be a failure to communicate. What I meant by "allow[ing] the fingerboard to face straight out in front of you where you can't see it" was simply to place the back of the guitar flat against your belly/torso -- pretty standard stuff. I think I didn't make myself clear, and that you misunderstood what I was trying to convey. Did you think I meant the guitar should be pointed out, like shooting a rifle or something? I probably should have used the word "top" or "front" instead of "fingerboard."

My point was this: If the guitar is tilted back so that you can see your fingering -- in other words, positioned like a dobro -- the left hand is forced to wrap much too far around the neck, and thus severly limited. The front surface of the guitar, including the fingerboard, soundhole, etc., should face straight forward. For that matter, it would be easiest on the left hand for the front of the guitar to be tilted downward, toward the ground -- but of course it would then be much more difficult for the *right* hand to function.

All those paragraphs! -- if we were in the same room together, we could understand each other perfectly within a few seconds, by striking a pose or two and mumbling just a few words ("like this?" "Mmm-Hmm" "I see" "no way" etc.) So much more difficult via typing...


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Homeless
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 01:08 PM

PoppaGator,
I agree with you on all counts above. Which is why I looked for a teacher first and only came here secondly, hoping I could convey my problems articulately. Long run, maybe the way to go for me is to get my paws on a video. Tho I am going to a birthday blowout contra dance this weekend where there will be many musicians. I'll try to tap into their knowledge to see if they can help me.

Thanx to everyone who has given ideas and opinions so far.

Homeless.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: NicoleC
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 01:54 PM

Homeless, you might try an ergonomics lesson with a classical teacher. Classical players have almost always given a lot more thought to optimum hand and arm positions than rock 'n' roll players. If you make it clear ahead of time that your goal is strictly improved ergonomics and not to play in a classical style, you may get exactly the input you need.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: DADGBE
Date: 16 Jul 03 - 03:37 PM

Hey Homeless, where are you located? I've been teaching for 35 years or so and now reside near Sacramento, CA. My specialty is working with folks who can't seem to improve. They say things like,"I've played for 20 years but stopped getting better 18 years ago." The problem almost always turns out to be poor left hand technique.

Mind you, it's not east to change. You'll probably have to stop playing all your old material until your improved technique becomes automatic - for most folks 6 weeks to 6 months. After that things get MUCH better.

Best regards,
Ray


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST,doodlebug
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 01:03 PM

hi guys miss you!


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Feb 18 - 02:28 AM

I thought it was Jose Feliciano who said:
"It took me 20 years to learn how to HOLD the guitar"

So, your QUEST is a genuine and honorable path my friend. Now hold it correctly!!

No, seriously watch TINA [Tina S.??] - NO STRAP. Really. Large electric guitar, the biggest I have seen, and NO STRAP. Sitting. She plays 2nd fiddle only to Buckethead as for technique... but she is more musical.

Tina S is your answer.


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Subject: RE: How do you hold a guitar correctly?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Feb 18 - 07:22 AM

stick it up yer jumper!


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