How to hold a guitar in the best possible way to play well

How to hold a guitar in the best possible way to play well

You must ask yourself how to hold an acoustic or electric guitar while being sited ? We’ll explain you all the possibilities to have a nice hands, arms and back position.

Why you must hold a guitar the right way when site ?

It is absolutely fundamental to have a good position when you play guitar. The posture is what will help you avoid a serious injury or improve the positioning skills of your fingers on the neck.

The aim of being sited, and not standing, while playing guitar

The standing position is mostly used during concerts. In a learning phase, it will be more interesting to practice sited in order to help you focus. Nevertheless, if you already have a rather sedentary kind of job as me (being sited behind a desk almost all day long in order to prepare your some nice pedagogical articles :p), then playing standing might be a great alternative .. but a little more tiresome. Think about having your computer keyboard or tablet at the same level as your sight to avoid having to bend often. A guitar weights a few kilograms and repeated movements to shift from an exercise to another increases the risk of making a wrong move. Thus, playing sited instead of standing allows you :

  • To limit the risks of injuries and many subsidiary pain such as back-ache (top/bottom), trapezius, shoulder blades, or even tendinitis.
  • To optimize the ease you have with your guitar playstyle. You moves will be faster and you’ll be able to place chords in an easier manner without blocking a single string.
  • To grant you a better focus that will help you play longer and by tiring yourself less.

There are, nonetheless, many positions used to hold a guitar while being sited. Through this short article / course, it’s important to differentiate the position of a left-handed guitarist from the one of a right-handed guitarist. Read this tutorial without modifying anything. If you have a right handed guitar, read this tutorial without changing a thing.If you have a left-handed guitar, you will simply need to invert the sense of the fingers. : )

The ideal way to hold a guitar for learning and practice purpose

Whether you play electric guitar, classical or folk, you can use these different positions by taking care to check there is no tension building in your body. You need to feel at ease. Of course, you’ll need a slight adaptation time.

The classical sitting position

This position is the one you should be being taught when starting classical guitar. The instrument has to fit between the legs. The curve of the guitar is set against your left leg. Even if this technic is mainly taught in classical music school as a traditional and fundamental way, it is not necessary the best one. It’s simple; there is no better one between this one and the one we’Il see together in a while. There are advantages and inconvenient to each of them and you’ll have to chose the one you feel the most at ease with. Its advantages are the followings:

  • The weight of the guitar is spread between many different points of your body, it avoids blood circulation cuts.
  • the neck is more accessible and allows you to have more amplitude.
  • your back will be straight and you’ll avoid arching.

On the other side, this position requires space. It is possible that your left arm will be faster tired because the blood flows a little less and the fact your eyes will be locked on the fretboard will force you to bend your neck forward.

A guitarist sitting in classical position
The position to hold a classical or folk guitar while being seated.

A guitarist holding his guitar in sitting position
This posture also work for electric guitar but the weight of the instrument makes it harder to hold.

The standard posture, or modern position

With this more casual posture, your guitar will be set on your right thigh and the neck, slightly oriented (about 45 degrees) upward. This way of holding the guitar is well spread in electric guitar playing and folk-associated styles. It grants your more freedom of movements and you’ll be able to pass over the unhealthy guitarist habits. For example :

  • you can see more easily where to set your fingers on the guitar neck.. but you might arch your back and hurt your back by doing so.
  • the style is way cooler, but the weight of the guitar might block your bloodstream and put your leg to sleep. I don’t even want to tell you about all those moments after a long guitar session when I could barely walk away from the chair!
  • To play technics such as fingerstyle and percussive play like Andy McKee it is way easier !

There too, I recomend you to do some tests to make sure which is the best way to hold the guitar according to your needs. On my personal experience, I started with this posture, by raising the neck a little. Some people prefer to play with the neck parallel to the ground. I learned the second way later and now I alternate both of the postures, the first one making me feel comfortable in fear of a potential back ache.

A guitar teacher holding a guitar on his right leg while being seated on a stole
I voluntarily shifted a little on the side in this posture. The neck is at a 45° angle.
A guitar teacher holding a guitar neck
The most famous electric guitar posture is the following, tilt a little the neck and the body side of the guitar outward.

A few accessories to help you hold a guitar

You are too scared that your guitar escapes you and you’re having trouble holding it against you ? Here are some accessories that would allow you to easily hold your six strings and improve its stability.

How to Comment surélever le pied ?

I encourage you to lift the leg supporting the guitar. To do so, you can buy a Guitar Foot Rest in a music shop. Using it changed my life, allowing me to have a better posture, thus avoiding hurting my back or having a stiff leg while playing guitar. You can also rest your foot on a pile of books for example. Some nicely old dictionaries might do the trick wonderfully!

The importance of a good stripe

You have the feeling your guitar is slipping away and you are afraid that it’s falling on the ground? It’s time for you to invest in a good guitar stripe. There are of all sorts. In fabric, leather, reinforced or not. I advise you to buy an adjustable one with a should pilow inside of the main part. It will help you hold the guitar closer to you and lift a little of its weight off of your leg.

A chair of a designed chair

You’re playing guitar on your sofa ? Sit better on a seat with a stiff support. There are many chairs specialized for guitarists taking shape of stoles. You can also buy some of them in music shops. Avoid laying on a couch while playing.. even if it is very soft and smooth.. I know it feels good but you’ll develop a very bad posture.

How to set your back?

I get back on a very important point. Your back and neck might be making you suffer if you force the same position at all time. Whatever happens, you need to keep a straight back without forcing. The ideal is to tell yourself « everytime I get a glimpse of the guitar neck, I have to check I have a straight back ». Take also the time to ask yourself the following « Do I have some knot in the body preventing me to play properly and even hurting?”. If yes, take the time to re-study your posture and straightens.

In case of pain, a physiotherapist or an osteopath might be of good advises. They are used to meet musicians. Some doctors are even specialized in injuries and pain linked to the practice of a musical instrument. They would be far better expert than me to help you improve your posture and avoid injuries cause by repeating the same mistakes. Every year, I take an appointment to my osteopath to check all that. Between sport, music and work, it is obvious that some adjustments made to the way we treat our body would do us good.

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