If you have an interest in learning how to play the guitar, usually you might start to learn to play by looking at beginner guitar lessons, learning proper strumming for rhythms, or maybe studying some music theory or how to play specific chords. But there is an essential part of learning how to play that usually gets overlooked and shouldn’t be, and that is how to hold your guitar.
Holding the guitar may seem to be a simple task, but there are some true fundamentals to doing it correctly, so as not to cause yourself pain later on. When you don’t hold a guitar correctly you can and will likely open yourself up to injury, or at the very least, to feeling very uncomfortable while playing. The way that you hold your guitar is important in helping you when you play it, and there are some steps that you should follow while doing so.
So whether you’re taking one of our guitar lessons in New York City or enrolled in one-on-one online guitar lessons, getting a headstart on proper holding technique could move the classes along much faster.
Because you most likely are sitting or standing when holding your guitar, you have to be sure to maintain proper posture, as in, standing up straight in a comfortable way that doesn’t put too much strain on your body. This is more difficult when you move into the sitting position because you are having to hold a guitar at a degree angle, which can feel uncomfortable when not done correctly.
Sitting is a standard approach to when you first begin guitar playing, so you can utilize different methods of holding the guitar. The more casual way of doing so has the guitar sitting on your lap, across both legs. The more classical guitar style of holding is by resting it across just one leg (typically the left leg if you are right-handed).
The part that may feel somewhat awkward or uncomfortable here is making sure to keep your back straight. You don’t want to be hunching forward too much or you will, over time, start to have some issues with back and neck strain.
Sometimes, it helps to have a guitar strap to keep the guitar more in place as you’re sitting with it, though this is preferred more when standing. Having a chair with armrests can be helpful, but the key is to just be sure you aren’t slouching and are in a comfortable position to hold the guitar for a long period of time.
In some cases, it may still feel too uncomfortable to pick up the guitar and hold it while keeping your back straight in the upright sitting position, so you may have to utilize a footstool to help you keep the leg up that is holding the guitar. This can actually be helpful for guitar players who play a lot of lead or use the guitar pick more often because the footstool gives extra support for your right leg (or left leg if you are left-handed).
Those who play the electric guitar find that the footstool is helpful when sitting for this reason. Guitarists have more access to the strings and can play their guitar solos more easily. (A side note here is to keep fingernails trimmed so that they are not pushing on the fretboard.)
When you play the guitar standing up, you will most definitely need the guitar strap to help with support, especially if you are playing more lead on the guitar and/or are using a guitar pick. Electric guitars tend to be more lightweight than acoustic guitars, so it is possible to get away without one if you are using the electric, but it is still a very helpful and a good idea to have one, especially if you are going to stand and play for long periods of time.
Remember, especially when you are standing, to give yourself adequate breaks. If you play in a band and are standing for a long time playing in one position, with your neck angled down to look at your strumming technique, etc., you want to be sure you are giving yourself time to rest your fingers, wrists, shoulders, and back by not playing. Sit down, or stretch in between sets. Maybe even do some light exercise to work the muscles out so that they do not stiffen up.
Make sure that you are also noting the position of your guitar in each scenario – you have to be sure you have the guitar at the right angle to your right or left hand, and that the neck of the guitar is in accordance to your fretting hand. You cannot play well if you position the guitar too low or too high. Be sure that your strap is secure, and that the guitar is lying at a comfortable angle to your right arm or strumming arm, so it doesn’t feel awkward when you go to play.
When you stand, you will be less likely to hunch forward though depending on the angle of your right hand reaching over the guitar, it may feel like you are doing so. Just be sure that your guitar strap is in place and that you don’t feel any straining in your back muscles.
Playing chords and strumming should come easily, and the most important aspects you should understand for properly holding the guitar is posture and comfort. Be sure that you are not holding your body in weird angles that can cause problems.
Though holding a guitar is not an intense workout or activity, the comfort is extremely important so that you are not causing pain not only to the back or neck, but the wrists, shoulders, or hands. Once you have made a habit out of holding the guitar properly it becomes easier to play.
Being relaxed is an essential part when holding your guitar the right way. It may not be that interesting to learn about how to hold the guitar the right way, but it can be a huge help in providing your playing with more ease and comfort!