Holding my guitar


#1

Most of the time I play seated. I have noticed that many of the really good players have a guitar that sits perfectly still. My guitar tends to move a bit. Once I start playing, my right (picking) arm puts a little pressure on the edge of the lower bout towards my body and my left hand generally opposes that pressure. When I play a sequence like the one below in Ben’s “I’ll Fly Away”, for the first four beats shown of playing (starting on the 4th beat of the first measure) my pointer finger is doing all the fretting. As it is moving around (both changing strings and positions), the neck tends to bob a bit. The movement is the guitar rotating on my leg with the neck moving toward and away from “the audience.”
[attachment=0]snip.jpg[/attachment]
It’s not a huge movement, but I’d like to eliminate it. Any suggestions on holding the guitar? Most references I have seen have been for the classical position (which is nice and stable), but I don’t generally play that way.
Thanks in advance,


#2

Hey Mike, I have been playing about 30yrs but until recently in the Jazz set, playing a large 17" Arch top, electric of course, but always wore the guitar high on my chest where the upper bout was just about 6" below the chin and the neck at a 45 going up still farther which puts your wrist almost straight with your arm. In jazz guitar so many inversions and stretch chords and constantly moving long lines requires the thumb back of the neck and being able to move freely.
When about 9 mo. ago I decided to try acoustic and blue grass I found this type of position terrible and required a complete change in how I play, and believe me after using a method for all those years it was difficult. I started trying the right knee position like I see most use and found my back hurting because I was leaning forward with a 15" body on the guitar, also a problem I had never experienced prior was my right arm going sleepy by being cut off on the edge of the guitar. My jazz box is larger than a dread but because my arm laid across it while standing like I described or while sitting it was no problem, the guitar was always supported by the strap and only a small amount of the weight on my leg barely touching.
I tried several different acoustics of different sizes, I like the larger guitars as to me they sit better, but I know the trend now is smaller. I presently have an OM size and it’s ok but plan on going back to a dread size.
I always use a strap and Never sit on a couch or laying back, after these past 9 mo. trying everything I have come to the final position while seated of the left leg elevated about 6" with a foot rest and the guitar supported on my left leg, classical style, and after the last few months have found a great deal of improvement in my ability to practice long hours in comfort.
A gentleman I know here is a classical guitarist professional and plays solo concerts as well as orchestra and he uses this position as do most classical guitarists, but I feel it’s grounded in good science. Flamenco and Spanish and Gypsy players use this position alot as well. I can’t remember his name right now but one of the guys who used to play with Doc used this position as well.
Myself I have back and neck problems stemming from a heavy Les Paul and many other wood chunks hanging from the strap on my neck for 12yrs of playing in a group 5 nights a week I can’t even last 15min. standing with 10lbs around my neck anymore. I found the traditional right knee position made me bend forward just a touch and put the neck of the guitar in a downward forward position that caused my wrist to bend and made my thumb potrude over the top of the neck on many chords.
I changed to the left position and now my wrist has straightened out, my thumb is in a more correct position, and my back pain has subsided. I Always use a strap and it is in the same length sitting as well as standing so when you change over your hands are in the same configuration as sitting. You will find the left leg position mimics the standing position as far as the angle of the neck in relation to the body and movement of the guitar you describe is minimized as it is supported by the body and not moving around on the leg. Also on the right leg your left arm has much more influence on the movement of the neck because it is not supported by the body but how hard you squeeze it with the right arm while playing.
I hope this helps, didn’t mean to get long winded and I am no expert for sure and in blue grass a beginner but have over many years of playing found these things helpful. I practice about an average of 4 to 6 hours a day and in order to keep that schedule I have to be pain free and comfortable.
Of course having said all this a guy like Ben comes along and can play standing on his head in a row boat on rough seas on a dark night and just smoke it!! :laughing: :mrgreen:
But that’s what I have found right or wrong JMO…Jerry


#3

Thanks Jerry,
I haven’t played in the traditional classical position for some time, but it’s worth a shot. I also think playing with a strap while sitting is worth a try as well. With a strap I wear a guitar fairly high, but not as high as you describe.

Your thoughts give me some things to try. Thanks for the suggestions!


#4

By the way, I play a dread much of the time now, but an OM is a more comfy body shape and size for me. I suspect you are taller than I (5’ 9"). My most comfortable guitar (for me) is my OM. I play the dread because of the sound. The OM cuts well, but doesn’t quite keep up in volume and low end.


#5

Do you have the waist of the guitar sitting on your leg or is it more towards the upper bout side of the waist? Do you support the guitar at all with the left hand? Could it be your right forearm moving/flexing causing the movement?

I don’t know, just throwing out ideas.

Taking a look at how I hold the guitar, I’m not comfortable unless my right leg is slightly higher than level, which seems to cause the guitar to lean into me just a little. I usually lay my left foot on its side and put my right foot on top of it. I also don’t sit with he guitar straight across my leg (perpendicular?), it’s about half way between parallel and perpendicular, so it kind of locks the waist of the guitar in there. I have the waist of the guitar on top of my leg along with alot of the upper bout too. Man, I hope that makes sense. :slight_smile: I rest my bicep on top of the guitar and I have the lower bout, right on the binding, wedged between my bicep and forearm keeping it pretty steady. I don’t think my left hand supports the guitar at all. I don’t play standing up yet (no strap button). Betty Lou says she’s afraid of drills, and I respect that.

You guys have had me looking at HD28VS’s and I happened to notice this guys playing style. I don’t see how he does it with the upper bout only sitting on his leg and his right elbow straight up in the air. Seems very unsteady, like the only thing holding it in place is his left hand. Unless he has it locked under his rib cage. :slight_smile: What’s comfortable for one person may not be for another though.

[video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmvznUG1Qiw[/video]


#6

Another suggestion I saw at a guitar fest was one of the professionals using a non-slip cloth on his upper thigh to keep the guitar from sliding around. From a distance it looked like the kind of woven plastic drawer liner sold at the home stores to make things stay put. If your bobbing is the result of the guitar moving on your thigh, perhaps this would be worth trying.

Like others here, I tend to find myself more often than not using a classical position when I’m seated.

John L


#7

This is such a great thread. I never spend much time thinking about how I hold a guitar. But with all the aches and pains I get in my neck/upper back after playing for a bit, I really should take playing posture seriously.


#8

Hey Mike,

I read your post and it got me thinking about my body position. I have found myself going through lots of different preferred seating and standing positions in my life. Generally when standing, I wear my guitar a little high. Not Kenny Smith high, but higher than most folks. When sitting, I will often shift the guitar from one leg to the other to help keep my shoulders, arms and back feeling loose. Definitely, I prefer using my left leg (slightly elevated) as the resting point when playing for any extended length of time. Most important is to keep my shoulders/back relaxed and level. It is extremely important, to me, to not cause any muscle tension when it is not needed. In the video above, it is obvious to me that the player is raising his right shoulder and twisting his back just to hold the guitar in that position. If you look at my review of the Great Divide Campfire guitar in the video below, you will see me holding/playing the guitars in various positions, but always with my back relaxed and shoulders level to each other.

[video]http://youtu.be/MG_eZLy5niE[/video]


#9

— Begin quote from "TNTaylor414"

Do you have the waist of the guitar sitting on your leg or is it more towards the upper bout side of the waist? Do you support the guitar at all with the left hand? Could it be your right forearm moving/flexing causing the movement?

Taking a look at how I hold the guitar, I’m not comfortable unless my right leg is slightly higher than level, which seems to cause the guitar to lean into me just a little. I usually lay my left foot on its side and put my right foot on top of it. I also don’t sit with he guitar straight across my leg (perpendicular?), it’s about half way between parallel and perpendicular, so it kind of locks the waist of the guitar in there. I have the waist of the guitar on top of my leg along with alot of the upper bout too. Man, I hope that makes sense. :slight_smile: I rest my bicep on top of the guitar and I have the lower bout, right on the binding, wedged between my bicep and forearm keeping it pretty steady.

— End quote

Thanks for the help Shawn. I generally sit with my right foot propped up slightly on a leg of the chair, or my right leg crossed over my left such that my right leg is a little higher. The waist of the guitar sits pretty close to the highest part of my right leg. My right arm runs pretty close to what you describe. You asked if my right arm moving is causing the problem. It is certainly part of it. In the sequence in my original post the combination of picking individual notes and my left hand going free to change position makes the movement (by the way, the tab is wrong… when I cut and pasted the lick, I moved it’s starting string from the G string to the A string… ooops!). The movement is not huge, but looking at the head of the guitar it bobs a bit toward and away from the direction an audience would be. Watching really good BG players, most of them have less movement than I do.

The problem is most noticeable on a dreadnaught. I just looked at how I play a dread versus a slightly smaller guitar and part of the problem might be where my right elbow rests. On the smaller guitar it’s lower since my arm reaches slightly further down.
Thanks again!


#10

— Begin quote from "pklhead"

Another suggestion I saw at a guitar fest was one of the professionals using a non-slip cloth on his upper thigh to keep the guitar from sliding around.
John L

— End quote

Those rubber drawer liners are awesome. I have a dulcimer and use a drawer liner on my lap when playing that. I don’t think I slip much with guitar, but it’s worth a shot.

As a side note for woodworkers, drawer liners also make a great pad for routing.

I’ll give it a shot. Thanks!


#11

— Begin quote from "drguitar"

Most important is to keep my shoulders/back relaxed and level.

— End quote

You hit the nail on the head with the level comment. When standing, my shoulders are much more level than when normally seated, especially with a big guitar. When seated, my posture is less than ideal, and I am not particularly tall. Put it all together and my right shoulder sits higher than my left. As a side note, I had an odd right shoulder problem about a year ago that was pretty severe, but thankfully went away… that might have been the culprit. Anyway, when I go to a classical position, that right shoulder higher problem goes away. I don’t play real well out of that position (it’s been years since I sat that way much), but I suspect with very little time I would adjust. With the guitar on my right leg, sitting up straighter helps. That’s probably going to be a big help. Maybe not necessarily for the movement I am trying to eliminate, but certainly for the even bigger problem of having a shoulder so dysfunctional I couldn’t play at all.

As I have played with my seated position as a result of the comments, I think a big part of the movement is coming from my left hand technique (as it pertains to the particular sequence I posted). To correct it, I think I would need to move my thumb more behind the neck. When I am in the more stable classical seated position, I still get some movement (but it is improved). I’ll keep playing with it.

That little campfire guitar was an absolute steal. It’s a shame the saddle was mis-located. It wouldn’t be a problem for playing first position, but still… why couldn’t they locate it right in the first place? I am amazed at how many guitars that are much more expensive have the saddle too close to the nut. If you really get attached to the guitar, I’d be inclined to move the saddle. Hopefully there is enough room between the saddle and bridge pins to do it without moving the bridge pin holes and all that entails. Still, even with the intonation (that’s just us nitpicking), that’s fun looking little guitar. Nice buy!

Thanks for the post.


#12

Say Mike.
When I returned to regular playing about a year ago after a 5 yr hiatus, I had issues w/my left wrist and general stiffening after a hour or so. I’ve found the short scale(24-7/8) combined w/ the more pronounced waist on the GA(x14 Taylors) and the GS(x16 Taylors)bodies have really helped.They sit differently. The GS has all the power needed acoustically(ADI top and bracing). I probably got in a little better playing shape too. I’ve found that stretching like I do before a work-out really helps too.
Steve


#13

Thanks Steve,
I do like guitars with a more of a waist quite a bit. My only guitar that doesn’t fit me real well is my one dreadnaught. That’s the one I typically practice with most. Maybe I ought to go back to practicing more on the others. I don’t think playing an hour here or there on the dread will hurt, but daily use might be taking it’s toll.


#14

I’ve always rested the guitar on my left leg when sitting down. One day I realized that most flatpickers rested it on their right leg. I started forcing myself to hold it that way too but it just didn’t feel natural to me. Then I saw this clip of Jason and John Shaw and figured if they can be left leggers so can I!

[video]http://youtu.be/NQ6TTAO5x5Y[/video]

By the way if you’ve never heard of them, Jason has won the National Flatpicking Championship at Winfield 3 times and his brother John has won it once.


#15

— Begin quote from "mreisz"

Most of the time I play seated. I have noticed that many of the really good players have a guitar that sits perfectly still. My guitar tends to move a bit. Once I start playing, my right (picking) arm puts a little pressure on the edge of the lower bout towards my body and my left hand generally opposes that pressure. When I play a sequence like the one below in Ben’s “I’ll Fly Away”, for the first four beats shown of playing (starting on the 4th beat of the first measure) my pointer finger is doing all the fretting. As it is moving around (both changing strings and positions), the neck tends to bob a bit. The movement is the guitar rotating on my leg with the neck moving toward and away from “the audience.”
[attachment=0]snip.jpg[/attachment]
It’s not a huge movement, but I’d like to eliminate it. Any suggestions on holding the guitar? Most references I have seen have been for the classical position (which is nice and stable), but I don’t generally play that way.
Thanks in advance,

— End quote

 I just take a 2x2 foot piece of velcro and put on the back of the guitar and the other on my  body it keeps the guitar in one place (humor) we all can benefit from humor.  Do not try this at home.  plink! I also glue my pick to my finger and thumb , it sort of gets in the way of eating and stuff but I never drop a pick.

#16

I like the velcro attachment idea. I could just put velcro on the back of various instruments and wear a velcro shirt, and stick 'em on in various places. Thanks for the tip!


#17

I’ve never thought about my guitar’s position, until I started flatpicking.

I have always (playing fingerstyle and some strumming) just rested it on my right leg (I’m RH) …like “most” people I’ve ever seen. When I started flatpicking, I found it easier to play with it resting on my left leg. It just puts it in a more favorable position, FOR ME.


#18

That’s interesting… I sort of did the opposite. I played for years on my right leg, then when I tried to learn classical, I did that on my left leg. I find there are things that are easier for me in both positions. Whatever works for you is the way to go!


#19

Following up on the neck bobbing issue as it popped up again… I adapted a bit of mandolin form on the guitar and it seems to help for certain passages.
I had a passage where it was uneven at most any speed (of course it was worse at fast speeds). I noticed the neck was moving which was at least part of the problem. I rested the edge of the neck on the base of my first finger (like Ben describes in one of his beginner mando vids) and the bobbing mostly went away and the passage is quite a bit improved. Another thing that seemed to help was loosening the grip on my pick a bit. I think the force of the pick on the string was causing some of the bobbing. Anyway, those two changes were mini-breakthroughs for me on particular passages and I figured I’d throw them out there. I have no idea if these are generally prescribed good things for this issue, so use at your own risk.


#20

Question for you Mike. Do you play from the wrist of your playing hand or from the elbow? Most guys I’ve seen that move their entire forearm while playing get significant movement. From your earlier posts about where you put your forearm because of your size made me wonder if you play from the elbow. I would think this could cause movement of the guitar and have very little to do with how you are holding it. I tried playing from the elbow and I get movement. I play from the wrist down and get little or no movement. Moving into a classical style of holding the guitar would lesson the movement if you play from the elbow down.

Tony