The unique size, shape and variations of the guitar’s design can introduce many postural difficulties for the guitarist. Often the shoulders are displaced due to the size of the guitar body, the hips may be twisted to reach the neck and the back and neck bent forward and over the fretboard so that the instrumentalist may see what they are doing. 

This may cause postural problems that can impact the musicians ability to improve at their given instrument and cause long term complications in other areas of their life.

Good posture is essential to improving technique. Excellent technique will allow you to play for longer, stretch your fingers further and perform with greater dexterity and speed, whilst avoiding repetitive strain injury.

Fortunately, good posture when playing the guitar is no different to what we already know when sitting:

  • Back straight with natural spine curvature.

  • Sitting at a 90 degree angle.

  • Square shoulders and hips with an equal distribution of weight. 

  • Feet flat on the floor.

  • Neck straight.

  • Music notation or direction at eye level.

Instead, we alter how we hold the guitar in relation to our body to maintain correct posture. 

The Position of the Guitar, Relative to the Body

The right handed guitar is often positioned over the right leg when sitting. Whilst this might seem like the most comfortable position (and certainly is the most popular), it can cause postural problems for the instrumentalist. This is the reason why the classical guitarist will position the guitar on the left leg, with the neck at an upwards 45 degree angle, improving posture and increasing the fretting hand's reach in relation to the fretboard. A foot stool is often used under the left foot to facilitate correct postural alignment. 

The classical guitar is significantly smaller than the popular dreadnought shaped acoustic guitar, and larger than most electric guitars (due to the sound chamber). As a result, the method described above often isn’t the optimal method for holding the guitar. Instead, it’s common for (right handed) guitarists to cross their left leg over their right, creating the same angle to place the guitar on as a foot stool. Alternatively, you may use a short strap, suspending the guitar up and away from your lap, by straightening your back, hips and neck. This has the added benefit of helping you to begin to feel accustomed to performing standing up.

The Fretting Hand & Wrist

Correct thumb position is integral to developing the strength needed to barre chords, bend strings and increase the reach of your fingers (a major 3rd interval played on the same string is 5 frets away) without causing injury. The thumb anchors the fretting hand to the neck of the guitar, the fingers to the fretboard and acts as a pivot point for the wrist and hand. Pivoting will allow you to adjust the angle of your hand in relation to the fretboard to increase reach, reduce muscle tension and avoid injury. 

The thumb should not wrap over the fretboard unless bending strings, playing a ‘Hendrix’ barre chord or you are deliberately muting the bass strings or using it as a fifth fretting finger. Instead, the thumb is placed inline with the index and middle fingers, with the wrist bent away from the guitar. If wrapping the thumb over and around the neck of the guitar, be careful not to squeeze the guitar neck and squash the inside of your hand on the bottom of the neck. To avoid nerve damage to the index finger, be sure to turn the inside of your hand (pinky), inward and towards the neck to help the hand sit in a comfortable position.

to be continued…

Marcus KruseComment