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I first got briefly introduced with proper posture and good practice habits by Al Di Meola’s chords, scales and arpeggios book. For me he is just one of the coolest guitar dudes on the planet, so what he wrote in the book was a good place to start with.
Proper guitar posture is not something every guitar player is aware of or takes seriously.
That’s because improper posture and bad habits will not immediately result in injuries.
But over the long term guitar players can get back, shoulder, neck, elbow, arm and wrist pains, RSI (repetitive strain injuries), tendonitis, CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and other nasty side effects.
This is certainly not every guitar player’s destiny, but it’s not out of the question either. But there’s good news! Proper posture can prevent a lot of these injuries and it makes guitar playing easier and more pleasant.
A good hand positioning is here also really important to learn to play effectively and properly. Every detail makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s take a closer look:
Sit down on a chair, put your two feet on the floor and keep your back straight. Put the waist of the guitar on your right leg (if you’re right-handed) and hold the back of the guitar against your stomach and chest. Keep the neck of the guitar horizontal to the floor.
Don’t use the left hand to support the neck from leaning down towards the floor, instead let your upper right arm rest on the upper part of the guitar body to avoid this. Make sure all this feels comfortable.
Left hand position and finger placement (fretting hand)
The thumb of your fretting hand should rest behind the neck of the guitar placing it approximately between your first two fingers. Make sure to bend all your knuckles (1st, 2nd and 3rd).
Use the tip of your fingers to press down the strings and place them as close to the fret as possible. (Don’t place your fingers on the fret!) Keep your fingernails short, so they don’t touch the fretboard.
Right hand position (strumming hand)
Rest your upper right arm on the upper part of the guitar body, your right hand floating comfortably above the sound hole and relax your arm, wrist and hand.
There are several strumming techniques for guitar playing. Here is one that is commonly used: Place your thumb against your index finger and hold them like that. This gives you a decent support. Bend your middle, ring and pinky slightly towards the palm of your hand. Whatever feels natural to you.
Now down strum with the nail of your index finger against all the strings and then up strum with the nail of your thumb. You can also play with your index finger and thumb separately which gives you a more tender sound. You can also grow your fingernails a bit to give you a more clear sound like using a pick.
Using a pick
Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger. Place the pick on the top side of your index finger and clamp your thumb down on top of it. Hold the pick firmly.
Rest your forearm on the top front edge of the lower bout to stabilize your hand. Hold your hand above the sound hole, make sure your hand and arm is aligned and bend your knuckles slightly.
The most common used approach is playing the bass strings (4th, 5th and 6th string) with the thumb, 3rd string with the index finger, 2nd string with the middle finger and the 1st string with the ring finger. Other variations are also used. Use the tip of your fingers to play the strings.
Keep your back straight, lengthen and align your spine. Relax your neck and shoulders (don’t raise your shoulders). Avoid or release any tension in the arms, wrists, hands and fingers.
Take a break and stretch every now and then if you’re playing for an extended amount of time. If you feel strain or pain take a rest and let your body heal.
Make sure you eat healthy, sleep well and exercise regularly. These three pointers are of great influence to your daily practice.
Be aware and listen to your body.
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