Why proper guitar posture is considered so important and how to achieve it

Having the correct posture when playing the guitar (sitting or standing) should never be overlooked because it is beneficial in so many ways. If you are just starting out playing the guitar, it would do you well to start implementing correct posturing right from the start.

Sometimes the younger guitarist tend to take a more laid back approach to playing the guitar. At least, when “I” was younger it was more important to “look cool” when playing than to actually play 99-100% correctly.

Yes, it was still important to play correctly, but if one element had to be sacrificed for the other… posture went to the way-side. Although, I will say that I was never one of those electric guitar players that let the guitar hang way down below the belt. That was just never feasible for me. My playing would’ve definitely suffered.

In the end, deciding to adhere to correct posturing is up to the individual and whether or not he, or she, feels it’s necessary. Having said that, the next paragraph outlines some of the pros (there aren’t really any cons) of positioning one’s self correctly when playing the guitar…

As stated earlier, there are correct postures for sitting and standing. And there are some differences between electric versus acoustic guitars; however, the following are some of the basic benefits that come with overall proper guitar posture being applied:

Better access to the instrument increasing playability, better tone…

Having better access to the guitar requires bringing the guitar closer in towards your body to the point that it’s not too much of a struggle for you to reach all the necessary areas of the guitar. You want holding the guitar to feel as natural as possible.

The less you are struggling to reach certain areas of the fretboard, the better you will be able to apply the proper pressure to the strings. This, in turn, makes it easier to play. Not only should you be concerned with pressure, but also the positioning of your fingers on the fretboard.

Generally speaking, when playing a note, you want to place whichever finger slightly closer to the fret that is closest to the sound hole of the guitar. Too much deviation from this leads to decreased tone, or even a missed note altogether.

Decreases the likelihood of pain and / or injury…

All of the posturing advice that I’m sure you’ve read to some degree over time is all designed to make one’s playing more efficient. More efficient equals less strain on the player, which equals less finger, hand, shoulder, and back pain for the player as well.

If you’ve ever played the guitar for more than an hour (sometimes less) in one sitting, then you’ve experienced pain in some (maybe multiple) part(s) of your body. Now, to be realistic, one has to take into account how much time he spends practicing on a daily basis to know if this pain is from poor posture, or just that you haven’t maintained a long practice period over the years.

Just starting out, even with the correct posture, you are going to experience a decent amount of pain and soreness. This leads me into the next benefit…

Increases the amount of time for sustained playing…

Over time, if you are exercising correct posture, arm, hand, finger positioning, etc. … you will see a significant increase in the amount of time you can play without soreness. Like any other similar activity in life, the more you practice (and practice right) the better you get.

As a Soldier in the United States Army for over twenty years, I ran… well…. A LOT …. Depending upon the unit one finds him, or herself, in you are advised by the senior people in the organization on how to run over sustained period of time. Over the years, if you haven’t implemented proper
running form, you are definitely going to have foot, leg, and back problems.

Since most normal runs in the Army are usually around 2-4 miles, most people just say to themselves, “as long as I can make this 3 mile run this morning, I’m good.”… Honestly, this attitude does tend to “get people” through there running career in the Army as long as they are in reasonable shape, but their struggles would have been less if they actually made an effort to exercise proper running form.

Anyway, the same applies to playing the guitar… start off with the right posture and positioning and you experience less pain throughout your years.

Better overall physical control of the guitar…

If you haven’t dropped your guitar yet… trust me… you will. And it’s not a fun moment. Your heart sinks as its falling to the ground. You’re almost afraid to pick it up and inspect for fear of what you might discover – a chipped nut or fret, a big gash in the body of the guitar, or worse …

The best way to prevent this from happening is to simply have good physical control of your instrument. Proper posturing helps to achieve this. Again, the guitar should be brought closer into your body thus making your hands and arms very capable of controlling its movement.

If you are seated and it starts to slip, it shouldn’t be too hard to grab hold of it and stop it from falling to the floor. The same with standing. If positioned properly across your body via the strap adjustments, it shouldn’t get away from you and collide with the microphone stand.

You should be able to pull it into your body during some unforeseen movement of some kind. If you’re standing and need to bend down to pick up the pick you dropped, or turn a page in your lyric sheets, or press play on the computer; you should be able to quickly grab the neck of your guitar, pull it in towards you and bend down to do “whatever.”…

It’s simple really… exercising proper posturing can’t help but make you a better guitar player. Again, If you’re like me, I never really focused on proper posture and positioning throughout the years unless I could tell an immediate benefit. I.E. if haven’t been applying it for years and suddenly try doing it, you may not notice an immediate effect. But I truly believe now that it’s the prolonged application of proper posturing versus lazy posturing that will that will give us that extra something in the end. It’s never too late to change bad habits…

Posture while seated playing an acoustic guitar

When playing an acoustic guitar in the seated position, one should sit as straight up as possible trying to only move your head and neck whenever necessary to see the strings. If you are playing traditional singer songwriter or bluegrass / country style, the bridge and sound hole end of the guitar would normally be placed on your right knee (if you’re right handed), bringing the guitar in as close as you can as to your body while still allowing for a natural playing feel.

Sitting with acoustic 900px

If the guitar wants to slide off your knee from time-to-time, you can always try using a foot stool for more security, or even wearing a guitar strap while seated is not unheard of and can certainly help.

Your left hand, of course, will grab the neck of the guitar placing your thumb firmly behind. Some people like to let the palm of their picking hand (right hand in this scenario) rest on the bridge of their guitar while playing / picking, or use their pinky finger to help keep themselves close, but not too close to the strings.

And there are some players (well known – take your pick) that insist on you not allowing your palm to rest on the bridge or using your “spare” fingers to help keep you oriented as because it could interfere with the sound and even your range of playing.

If playing a classical guitar, one would normally place his, or her, guitar on the side opposite to their finger picking hand, which ultimately gives you better access to the strings and allows for better finger positioning on the guitar. That’s the main difference between the two.

Playing the acoustic guitar while standing

Keeping a good posture playing the acoustic guitar while standing is definitely a bit more challenging due to the “fatness” of most acoustic guitars. You’ll almost certainly need a guitar strap in-order-to stand up and play. Figuring out how you would like your strap configured can be a challenge as well.

“Somebody’s Cousin” from Waaay Back….(I’m actually in the center)…

It depends on what options are available for your guitar. I.E. Is there a strap button mounted at the rear and 12 th fret of the guitar? Or is there one mounted on the rear of the guitar only? If you only have the rear strap button, then now you would have to tie the other end of the strap (normally) around the headstock, or just install a strap button in a good solid place near the 12 th fret.

Posture while playing an electric guitar seated

Maintaining good posture playing the electric guitar while seated is just as important and can be quite easy or difficult depending on the guitar. The same can be said, of course, for acoustic guitar; however, I’ve found over the years that there’s “night-n-day” differences to this more so with electric guitars than with acoustic guitars because of the many different body styles

For example, holding and playing a Fender Stratocaster is quite different than playing a Gibson Les Paul, or Epiphone Casino (to me… anyway…). The Strat feels and fits far more perfectly in my lap than the Gibson, and the Epiphone Casino wants to fall completely out of my lap most of the time. Again, a strap can help with this issue…

Playing an electric while standing

Playing an electric while standing is definitely easier than playing an acoustic (again, depending upon the body style); however, there’s one major temptation that some people fall for that “could” over time “possibly” cause back issues (if you play standing up a lot). And that’s allowing for your guitar to hang “way down low.”

Usually, this is a temptation for those on stage “trying to look cooler” in-a-sense. To-each-his-own I guess. Plenty of guitarists like to let their guitars hang down at, or below, their belt line, which to me is quite awkward… but hey… whatever “floats your boat.”…

I like to keep mine right across the waist line. It’s just easier to manage to me. And… if one of your favorite guitars is the one featured below (The Gretsch White Falcon), these are a little fatter and are more like an acoustic when you’re holding. So there’s more guitar for you to have to manage…

If you move around a great deal when standing up, it would be a good idea to get very comfortable with your strap’s arrangement / placement on the guitar making sure you can reach the frets and strings while in the various positions on stage. Whether you’re playing an acoustic, or electric, definitely consider getting some strap locks to help keep guitar from falling to ground unnecessarily.

In conclusion

How one wants to sit and / or stand while playing the guitar is up to them, these were just a few really basic pointers that should “hopefully” give you an overall understanding the importance of proper guitar posture, how to achieve it, and the multiple benefits that can be experienced.

If you wind up experiencing any pain, or extended discomfort, either try some stretching, include some regular exercise in your daily routines, or seek medical attention if it persists for too long.

My guitar teacher (I did take 4x 30 minute lessons a long, long time ago) from long ago wound up having back surgery at one point that he says was due to a life time of “lazy posturing.”

Whether it was or not, taking the effort to sit up, stand up straight, etc. … isn’t that much to ask to help keeping you from having to do the same thing…

Hope this helps…

stephen-ruppe-signature

S. B. Ruppe

I like writing and recording music and other audio , checking out new music and recording gear, experimenting with tonal qualities, and just about anything-and-everything related to the subject of audio (music, or other wise)...

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