If you have read a few of my articles, you’ve become used to my preparatory ritual. Grab a guitar, tune it up, and find a foot stand. Today, we’re digging deep into the underlying reasons I suggest my fellow finger stylists grab a foot stand. While for some it may seem arbitrary; for others, it’s essential to help maintain proper speed, authority, and tone. In this lesson, you may leave the guitar, tuner, and foot stand aside because we are working on just your guitar playing posture.
Proper Posture in Music
Have you ever watched a professional sports player return to the same form when making a goal, taking a shot, or swinging a bat? A player’s form is ingrained from an early age for several reasons:
- To create the most efficient movement possible
- Create the best result for their efforts
- To protect against bodily harm
Sports require repetitive motions that, if done improperly, can lead to a short-lived career if proper precautions are not taken. If you have ever played sports on a team and had a decent coach, they made a punctual effort to keep your posture and footing secure. Not only does this make the player better at the sport, but it allows them to play the sport longer because proper form and footing ensure the least anatomical impact.
By now, you should see where I’m going here. It is equally vitally important to maintain proper posture when playing music for reasons very similar to why it is important in sports. Your tone, punctuality, authority, and long term playability directly correlates to your posture, footing, and hand placement.
Conventional Posture for Guitarists
So let’s talk about the most common posture for guitar players. I’m as much of a victim as most of my poor posture when playing, mainly because I play so frequently throughout the day.
Sometimes I find myself slouched and leaning back in a chair, laying flat on a bed or couch, or propped up against a wall that has good lighting.
The most common posture I see guitarist revert to is close to a classically oriented posture with a couple of modifications. This most common form is what we’ll refer to as ‘Casual Posture’. This involves a player that’s slightly leaned over a guitar that’s propped up on their right knee with both feet level on the ground. This form is natural when playing the instrument because your dominant arm rests on the body of the guitar which aids the feeling of control. This is the go-to posture of everyone who picks up a guitar and honestly, that’s because it’s quick and effective.
I often found it difficult, when first beginning to play, to move from this posture too upright playing with a strap. The orientation of the guitar shifts, sometimes dramatically if your strap is poorly set, making it difficult to replicate the same sound and cadence in your playing. The shift from ‘Casual Posture’ to ‘Classical Posture’ isn’t that dramatic and comes fairly easily with a bit of practice. If you’re happy with the ‘Casual Posture’ and it keeps you playing, that is great and really all that matters! If you’re interested in seeing how a ‘Classical Posture’ will change how the guitar feels, then let’s change everything starting from the ground up.
Proper Posture for Finger Stylists | Guitar on Your Left Knee
So let’s build your perfect ‘Classical Posture’. Starting with your feet; you want to keep them about shoulder-width apart and facing mostly forward. Many people tap their toes or heel to help keep time while playing and well-planted feet help you stay in time! You want your feet to feel relaxed and at ease while playing; remember to return to this position in between playing.
For the classical posture of playing guitar, players use a foot stand to prop up their foot and raise the knee that the guitar rest on. If you are a right-handed guitarist you will prop up your left foot and if you’re a left-handed guitarist you will prop up your right foot. How high you prop up your foot will depend on your height and what’s most comfortable. Note: foot stands cannot withstand a lot of weight. They are meant to simply prop up a foot; certainly not to stand on!
Moving on up; you want your knees bent at roughly a 90-degree angle. That means picking a well-suited chair that’s the appropriate height will help your overall posture. Nuances such as chair height seem menial but accompanied by other posture discrepancies, it can add up. I, as with most musicians, typically sit on the edge or center of my chair with my back straight. If you decide to sit further back in your chair, be sure to use one with a straight backing.
You want to keep your back and shoulders aligned the best you can without straining. If you’re stiff while postured, you will fatigue quicker and your playing will suffer. Find the right balance between comfortably sitting and attentively correcting for posture variances. Try to avoid leaning into your instrument. Note the posture you have before including the instrument and maintain that same posture once the instrument is introduced.
Since I’m right-handed and keep my guitar on my left knee, I have a slightly off-center twist to the left. This allows me to reach the full spectrum of notes on the neck while keeping the guitar-centered and balanced. Your head should point forward when you are not trying to find your fingering. I suggest sitting in front of a mirror or asking someone to take a picture of you postured so you can correct any discrepancies you notice
Post in the comments below a picture of your posture! I’d love to see how everyone is faring
Practice Make Perfect Posture
Changing your posture may feel a bit awkward at first until you become accustomed. What you should notice, after you’re a little more familiar with the posture, is more responsive fret movements, less fatigue, and a slightly better sound. Take the time to find comfort in your posture before including the instrument.
Now you’re all set to begin your fingerstyle journey!