If you are just learning to play here’s a very basic concept that will help you. The guitar can be awkward to hold and play at the same time for most beginners. After all if you’re busy holding the neck up with your left hand (to balance it) how are you going to use your fingers effectively to fret the notes? I see most of my beginners doing this until they are taught to take a different approach.
The key is to learn to balance the guitar without using your left hand. In the sitting position your right forearm rests on the top of the guitar naturally. The cutaway of the guitar sits over your right leg. So use these parts of your body to balance the guitar without touching it with your left hand. When you do this the neck should be nearly perpendicular to the floor, with just a slight angle upwards. This way when you add your left hand your wrist bends slightly to help your fingers fret the notes.
Practice balancing the guitar like this before you add the left hand. Once it is balanced try to maintain its position so the left hand is used only to fret notes, not aid in balancing the neck. This may feel a little bit different if you have been playing while using your left hand to balance and it has become a habit. But it is actually much easier to play in that position so it should be a good kind of different.
Before long you’ll be comfortable with it and it will become second nature. Have fun!
I only play while sitting. If I stand with a strap my entire world changes and I am no longer in my comfort zone. Any thoughts on how to stand and play?
I would love to buy a flying V but won’t because it would be almost impossible to play even though Albert King figured it out.
Another thing about guitar cutaways – they are in different positions on different electric guitars or so it seems. That is another reason to try out as many as possible in a store. Buying on the internet works but you never know.
Hey Kim thanks for the comment! We do have another article that gives advice on how to play guitar standing up. You can check it out here: https://www.superguitarlicks.com/tips-on-how-to-play-guitar-while-standing-up/
That should get you some good tips to get started
Mike, do I detect an impending job opening for a proof reader? I don’t think that you really wanted to say “neck should be nearly perpendicular to the floor”. I’ll admit that I have never seen a course for “Correlation of Geometric Terms with Proper Playing Positions of Guitars Relative to Accepted Modern Bandstand Designs” and we most likely don’t need one ( !!!!!!!!! ), but I would keep that option open for future course content.
Yeh, you can smack me for being a smart ass if you feel the need……….. (I couldn’t resist that, Mike.)
Now, for a realistic comment……..I have been playing and teaching guitar for almost 64 years and for quite a few years I have seen many new, budding, guitar players try to imitate their hero artists by hanging the instrument about knee level….they think it looks cool. Have you ever tried to form a bar chord in that position? It has to be pretty difficult. You would do your students a favor by discouraging this practice.
You do good work, Mike, and I respect what you are doing. Keep it up!! (don’t take this comment from me wrong….)
Thanks for the comment! In regards to playing your guitar at knee level… I certainly agree. It’s uncomfortable and certainly produces bad form. When I watch someone like James Hetfield of Metallica play, I always think how uncomfortable it looks to play that way as apposed to someone like John Petrucci who uses a foot rest to get the neck as close to his upper chest as possible when he’s really ripping.
But this also brings up 2 important points… #1 What inspires you to play and #2 What kind of playing are you doing?
In my opinion, if something inspires you to play and mimicking that helps you progress and want to play more, than I usually draw a line on pushing someone too hard to do something they would prefer to do another way. In regards to #2… Mostly rhythm playing doesn’t require as much correct posture as soloing so sometimes I’ll give a student the benefit of the doubt if they prefer playing and looking like their idols.. But if it starts hindering their progress I’ll lay it on as thick as I can to make a point. After that… its up to them to decide what’s right for them!
IMO, if you’re having trouble balancing the guitar while standing you bought a bad guitar, no matter what the headstock says. “Top heavy” is one of the worst design flaws I can honestly think of. I owned a Firebird Studio where you had to look all the way to the left side of the room to see the first 3 frets. Yet it had perfect balance. A good guitar should just do its thing hanging from the strap. Any sort of compromise will make a difficult instrument like guitar, merely more difficult, and stressful to play on stage.
What if the guitar does not have a cutout?
Hey Peter, Almost all guitars have a cutout.. This is not referring to the cutaway that is the opposite of a dreadnaught guitar. It’s the cut out the is in the middle of the guitar today. The only main type of guitar that does not have this would be a gibson flying V, which are not good guitars for practicing with.
What kind of guitar do you have?