Many guitarists, at first, make a fundamental error with the instrument. Instead of fitting the guitar to themselves, they fit themselves to the guitar. This puts their body at a physical disadvantage with the guitar, and makes performing and practicing much more difficult. Why should we do more work than we need, when it already takes so much effort to learn the guitar? You have to treat yourself right and put your in a physically comfortable and efficient position!
I remember when I was a young guitarist. I was trained to use a footstool, since that is what all the traditional players did. My neck hurt, my back hurt, and I got tired of sitting very quickly. It was hard to stay focused on my practice when I was tired and hurting all of the time, and it made practicing a burden.
As a result, I did much experimenting with my position and I finally discovered a position that was really good for my entire body. I was astonished that I was immediately able to play music and scales that I had struggled with for months. My entire body was much more relaxed, my concentration was better, and I was able – without additional practice – to play faster, longer, and more accurately.
Motivated by this realization and wanting even more benefits, I studied biomechanics, read as much as I could about anatomy, muscular function and the like, and paid careful attention to the information being given to me by my teacher, Stuart LeBlanc. I tried every guitar support on the market, and even invented my own guitar support and my own seat. I have since modified other guitar supports, and done everything else possible to find the most beneficial position possible.
In the end, the position that I arrived at followed the rules of biomechanics that are outlined in Aaron Shearer’s book Learning the Classic Guitar called the Four Principles of Efficient MusculoSkelatal Function. These principles were not discovered by Shearer, but rather outlined by him in a clear way that would be useful to guitarists.
Here are the 4 rules:
1. Muscular Alignment – All of the muscles, tendons, and bones in a movement should be in alignment. Your body and guitar should be positioned to allow this.
2. Uniform Direction of Joint Motion – All of the joints in a muscle group should either flex (close) or extend (open) at the same time. In other words, when making movements on the guitar, one joint in your finger should not open while another closes.
3. Midrange Function of Joints – Your joints and muscles are strongest when they operate and relax in the middle 30% of their range of motion. You should be positioned so that all of the joints in your body are in the middle of their range of motion.
4. Follow Through – When you produce a movement you should allow that movement to continue without countering it. Its like swinging a baseball bat. When you hit the ball you don’t try to stop the bat, but let the bat keep moving forward without trying to stop the swing.
I’ll follow with a specific post and some videos on each of these principles.