Editors Note: This week, we welcome a new columnist to Guitar.com. Jim Greeninger comes with quite the pedigree. You can find more about him by simply searching for him online or visiting his site: JimGreeninger.com. Check out his YouTube video for Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Jim will be posting a column every other week regarding "Real Life Guitar". This will cover a very wide range of topics but players will benefit from Jim's broad range of experience. Got a topic to suggest for Jim - send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
REAL LIFE GUITAR - Volume 1
Each volume of this new column will deal with real life problems and solutions for guitarists. Most information will pertain to every style of music. Just because I am holding a certain type of guitar does not mean that I am referring to a "style" of music. It is my belief that we must always be as practical as possible, get to the facts, get rid of bad habits and "get 'er done."
So many people give up playing because they can't get past the problems of their hands and even body hurting. The older we get, the more we hurt. People often think that developing strong calluses is the answer. This is simply not true.
A few rules should be followed to correct bad habits or problems we have learned from others.
The first thing ALL guitar players need to do, whether they are new, intermediate or advanced, is to get their guitar in a proper holding position so it will make playing easier. Standing or sitting; the position should be the same.
Stand up and raise your left, or fingering, hand straight up to your face and look at the palm of your hand about 10 - 12 inches from your face. Notice that the back of your hand is in a straight line with your arm - no tension. Standing or sitting, this is your ideal playing position.
Picture # 1 Picture # 2
Little bit of humor, very little: "No matter how you tune an Air-Guitar, it's always flat."
Holding your guitar with a strap is the easiest way to get your guitar in a correct position:
1. The lower strap button placement is almost always on the sides at the center of the tail block
Picture # 3
2. Strap button, upper bout - placement is often placed in one of these three locations:
A. Position #1: on the side above the heal. This is the most common, but not the best:
Picture # 4
B. Position #2: on the heal cap back of the guitar on the heal (not pictured) or
C. Position #3: Lower part of the heal at an angle.
Picture # 5
3. However, position #3 (picture #5) is my favorite location as pictured above.
Here are my reasons for this:
A. When holding your guitar, you should tilt the head up to about a 56 degree angle (note - full holding pictures 7 through 10, and/or chapter four of the DVD Easy Guitar Now.) Now your nose is directly above the neck/body joint. If you have the strap button in this position, it will be a straight pull on the strap and it will be secure. However, in other positions, especially position number one (the most popular one), the strap will pull off of the button and you can drop your guitar. This is especially true when the strap becomes old and can slip off the button easily.
NOTE: Getting your face closer to your fingering hand is a more desired position. With the strap/button in position #3 (picture #5), it is easy to pull the neck toward you and achieve this position, no matter if you are standing or sitting.
B. Guitars are often headstock-heavy and will balance off to the left, or head side. This is annoying and can be distracting when playing and practicing.
The picture below shows an incorrect strap position and how the guitar is head-heavy and unbalanced -
C. When you are holding your guitar correctly, your left hand, or fretting hand will naturally come straight up to the center working part of the fingerboard (at about the fifth or sixth fret). Position #3 makes this a natural action. Position #1 places the guitar too far to the left which puts your hand on the fingerboard at about the seventh or eighth fret, not the center working part of the fingerboard.
The pictures below show the strap button in the correct position and how the guitar is balanced and easier to play.
Pictures 7 Picture # 8
Picture # 9 Picture # 10
NOTE: You will note that your guitar strap is adjusted to the correct height when your left hand is in the center working part of the fingerboard and your hand is straight with your arm with no tension or twisting. Please remember to pull your left hand and fingerboard back enough to see your fingers on the fingerboard. When you sit down you need to sit on the edge of your seat and place the guitar between your legs. Your guitar will lightly press against your leg and push the bottom out making it easier to see the fingerboard and where you are placing your fingers.
Remember, sitting or standing your guitar should be in the same position.
Nose over the neck/body joint - Picture # 11
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1. Getting your left, or fingering hand, in a low-tension position facilitates easier playing, less tension and longer practice sessions.
2. Balance your guitar with the strap button in the best possible position.
3. You also need a guitar that will permit this strap position to function best for you
4. Sitting or standing your holding position should be the same.
5. Getting your face closer to your left or fingering hand usually places your left hand in a good position.
6. Sit on the edge of you chair with your guitar between your legs. This makes your fingering hand easier to see.
7. If you don't correct your holding and fingering hand position, you can expect physical problems later.
8. If you do play with a good holding and fingering hand position, you will be able to reach chords and positions you never could before, you will also be greatly encouraged in your playing and practicing.
9. Less tension means less pain and trouble.
10. Every point in this lesson has been designed to create a low stress playing position for everyone, no matter what your body size or type.
RED FLAG - This position closely resembles the classical position, however, placing the guitar on your right leg when sitting bends your right wrist, makes it more difficult to play wide reaches and leads to future physical problems.
Sitting or standing, don't hold your guitar like this: Notice the tension in my left arm. - Picture # 12
Also see Jim's Easy To Play Lifetime Guitars. You will play them more than any other. They are a real joy.
Next column - Creating a low-tension left hand position
Author - Multi-style guitarist and Luthier Jim Greeninger
Jim Greeninger is the number one guitarist on YouTube.com under the category of "Classical Guitar" But he plays Country, Jazz, Latin, Gospel, Blues, Spanish and much more. He studied with Andres Segovia, debuted at Carnegie Recital Hall, and was the first guitarist to be invited to teach at the Julliard School of Music. He headlined in his own show and performed in many others in Branson, Missouri, toured world wide and in 2002 took first place in the Great American Guitar Shootout performing as a final selection the Flight Of The Bumble Bee Boogie. He the is the author of the much acclaimed guitar teaching method Easy Guitar Now (LearnRealGuitar.com) and created the Color Note System for guitar.
Jim says: "Playing fast is fun, however my favorite is sweet ballads, bossa novas, gospel, country, jazz, and other beautiful solo guitar pieces".
All guitars pictured were handcrafted (picture 9 and 12) or re-crafted (Pictures 3 - 8, 10 and 11) by Jim Greeninger