Just like you have to walk before you run, you have to learn to hold the guitar correctly before learning to solo by playing a mixolydia scale in E flat. Holding the guitar correctly will help you build the fundamental skills necessary to interpret what you want to play comfortably, quickly, and with the correct technique. Good guitarists take the time to develop the habits that allow them to become even better. Whether you are playing an electric or acoustic guitar, and whether you are sitting or standing, you can learn to hold the guitar correctly.
Method 1 of 2: Holding a Guitar (Sitting)
Step 1. Sit in an appropriate chair
When you are first learning to play the guitar, it is important to practice in a sitting position. Before you can crouch walking across the stage while strumming a solo, you have to learn to hold the guitar comfortably, without having to struggle to reach the frets and strings. The best way to do this is to learn to hold the guitar from a sitting position in a suitable chair.
- It is best to practice with chairs and hard-backed chairs without armrests of any kind, or with stools. Sit forward in the chair, so that your back is not in contact with the seatback, your butt right on the edge of the seat. Keep your back very straight.
- Guitar stools are available at most music stores, and are perfect for practicing. They are also quite expensive. If you want to buy one, go for it, but practicing with your own kitchen chair should be fine. Just avoid the couch, Lay-Z-Boy recliners, and other soft chairs, which will cause you to develop poor posture and bad guitar habits.
Step 2. Orient the guitar correctly
Begin by holding the guitar, orienting it towards your body correctly. Held correctly, the thickest string on the guitar (the low E string) should be toward the ceiling, and the thinnest one toward the floor. The body of the guitar - the part that has the strings and the soundboard - should be on the side of your dominant hand, which is the hand you write with. The neck, which is the long thin part with the frets of the guitar, should be on your non-dominant side.
- Your dominant hand is either your "strumming hand" or your "plucking hand." This hand is used to pluck the guitar strings and create the sound. Although it might seem more comfortable to use this hand to play the frets, it is much easier in the long run to learn this way.
- Your non-dominant hand is your "fret hand", used to press the strings down onto the fretboard and create the individual notes.
Step 3. Balance the base of the guitar on your thigh
When you pick up the guitar in a seated position, put your leg on your dominant side slightly forward, bending the knee to form a right angle, your foot should be flat on the ground. Your other leg should be slightly back to be comfortable for you. Keep your back straight. Balance the tail or base of the guitar - the opposite end of the tuning pegs - on your thigh on your dominant side.
Some dreadnought-style acoustic guitars have a nice cutout that should sit nicely on your other thigh, helping to orient the guitar correctly. Take your time to feel your guitar and settle comfortably in your lap. You shouldn't have to hold it with your hands, when it's properly balanced
Step 4. Angle your neck upward
Properly held, the neck of the guitar should be held at a 45-degree angle, not parallel to the ground, placing it flat on your lap. Although this is sometimes called "classical style", this is the most comfortable way to learn, no matter what style you plan to develop in your performance.
Some guitar teachers will not stress holding the guitar in this way. Once you feel comfortable, you can keep the guitar as you like best. For the beginner, however, it is much easier to access the fretboard this way. If your guitar teacher teaches you to play with the neck of the guitar parallel to the ground, try another way
Step 5. Secure the body with the elbow and forearm of your dominant hand
Keep the guitar tight to your body, the back of the guitar should touch your torso. The fingerboard and strings should be perfectly perpendicular to the ground, not slanted back so you can see the strings better. Under the soundboard, make sure the guitar is tight to your body by strumming with the forearm and elbow.
- To make sure you're not hugging too tightly, practice strumming, letting your hand drop comfortably, about an inch below the resonance hole on an acoustic guitar, or even with the pickups on an electric guitar.
- You should think less about how to "hold" a guitar and think more about how to let the rest of the guitar sit on your lap while you play. The less you "hold" it, the easier it will be to touch.
Step 6. Balance your neck between your thumb and forefinger
You shouldn't have to use your fretting hand to support the guitar. Properly held, a guitar should be able to stay in place by resting on the thigh on your dominant side, holding it tight to your body with the elbow on that side. To keep it stable, make a "V" shape with the thumb and index finger of your fretting hand, and use that hand to balance the neck of the guitar.
- Some guitar teachers will put a small piece of tape just behind the third fret, on the neck of the guitar as an indication of where you should place your thumb. If you are learning properly, the fretting thumb should always remain at the back of the neck, your other fingers arched over the fingerboard. Be careful not to wrap your thumb around it.
- Alternatively, guitar wizards from Hendrix to John Fahey have wildly broken this rule, incorporating the wrapped thumb to great effect. If you have long fingers, you can get away with it. Follow your guitar teacher's instructions, if you are receiving them, or experiment to see what works best for you.
Step 7. Keep your back as straight as possible
The most important part of holding a guitar correctly is keeping your back straight while keeping the guitar perpendicular to the ground. It's easy to lean over and stay hunched over, tilting the guitar back so you can see the fretboard, but this is a quick workout into poor and sloppy playing technique. If you want to maintain it properly, keep your back straight.
Method 2 of 2: Holding a Guitar (Standing)
Step 1. Buy an adjustable strap
If you are ready to take your guitar skills to the stage, it is very common to support the guitar using a guitar strap. Many different styles and arrangements are available, from adjustable mariachi-style straps to tight banjo-style straps, but the most common varieties are relatively basic and easy to use. Look for a good fabric or high-quality leather strap with an adjustable length to allow yourself the freedom to find a height that works best for you.
Make sure your guitar is equipped with strap pegs before purchasing a strap, or consider having them installed at the guitar store. You will need at least one strap peg for the base on most guitars to work with the strap. Most guitars will come with them pre-installed
Step 2. Attach the strap correctly
Strap placement may vary, depending on whether or not you have one or two strap pegs. Many acoustic guitars will only have one peg, whereas electric guitars typically have two. Always start by sliding it down the base of the peg through the hole at the end of the strap, then continue with the installation of the peg that is closest to the neck.
- To tie the strap to an acoustic guitar with a peg, you will sometimes have to insert the thin end of the strap around the head, below where the strings meet the tuning pegs. Some straps will not come with this, but you can use a shoelace threaded through the peg hole at the thin end of the strap so that it can be attached. If your acoustic already comes with two pegs, simply snap the strap onto the two pegs for both the top and bottom of the guitar body and you're good to go.
- To strap an electric guitar, insert the pegs through the holes at each end of the strap and you should be ready to rock. Some straps will come with a variety of different holes allowing you a variety of lengths. Begin by tightening and loosening if necessary.
Step 3. Adjust the guitar strap
Most straps can be adjusted by sliding the buckle up or down the length of the strap to make it longer or shorter. Slip the strap over the shoulder of your fretting hand and feel where the guitar falls. If you feel comfortable, you are all set. If not, remove the guitar and adjust the strap until it feels good. Ideally, the bottom of the guitar should be close to hip level with your dominant side.
- It is a mistake to keep the side strap short. You don't want to have the guitar too low or you will have a hard time playing with your strumming hand. Similarly, if the guitar is too high, it can be exhausting to have to hold your arms so high to play.
- The length of the guitar strap has a lot to do with your playing style. Some players want to have the guitar as high as possible to allow them easy access to the frets, while rockers want to have the guitar as low as possible, because it looks impressive. There is no right way.
Step 4. Reinforce the guitar strap
The best guitar strap sets will come with a strap attachment hook or clip on the base of the guitar, which will help you keep the strap on the guitar. There's nothing worse than a guitar slipping off the strap pegs and falling to the ground in the middle of a performance. These are usually simple plastic clips that fit over the strap peg and hold the end of the strap from slipping.
Step 5. Wrap the guitar cable through the strap before connecting
If you're hooking up, a good trick of the trade is to wrap your guitar cable through the strap to keep it out of your way. Insert the cable between the base plug and the strap, from the back to the front of the guitar, and plug it in.