Playing guitar is hard. These tips can help.
1. Don't Fall Back to Support Your Instrument--Free Up Into It
Guitars are heavy, especially acoustic guitars. It is tempting to bend backwards to help support their weight. As a result your back with start to contract which can cause shoulder tension and finger control issues, as well as breath support problems if you sing while you play (plus it doesn't feel good). Instead, think of your body moving forward in up in opposition to the weight of the guitar--it will feel almost like you are doing a shared weight exercise with it. It will be helpful to have your support well set up--if you are sitting, see if you can have the balls of your feet on the floor relatively close to your chair (I recommend a simple musician's stool). If standing, make sure you have some weight in both the heel and ball of both feet (including the big toe side), and consider playing in a subtle 'lunge' position.
2. Don't Fret With Your Neck
As a self-taught guitarist, this has been something that has been really difficult for me: only look at the fret-board when you need to. When we are learning, it is easy to spend all of our time with our head craned towards the fret board to make sure we are doing what we think we are with our hands. Once we get going, this creates a habit of pushing your head off your spine to see what your hands are doing. This tightens your torso, tenses your shoulders, crunches your larynx, and generally makes guitar playing less fun. It can feel ponderous at first, but slowly start to nurse yourself off this habit and try to look up and out as you play. Of course, that doesn't mean you never look down--just try not to get stuck there. One thing I find helpful for this is looking down as much as possible with just my eyes rather than bending my neck--it helps me quick reference without getting to out of sorts. Plus, it is great for keeping sound contant if you have to sing into a mic while you play.
3. Breath Like You Are Singing
Singers are aware of how important breath support is, but string players often don't know that it is just as important for them. The reason why is simple: when your muscles are oxygenated, they relax. When your system doesn't have enough air, it tightens up. Rather than focusing on gulping air in, try this: as you play, exhale gently through each phrase. And the end of each phrase, open your mouth and allow breath to flow in. You should feel your ribs move in your back, and be careful of tightening your abs or letting your head pull back as you inhale. The strange side effect is that you will fine your rhythm becomes more steady, your phrases more musical, your fingers more precise, and your muscles more relaxed--everything will start to feel much more effortless. Plus, you might find this strategy helps you with your stage fright!
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1/9/2018 12:40:51 am
Really enjoyed the insights. As you know, I'm working to be able to learn guitar and harmonica. Posture is absolutely critical to good performance. And, if you play a harmonica or any other wind instrument, you MUST sing into the instrument to coax it to you will.
4/23/2019 01:45:41 pm
Thanks Mike! Glad you enjoyed it.
4/23/2019 03:56:16 am
Do you share, how I can play guitar with song? Synchronize.
4/23/2019 02:11:35 pm
Hi Taylor--thanks for your question. If you are asking about how to play guitar and sing at the same time, that is a great one because it is honestly one of the hardest things to do. I'm afraid I don't have any instant shortcuts, but some advice I wish I had been given is to really take your time working out the guitar part and getting confident before you try to add voice in, focusing on rhythm at first. In fact, you may want to simplify the rhythm of whatever you are playing so you can focus on your fingering and changes. Once you can do the changes while staying in steady rhythm everything about singing gets easier. It can be a bit frustrating, but I promise that you will have a much better time in the end being patient--there is SO MUCH going on when you play and sing together that you can't do it all consciously, you have to spend time making SOME of it automatic. Similarly, figure out where you are going to breath when you sing so you can be confident in that. Then, like the tip in the blog above, practice the singing breathing while playing the guitar underneath. Finally once that feels good you can add in voice. Stay easy and patient with yourself while you work. I hope this helps.
9/23/2020 11:11:46 pm
The tip about breathing is so good! I remember meeting one of the most proficient players I've ever seen and he told me to breathe and focus on relaxation to play fast. Its very refreshing to see this advice so thank you for the reminder!
9/30/2020 10:10:14 am
Hey Cameron! Thanks so much for reading. It is amazing to me every time how much of a difference the breathing tip can make. Keeps you from getting in your own way when playing difficult passages, evens out your sense of rhythm, relaxes you, and preps you for singing while playing all at once. Thanks again and take care!
9/30/2020 10:05:40 am
Hi Hina! Thanks for reading. I'm not an expert in guitar types, but typically the top brands are Martin, Taylor, and Guild. I wouldn't limit yourself there though--Seagull, for instance, is a great Canadian brand whose guitars have a really clear, beautiful sound--any one of those four brands will offer you very solid quality. Every guitar within the brand will have a different sound based off of material and construction--I play a Martin DRS1 acoustic-electric dreadnought and it is great for heavy strumming and has a pretty dark sound, which I like. It however, sounds different from another of the EXACT same guitar I tried out at a different store, so I highly recommend trying out a guitar if your local music shop can let you do so safely, as each individual instrument truly has its own personality. One last thought--when buying a guitar, consider how much of it is made of solid wood (as opposed to laminate). Having a guitar whose body is solid wood will mean it will improve in sound over time (if you take care of it) and I highly recommend making the investment (my understanding is that the material used in the neck of the guitar is less important). I hope this helps and thanks again!
4/7/2021 01:41:16 am
Oh My God!!! This is a great blog, I am happy that I have come across this one. It’s an amazing blog to read about the 3 tips for easier guitar playing in detail. Thanks for this wonderful content. I loved reading your article, as it provide clear information regarding the topic. Great blog to share!!
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