“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words.” — Victor Hugo
“All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff.” — Frank Zappa
“I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.” — Jimi Hendrix
When you are playing songs on guitar (or any instrument), you know you are in the moment when you put your whole self into it.
Everything is really clicking.
Moments like that are really awesome.
But, there are also times when putting our whole self into it can be detrimental to our playing.
Let me explain:
Many times we suffer from what I like to call Poor Guitar “Body English”.
And it can really hinder our playing and prevent any reasonable progress in our playing. It can be one of the main reasons our songs don’t always sound good, or a lead line just isn’t right, or that those chords don’t sound clear.
I do see it more with beginner players (which is normal) but I also see it with many who took on bad habits learning on their own or via the internet.
So what is Bad Guitar “Body English”?
While much importance is put on how we place our fingers on the strings to form chords or melody lines, what can be missed is how the rest of our body is positioned while we play.
And that matters. Poor posture, moving our arms, shoulders, and elbows in unnecessary ways don’t help those fingers do what they need to do.
Here are some examples of Bad Guitar “Body English” . At the end, I’ll show you the right way.
Check your own self to see how you are doing.
Rock Star Drift
This is the one where as you play, your left arm starts drifting, thus pulling the guitar neck further and further from your body.
I see this a lot. Now, if you want to do your best hair band rock move, by all means, go ahead and make that move! But that is all for effect. You can’t really play well always looking like that.
As you drift your arm further and further away, it becomes harder and harder to play those tough chords or melodies. You don’t give your fingers (or your thumb and wrist for that matter) any chance to play correctly.
What you really want to do is make sure you keep that arm back in a relaxed, comfortable position. The key word is to “relax”.
Here is another common problem I see with students. This oftentimes happens when we are trying real hard to play a song or work on something real difficult.
So, there is this natural tendency to want to “put our shoulder into it”. Thus, the shoulder tends to drop.
Relax! Yes, relax your shoulder! You don’t really need it much to play your guitar.
It will make your playing life so much better!
Bad Elbow In:
Bad Elbow Out:
Sometimes, while trying to get that barre chord to sound right (or any chord, really), the left elbow sometimes wants to compensate and twist and turn.
If you catch yourself doing it, stop! Relax (this seems to be a common theme?) your elbow! It shouldn’t swing out or in.
In fact, one simple test for not swinging inward is to imagine sticking a small pillow between the elbow and torso. It should easily fit there. If not, change it.
Yes, just like your mom might have said: “sit up straight and stop slouching!”
While you don’t have to sit up straight like a board, if you end up slouching on the couch too much while playing or practicing, you will either simply play bad, or pick up some really bad habits that will ultimately hinder your progress.
So, sit up! Or, simply stand up, that works too. Your fingers (and your mom) will appreciate it!
You Look Marvelous!
If you aren’t sure, look in a mirror while playing. Sometimes it can be hard to really see how you look with the guitar.
Often you will see some of that Poor Guitar Body English show up and you can adjust to correct it.
I hope this helps make you more successful in your playing!Have fun!
Rock on until the next time!
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