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, what can be missed is how our guitar posture can affect our playing.
And that matters. Poor guitar posture problems like, moving our arms, shoulders, and elbows in unnecessary ways really 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.
Guitar Problem #1: Rock Star Drift
This guitar posture problem 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”.
Guitar Problem #2: Shoulder Drop
Here is another one of those guitar posture problems 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!
Guitar Problem #3: Elbow Swing
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.
Guitar Problem #4: Sit Up!
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!
Guitar Success: 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 have always felt that songs and/or riffs can be some of the most effective ways of learning and improving on guitar. Here are a couple I want to share with you. One will be mostly for all of you beginners out there. The other one is for those who want to be challenged a bit more.
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
I asked this question a few weeks ago: who doesn’t want to rock out to some Zeppelin?
Ok, even if you don’t, how about a cool lick to learn?
Jimmy Page had come up with so many great, memorable licks and songs.
Here is one that I think that even if you are a beginner, you should be able to figure it out.
It could still be a challenge for you. If so, think of it this way, when you overcome this challenge, think about how much better you will be for it!
TIP: always slow down videos that you are learning from so that you can get it right. Do it to this video if it is necessary