Play Guitar In A Way That Serves You

by Janez Janežič

Have you ever wondered what's the best way to technically play your guitar? If yes - you're not the only one. All the conflicting information from the internet or various guitar teachers may contribute a whole lot to the confusion of what's the »right way« to play guitar. But does it actually matter?

You may have heard from other people that you should just invest your time into practicing and eventually, somehow you are going to reach your dream of becoming an awesome guitar player. While time invested in practicing does certainly help, it does NOT necessarily mean great results. Fact is there are some amazing guitar players out there that still use a pretty inefficient guitar technique. But the effort and time investment they've put into playing the same thing with an inefficient technique is huge compared to doing the exact same thing with more efficiency.

Imagine you have a truck of cement to unload. Of course, you can do it by hand: you roll up your sleeves and put your muscles to work right away. It takes you about 30 minutes to unload everything, but the job gets done. You feel very tired and need a rest.

Or you can call a forklift driver, to do it for you. Sure, he takes about 10 minutes to get to you first, but then it takes only 5 minutes to unload everything - the job gets done. You save time, feel well rested and ready for new challenges. That's exactly how it works with guitar techniques.

What's the »right way« to play guitar?

The best way to play your guitar is to play everything in a way that serves your playing. Everything from how you hold your guitar to fretting hand positions may contribute to making it easier or harder to play.

Keep this in mind whenever you are asking yourself, whether you are doing something correctly.

Where to start?

Start at the beginning. How do you hold your guitar? If you use a strap, make sure it's the right length: not too long, so that you don’t have to bend your fretting hand uncomfortably in order to reach certain notes; and not too short, so that your picking hand is comfortably in control of all of the strings.

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And no, you will not look too »nerdy« if you hold your guitar higher. 😉 Look at all the amazing guitarists like John Petrucci, Steve Lukather or Tom Morello – all in different styles of music and they all make it look cool.

When sitting down, make sure you use the left leg if you are playing right-handed, or right leg if you are playing left-handed. This so-called »classical position« will enable you a far greater control over your picking hand and the entire fretboard. Of course, you are free to use other positions if you only care about strumming some »cowboy chords«. The classical position might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it will help you to a greater extent later (just like calling a forklift driver).

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Once you have a good overall position, lay your hands on your guitar as comfortably as you can. Don't bend the picking hand in way that it's not normal for your hands to be. Everything should be as natural as possible. The pick should sit in your hands in the same way you would pick up a pencil from the table, don't overcomplicate it, make it natural.

The fretting hand should also use the so-called classical position. Especially if you are up for some more complicated stuff that incorporates wide stretches. Remember, this is not just »because it's always been done this way«, it's because it serves your playing. You could never stretch your fingers as far apart as you could with the classical position. Lay your thumb right on the center of the guitar neck and place the other fingers on the fretboard so that the middle finger and the thumb overlay each other. Stretch the other fingers away from the middle finger and there you have it.

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Start with these basics. Once you get used to these first few steps, you'll see that most of your playing becomes much easier. And when you come by any kind of technical challenges in the future, just remember the main principle: practice and play them in a way that serves your playing.

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About The Author:

Janez Janežič is an aspiring guitarist, teacher and songwriter from Slovenia.
Most of his time is devoted to writing music and creating the best guitar lessons in Novo Mesto.

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