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How To Hold a Guitar

How to Hold a Guitar (without destroying your body!)

“How do I hold this thing?”

It seems like such a simple question! But the fact is, there is more to the question of how to hold a guitar than meets the eye.

Sitting and holding the guitar is as much a technique as are scales or arpeggios, and should be practiced with as much focus and intention.  In fact, sitting and holding the guitar could be considered the first and foremost area of technique.

Sitting and holding the guitar is as much a technique as are scales or arpeggios.

How we hold a guitar is how we use our body. It involves first sitting in a good position (or according to good overall guidelines), and then putting the guitar into the equation. We’ll go in depth on both of these, as well as some things to avoid, and some to strive for.

**Feel free to skim this or just watch the video if you like.  But be sure to check out the “things to avoid” section, just so you’re prepared.

Over time, you may come to really enjoy playing with some of the other suggestions on this page. You may even like to set a reminder for yourself to re-visit this page in a few months and see if you understand something in a new way, or find some new area of curiosity.

Getting Set for Your Sit

Instead of just copying a position, it’s more beneficial for you to understand the fundamentals of how to move your hands on the guitar, and seek to constantly improve your positioning and form to better make those fundamental movements happen.

Your understanding will change with time and experience. As you follow the guidelines below you can begin to explore the way that your body shifts weight and adjusts in different situations.

You’ll find that just playing with your sitting position and guitar position can be a fascinating and wonderfully satisfying exploration.

How we hold the guitar is how we use our body.

Before we get in to the specifics of holding the guitar, let’s first take care of the preliminaries.

Being prepared and starting with the end in mind will help you to play more comfortably, and be more easeful in your body.

Choosing The Right Seat

It helps to begin with a decent seat. This isn’t always possible, but at least you can be aware of the ideal scenario.

Hard or Soft?

The ideal seat is fairly hard. Big cushy seats, the side of the bed, chairs that look nice but are like sitting on a bucket are all out.

We want to be able to feel the contact of our “sit-bones” with the chair. Fluffy cushions don’t allow for this.

If you need to, a thin cushion, or a folded towel can come to the rescue.

(Because you’re sitting on a hard seat, you may need to take more frequent breaks to get up and walk around. So much the better!)

Back or No Back?balanced guitar

Your seat can have a back, or be backless. While you’re playing, you won’t be leaning back. But having it there can make for a nice momentary rest mid-practice.

Slants and Contours, or Flat?

Even Thoreau recognized that chairs are a bane. They lead to all sorts of health problems. But that whole discussion is for another day.

For now, know that a flat seat is going to treat you better than a slanted or contoured one.

Find a good, hard flat-bottomed chair.

Most chairs are made with a slanting seat that sends you backward. They encourage you to use the backrest, and many practically demand that you collapse your front (more on collapsing below) and curl your tailbone under.

As attractive as chairs with butt-contours are, they make it more difficult to find your “footing” and distribute your weight correctly (more on this below).

One of the ways that we promote ease in our playing is to give our skeleton support so that muscles feel secure and safe releasing. This is more difficult in a slanted or contoured seat because the muscles in your body have to compensate for being off-balance.

So if you can, find a good flat-bottomed hard chair.

The Perfect Height

Some seats can be too low or too high.

Aim for a seat that enables you to sit with your feet flat on the floor in front of you. The top of your thighs should be flat (parallel with the floor), or tilted slightly toward the knee.

Some seats can be too low or too high.

Avoid seats that put your knees above your hips, or dramatically lower than your hips. If you sit in one of these, you will compensate by lifting your heel, or twisting in some way.

If You Get a Bad Chair

It happens. Especially if you play outside your house. You get a chair that is too soft, too low, too slanted, or in some other way not ideal.

When you have to make do with a bad chair, sit on the very edge. This will likely be the hardest, flattest spot.

You can also sit on the very edge of most chairs with arms. So if you can find a hard, flat chair with arms, choose that over a cushy chair with no arms.

Meet Your Skeleton!

aa-edge-of-seatNow that you’ve found a good one, you’ll want to sit on the edge of your seat, feet flat on the ground in front of you.

Next, rock side to side. You should be able to feel your “sit-bones” (the two knobs you’ll find yourself rocking to and fro on).

Play with your sit-bones for a minute to get acquainted:
If you collapse your front, so that your stomach caves, you will roll to the back of your sit-bones.

If you arch your lower back, you’ll roll to the front of your sit-bones.

In an ideal world, you want to stay in the mid point.

Bone vs Muscle

Balancing on your sit-bones is important because when you do, your spine is upright and supported by the chair, like a pillar on a firm foundation.

By aligning in this way, you can release many of the muscles in your torso (which frees your shoulders, which frees your arms, which free your hands, etc).

Your spine is upright and supported by the chair, like a pillar on a firm foundation.

Normally we go around holding ourselves together by sheer muscle power, as if we would fly apart or fall on the ground if we didn’t. But this is largely a case of excess tension (akin to eating your oats with a garden trowel).

At first, you may feel like it takes more muscle to sit upright and balanced on your sit-bones. You may be in the habit of sitting in a different way, and the muscles needed for this are not as built as the others.

Just take frequent breaks and rest for minute. In time, it is truly an easier and more comfortable way to sit (and it allows the body to work more efficiently).

Now Play with this Position

By play, I don’t mean the guitar yet (we’re getting there!).  I mean have fun and experiment just for the pleasure of it.

Sitting as described above, raise your arms as if you’re holding a guitar.

Find the ideal, most comfortable way to be in this position. Move your arms freely, and notice how the weight on your sit-bones changes as you lift one arm or the other (then both of them).

Can you let the chair take any more of your weight so that your torso muscles release a little more?  What happens when you let go of the muscles around your eyes and face?

Just play with this. Any time you take on this is time well spent (and it feels good!).

The guitar is an oddly shaped box that requires us to compromise and adjust constantly.

Begin by learning and practicing the ideal way to use your body without the cumbersome instrument in your lap, and you’ll be more able to recognize and release excess tension when you do hold it.

Now, How to Hold a Guitar!

Coming At It From the Right Angle

One of the most important “rules” of holding the guitar is that you want the neck to be angled up.

Other styles of guitar glorify the casual, guitar-on-the-leg, neck-down position. But the neck-up is a far better option.

The basic idea is that when the neck is elevated, your left hand and arm are more able to freely stretch and move. Your left wrist can maintain nice, soft, moderate angles (more on this later), and your hand can work from a place of strength.

folk guitar positionIf all you’re doing is strumming along to a few chords, this might not make a difference, but when you get into classical guitar, there are very quickly some very heavy demands put onto the left hand.

classical guitar footstoolThe “neck-up” position is best regardless of which leg you put the guitar on. Whether you sit in the “classical” position (guitar on left leg), or in another position with the guitar on the right leg.

How Much Angle do I Need?

This is a matter of preference. Personally, I like the low-E string tuning key about level with my eyes, or just below.

I know people who go lower, and others who go higher. If you go too low, it will affect how your right hand plays the strings and the angle of the right wrist. So there are other considerations to take into account as well.

I like the low-E string tuning key about level with my eyes.

Play around and experiment. Just remember that if you are used to one way, any other way will feel weird. Don’t dismiss anything because of the way it feels. Instead, objectively look at your position in a mirror and see if you are gaining the “things we want” (below) and avoiding the “things we don’t want” (also below).

Guitar Supports

In order to get the guitar neck to point upwards, we typically have to use some sort of device.

There are many different options for this, and each has its pros and cons.

There’s the good, old, classical guitar footstool, which has been a go-to for decades (centuries?).

There’s the guitar strap, which is more popular for standing up with electric and steel-string guitars (though some classical guitarists use them sitting).

And there are other guitar supports that use suction cups, magnets, clamps and more. Still others just sit on your leg and prop it up. Inventors are constantly trying to find the “better mousetrap”.

Here are reviews of a few common guitar supports:

assad duo

The Assad Brothers (I love these guys!) – Odair (left) with guitar unsupported on his right leg, and Sergio (right) with a high footstool.

Some players, like Odair Assad, play with no support, but simply balance the guitar on the right leg with the neck up. I’ve never been able to get comfortable with this myself, but it certainly has the benefit of not relying on any added gizmo.


Things to Want for Yourself

Considering the sheer number of hours we spend at our guitar, we may as well form a quasi-manifesto of things that we want (or wish we had).

Here are a few:

Basic Security

We want to feel confident that neither we nor our guitar will fall on the ground or fly off into space.

This sounds obvious, but many players (especially beginners) subconsciously don’t trust that all would be well if they let go.  They develop the habits of:

  • overly gripping the neck (big knuckle of first finger always glued to the side of the fretboard), or
  • bracing with the right hand (little finger on the top of the guitar)

If you want to play with grace and ease, you’ll have to feel secure in your position and form.  Otherwise you’ll always be holding back.

We talked about this briefly above in the section on choosing a seat. The right seat will help you feel more secure.

Skeleton Supporting Your Weight

As we talked about above, if we get our spine supporting our weight, instead of holding ourselves up with muscle, we are free to move with more ease and become more attuned to how much tension is really needed for the task at hand.

This is a big one, worth the practice. Post a sticky-note where you’ll see it to remind you, or better yet, practice  in front of a large mirror so you get constant reminders and feedback.

Freedom of Movement

If you project out into the future, where you are a master guitarist and play with beauty, power and grace, where you’re nimble and quick and can meet any demand the music calls for (oh yes you can!), you’ll find that you also have a wonderful freedom of movement.

If you watch great dancers, you’ll see all these attributes, with freedom of movement tying them all together.

This means that they are free to move in whatever direction they want to at any time, and are never unintentionally “locked” into any position.

It feels good to move freely!

The joints are free to move. The muscles are quick to respond and work in harmony. The overall body works as one.

It’s very easy to get locked into one position on the guitar.  To test the freedom in your arms, for instance, play any tune, while freely moving your right hand back and forth from near the bridge to over the highest frets.  Is your shoulder moving with ease and fluidity?  Or is it jerky and you feel that you will mess up if you move too much?

(All this comes from starting with a good sitting position, and perpetually exploring our movements in our practice. Curiosity and a lighthearted ongoing inquiry is the way forward.)

Moderate Angles

Severe angles reduce our possible movements. Moderate angles give us the most options at any given moment.

If your arm is fully straight, there is only one way it can go.

The “ideal” angle for any joint is halfway between its extremes.

If your wrist is overly bent, your strength is reduced and you risk injury.

The “ideal” angle for any joint is halfway between its extremes. This “mid-zone” allows for the most possible movements, and places the least amount of stress on the joints.

Softness in Your Legs

This one is a bit more advanced, and most players are not at a point to play with this concept quite yet, but I’ll include it anyway.

If your back is soft, because it’s supported by your spine, you can also release your legs out from your hips.

This is actually an “un-doing” (or “letting go”) and not a “doing”. If you stop pulling your legs into your hips, they will release out.

When this happens, it further releases the butt-muscles (medical term), which further release the back.

It seems silly to think that the legs would have such a dramatic effect on the freedom in the arms, wrists and hands, but I can tell you: It’s a major release.

You may be able to experience this by “playing” with it without the guitar in your lap. It takes great practice to be able to maintain this release while also focusing on actual music. (I, personally, am still not all the way there with this one.)

Overall Comfort

Why not? If you’re going to spend all this time, you might as well be comfortable, right?

This one’s a double-edged sword however.

Comfort is a double-edged sword.

We are comfortable with whatever we’re used to, regardless of what that is. This is our powerful homeostasis system just trying to keep things as they are, without any interest in what’s good for us in the long term.

If you take a very crooked person and stand them up straight, they feel very un-comfortable (and crooked!), even though anyone can see that it’s a better position.

What we feel is not necessarily any indicator of “truth”. Most feelings can’t really be trusted at all. Not consistently anyway.

So we want comfort for ourselves. We wish for comfort. But most importantly, we sit well (as described above) and do the things that set us up for comfort. (and take breaks when we feel discomfort).

We don’t trust that our current idea of comfort is what is actually comfortable, but instead is just the current feedback. We assume that what we register as comfort will change over time.

We have to remain in a place of not really knowing, and be okay with that.

We stop doing things that we intellectually know don’t lead to long-term comfort and stability (like slouching or craning our necks). And we keep a “prime directive” of comfort: a wish and intention for freedom and ease and potential.

High Dynamic Energy

You get more engaged, and have a better overall experience when you have high dynamic energy.

This means that you are relaxed, focused and aware. You are alert and actively in the moment.

Effective practice is the confluence of time, energy and attention.  Bringing good energy makes your time more constructive and enjoyable, and gives you the tools to make use of your attention.

Effective practice is where time, energy and attention meet.

Some opposites of this are: distracted, tired, bored, blasé, indifferent, overwhelmed, or frustrated.

Keep an upbeat attitude and bring your enthusiasm and curiosity to each practice session. The guitar is a wonderful instrument, and playing it allows for all sorts of explorations. If one thing is not interesting you in the moment, simply jump to another!

What to Avoid When Holding the Guitar

There are a few common tendencies that you may recognize.  If you’re really serious about getting your positioning and form as good as it can be, consider practicing in front of a mirror.  This way you can objectively see what you’re doing.  (It isn’t always what you think!)

Here are few situations to avoid when holding a guitar:

Arching Your Back

arching the backPulling in the lower back takes your spine out of alignment and creates more work for your back, leg, shoulder and neck muscles.

When you arch, you roll to the front of your “sit-bones”, which makes the neck and shoulders adjust to compensate. It also engages more of the large muscles in the legs, which adds to the tension.

Many people do this habitually when sitting in chairs without even realizing it. (guitar or no guitar)

(I was an extreme back-archer for years, and even now have to keep an eye out for it.)

Collapsing Your Front

slumping on the guitarThis is one of the most common habits. After several minutes of sitting up and playing, the shoulders start to fall, and before you know it, you’re slumped over and your back hurts.

As I mentioned above, we can use our spine like a pillar, around which our musculature can “hang”.

When you collapse your front and slouch, you then have to pull your head back, shortening the back of your neck. This gives your head/neck/back relationship an “S curve”.

Combine this with “craning”, below, and you’ve got a recipe for scoliosis. Or at least a ton of excess tension and discomfort.


aa-leaningMost leaners aren’t aware that they are leaning. This is another place that videoing yourself can come in very useful.

What generally happens is that you are looking at the guitar neck and rotate toward the left (for right-handed players). The left leg tightens, which further encourages a twisting in the pelvis.

As you focus more and more on the left hand, and tension grows in the legs and buttocks, your weight shifts more and more to the left. Before long, you have a severe lean.

Your weight is distributed unevenly when playing guitar (just because of the shape and asymmetry).  You have to stay aware to make sure that you don’t exaggerate it even more without realizing it.

Craning Your Neck

looking at the guitar neckAs a species, we largely favor vision as our dominant sense. Whales like sound. Dogs like smell. We like sight.

One of the best skills to develop as a guitarist is the ability to be comfortable not looking at the left hand.

Our physiology and neurology (our body, basically) can handle most shifts, leaps and anything else far better than our controlling, micromanaging eye/brain team.

Largely, the need to look at the left hand is one of feeling insecure and distrusting our ability to make things happen. If we can learn to relax and accept the possibility of mistakes, we actually have a far better chance of making great things happen in our music.

Because the frets are pointing away from our eyes, if you want to look at the fretboard, you have two options:

  1. Turn the guitar to face you. This destroys any efficient use of the left hand, but people do it.
  2. Crane your neck around so that you can keep the guitar facing somewhat forward and still see what’s going on.

Both are bad options. Instead, brave the unknown and learn to move by touch and proprioception (in this case, knowing where notes and strings are in relation to other fingers).

Also, as you compensate for craning, you can also fall into the habit of overly twisting, which is also something to watch out for.

Sure, it can take some time and work to break the habit of craning, but if you keep craning, you’ll get an even bigger pain the neck!

General Rigidity

You could also call this basic excess tension.

As I said earlier, the guitar is an inconveniently shaped contraption that we have to compromise in a million small ways to work with. But we love it anyway.

Especially for you beginners (though life-long players may be guilty of this as well), there’s the tendency to tense up and make the whole act of holding a guitar much more work than it has to be.

To be fair, most of us make everything in life too much work. From getting out of chairs, to brushing our teeth, to using a pencil: we use far more strength, muscle and general tension than is actually called for by the task.

(I squeeze a pencil like I’m trying to poke holes in sheet metal. It’s a habit. I can’t not do it.)

On the guitar, we are dealing with complex angles, asymmetry in our body, the hands doing different tasks, and a host of other things (not to mention the massive mental load that classical guitar music demands).

It’s no wonder we lock up and over-work. The unfortunate part is that we do so mostly unconsciously. We don’t know that we’re:

  • Scrunching up our toes
  • Lifting our heel
  • Flexing our bicep
  • Locking our shoulder
  • Tightening our sphincters
  • Engaging our quads (big leg muscles)
  • Squinting
  • Tightening our upper lip
  • Hardening the tongue
  • Pulling our ears forward
  • Furrowing our brow
  • Constricting our chest (breathe please)
  • A million other little “grippy” actions

This doesn’t mean that we need to be flaccid and disengaged.

The point is that for any action there is an appropriate level of tension. And generally we use too much, and in the wrong places. (Do you really need to grimace just to move your index finger a centimeter or two?)

How to Reduce General Rigidity

To reduce general over-exerting in your practice, it’s best to work on it throughout your days with other small, repetitive tasks. When it’s time to practice guitar, we have too many things to think about already.

Instead, work on trying to find the easiest way to brush your teeth or use a fork. Be aware of the tension levels in your face and hands when you are simply sitting (watching TV, waiting, a pause in driving, etc).

Reducing general rigidity is a long-game. It takes daily awareness and conscious intention. But on the upside, it reduces stress, brings your focus to the present moment, and helps your guitar playing!

Also, taking a few minutes at the beginning of your practice session to become more aware of tension and to set an intention of appropriate muscle-power can set you up for a better practice. You can do this as a warm-up, or even away from the guitar.

You can also……

Check In and Take Breaks

I am a huge fan of working (practicing) in short, focused bursts. Taking short breaks periodically in practice can give you the chance to take stock of how you are using your body, and release any built-up excess tension.

Especially at first, as you are adopting a new way of sitting, or if changing your sitting position, you may experience some muscle fatigue or soreness.

As I mentioned earlier, this is just the “right” muscles getting stronger, and not necessarily an indication that anything is “wrong”.

Quick Pause Lay-Down RoutineTake practice breaks

If you back is getting tired from sitting upright on your sit-bones with your spine supporting your frame, here is an easy “lay-down” rest position that keeps the body working well, and encourages the muscles to release and rest:

  1. Lay on your back on the floor (or other hard surface).
  2. Put a book or books under your head (a pillow is too soft. The hardness of the books encourages the neck muscles to release, and the height preserves the natural curve of the neck. You can experiment with the height. Any books will do, but I recommend this one and this one.)
  3. Bend your legs so that your knees point at the ceiling, with your feet flat on the floor.
  4. If your legs get tired or shaky, allow your knees to fall into one another.
  5. Repeat instructions for yourself to release tension. Go from one body part to the next.
  6. Stay focused! (this isn’t daydreaming time, it’s a constructive pause in your practice!)
  7. To get up, roll to one side and use your arms to push yourself up.

This may seem like overkill for an article on holding the guitar, but finding and developing an effective sitting position is an ongoing process.

How you hold the guitar is how you use your body. As in any process, the gold lies in deepening your understanding of the details.

Quick Review

So, to tie all this up into a nice, neat little bow….

  1. Get a Good Seat Find a hard flat seat that allows your feet to be flat on the floor and the top of your legs to be parallel to the floor or tilted slightly down (not up).
  2. Sit on the Edge and avoid leaning back. You can take frequent breaks while you build up strength.
  3. Find Your Sit-Bones by rocking side to side with your head up and back straight. Allow your weight to balance on your sit-bones.
  4. Keep Your Guitar Neck Up Raising the angle of your guitar neck makes it easier for both hands, and allows you to stay upright (instead of slumping). You might like to use a guitar support.
  5. Take Breaks and Check-ins Break frequently to let your back muscles rest and to re-set your focus.
  6. Be On High Alert for Common Mistakes If it’s convenient, practice in front of a full length mirror and frequently glance at your form, positioning and use.
  7. Constantly Explore and Play Like layers of an onion, your experience of how your body works with and around the guitar will change over time.  Have fun with the discovery!

How About You?

Have you found anything that has been a game-changer in your playing?

Have you had any problems that a new sitting position might help?
Leave your answer in the comments below!


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33 Responses to How to Hold a Guitar (without destroying your body!)

  1. Sean Goguen October 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi Allen,
    What’s your opinion on propping the guitar on the right leg, instead of the left? I usually play with it on my left leg (with a guitar support), but there are some pieces where I find it easier to play with the guitar propped on my right leg. I know it isn’t traditional, but I know a few great guitarists, like Laurindo Almeida, have played with it on the right leg. What do you think?

    • Allen October 19, 2018 at 8:18 pm #

      Hi Sean,
      For me, it puts my right arm too far back, creating more tension than necessary.
      Odair Assad also goes with the right leg. But I don’t think he started that way – I think he did most of his training with a more traditional position, then morphed over the years.

      In my experience, the left leg is more comfortable and ergonomic. But people do all sorts of things. For classical guitar technique, the left leg is the rule, and while there are famous players who do otherwise, they are the few exceptions.

      Thanks much,

  2. Paul Gruen September 13, 2018 at 9:23 pm #

    I don’t think you addressed the right arm/shoulder issue. Does the forearm rest all of its weight on the guitar, or do you exert some minimal muscle flexion somewhere so that the forearm rests more lightly on the guitar? And do you need to make sure your shoulder stays “wide” while bringing your upper arm out away from the body?

    • Allen September 14, 2018 at 6:34 am #

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for the question.
      We do not rest all our weight on the guitar. The arm floats. And this takes muscle. It also takes muscle to keep the the palm rotated toward the guitar. So there is definitely work to do. For the shoulder, in general, yes – stay open across the chest (except when you don’t…).

      But rigidity doesn’t work. So one of the big challenges we face is to use the appropriate amount of muscle at the right time, and not to overdo it. But we don’t know yet what is appropriate and what is too much, so it’s a constant experiment. We discover appropriate muscle needs in layers. We’ll periodically have new experiences that give insight into how much is needed or not needed, and we grow over time with it. The more attention we give these issues, the faster we learn what “appropriate” means.

      Just to clarify, relaxation is not the goal. The goal is appropriate tension and freedom in the joints. What this actually means changes with our time and experience on the instrument. (Just a heads-up: this is a never-ending exploration. Turtles all the way down.)

      I hope that helps.

      thanks much,

  3. Maxime July 1, 2018 at 7:13 am #

    Thank you very much for getting as much into details on this topic. I’ve been sitting wrong for many years and although various teachers have described the weight of the arm, the stable shoulders, etc. nobody ever had me feel my sitbones! That seems absolutely fundamental. My body now seems to already spot tense positions by itself, and hint at better alternatives. It’s an impressing process.

    • Allen July 2, 2018 at 4:08 pm #

      Thanks for the note, Maxime!
      I’m glad you found the article useful.

      Best of luck with all your music!

  4. Jude January 29, 2018 at 7:54 am #

    I was having real problems with a sharp pain under the right shoulder blade (also when playing the little Jean-Baptiste French horn) and decided to add some rhomboid exercises to the guitar practice schedule. Since exercises usually take a month or more to have any noticeable effect (I’ve read), I also tried changing the stool height. I can’t tell whether it’s one or both, the exercise or the kitchen stool, but I can now keep at the guitar for about three times as long as I could a couple of months ago, when 10 minutes was getting to be as much as I could take. I just need to find something to substitute for the footstool, which is pretty wobbly when fully extended.

    • Jude February 2, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

      Something got edited out – the bit about the little French horn should have included that I play it standing, so the same pain from that as from the guitar suggests that the problem has nothing to do with the seat, but with the position of the arms, extended forward. Maybe just walking around with the arms (two, for the balance) straight out in front would help? Carrying the kitchen stool? (The cat isn’t interested, I checked.)

  5. Justin - Guitar Pick Zone November 24, 2017 at 5:36 am #

    This is a fantastic resource! I am a guitar teacher and I refer my students to this article because it explains the importance of the correct guitar posture and the benefits that come with sitting correctly. This is so often overlook, especially for beginner guitar players.


    • Allen November 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

      Thanks, Justin!

  6. Bonita Majonis March 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    Thanks so much for your information on how to hold a guitar and also the various guitar supports. Over the years I have moved from a footstool–when the only support was a footstool- to a Dynarette and then to an Ergoplay Tappert, child size. I still use the Dynarette (size small) from time to time.

    For Kendra, I too wear dresses–actually usually skirts. You will need a long, full skirt of a flowing material to hold the guitar correctly and preserve modesty. Unfortunately skirts like this, as you may have experienced, are not easy to find. If you google something along the lines of “Women’s Modest Clothing” you may have some luck.

    I’ve seen drawings-I think in an old Carcassi method book-of a woman crossing her legs to play classical guitar. Looks dreadfully uncomfortable!

    • Allen March 21, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Thanks, Bonita. The women I’ve seen performing in skirts wear them very long (draping even) and flowy. Some of them look very comfortable for the stage, but not terribly practical otherwise.


  7. Ian Whyte November 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Hi Allen,

    I really appreciate your guitar support reviews and tips on holding the guitar. Very nicely done! I used to use a footstool but find it increasingly uncomfortable. I started using a Dynarette that helped reduce strain while sitting. I am really impressed with your review of the Barnett guitar support so I think I will also give that one a try. By the way, I subscribe to your regular newsletter. Your tips are insightful and inspiring! Thank you.


    • Allen November 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      Thanks Ian,
      I use the Barnett everyday, and love it. However, the rubber they use does leave black smudges on your pants. I use a shammy or drawer-liner rubberish material between it and my leg. I let them know about it, and they sent me another rubber grip, but it does the same thing. (They were very responsive and friendly). But I love it, nonetheless.


  8. cadie September 19, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi, like Susan, I also use a Tenuto Lite support for years now and it never let me down. I have a bad back and since I use this device instead of foot stool no more back problemeaven after a 6 hours practicing. Tank’s for all the infos that you are giving to all of us for free… In a near futur, Iwill have more time for guitar and I will for shure ger a memberssip to the Woodshed. Tanks again…

  9. Willem van Bommel May 29, 2016 at 2:39 am #

    Hi Alen,
    Great stuff again! I have been struggling for a while to find a comfortable position. I find sitting with a footstool really awkward so have come to the supports too. I got myself an Ergoplay, with which I am very happy. One of the features I am happy with, is the one you don’t know why to use it: the tilting. Because I have this – relatively common – bodyfeature that makes it hard to reach my instrument properly: a big belly. Trying different positions I always find myself having to reach out much more to get to the strings, because my belly forces the guitar outward from the center of my body. Whith a slight tilt from the Ergoplay, it makes it easier for especially my right hand to reach over the side of the guitar and get to the strings without forcing my wrist into unhealthy angles.

    I do agree that it pops of fairly easy though. And also it is quite big as you say. Since I only have a gig bag there is room to put it underneath the neck, right on top of the body. But I can imagine that this won’t be possible in a good case where the guitar fits in exactly. However, I only walk a very short distance to my guitar lessons and don’t think I will be performing everywhere anytime soon, so for me it is not a big deal…

    As I said, great stuff here and some well made, short and to the point videos.

    Best regards,

    • Allen May 29, 2016 at 7:21 am #

      Thanks Willem,
      That is very good to know. I hadn’t thought of the belly in regards to the tilt.
      Thanks for adding to this conversation!
      All the best,

  10. Dean Gray February 12, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi Allen. I really enjoy your thoughtfu, l detailed articles. This one especially. I am coming back to classical guitar as a 43 year old after many years away playing other styles.
    I could never come to terms with the footstool as a teenager-my back felt very twisted, so I played with poor position on my right leg. Not ideal.
    I am now playing with a strap, in the same neck up position that a jazz guitarist uses. Looking in the mirror it seems to be in a neutral position and allows me to play for longer durations than before.
    I know many people are reluctant to to install strap buttons on their instrument but for me the freedom of having the guitar stable and secure with minimal effort from my body allows me to focus on everything else.

    For the historically minded, there is evidence of romantic era guitarists using straps in artworks plus the presence of a strap button on the end of some original romantic guitars. Sometimes it’s nice to have a historical precedent, but to me it’s just interesting that the issue of how to hold a guitar is not a new one!

    Then there are the theorbo players!!

    Sorry for the long message.

    Thanks again for your articles.


    • Allen February 12, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      Thanks Dean,
      You’re right, a strap is a viable option. I’ve tried a strap, and find it has it’s pros and cons.
      Glad to hear you’re back to CG!

      PS: Thanks for the kind words!

  11. Jevon Thompson February 8, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    This is so timely and appreciated. As my body gets a little older (63), I can feel it pretty quick when I’m not posturing correct! Pro athletes seem to except that their passion might cripple them in the end. I have always felt awkward and crooked with the foot stool …just thought of it was part of the art. Devices that I tried were flimsy and headachy. But this shows promise. Thank you!

    • Allen February 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

      Hi Jevon,
      Glad you found it useful. Good luck!

  12. Kendra November 12, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Just another question…To avoid craning the neck but getting acuracy in practice are you simply using perriferal vision while learning positions for the piece? Working on muscle memory…

    • Allen November 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Kendra,
      You may try practicing in front of a mirror if you like. I found this very helpful.
      Also, while practicing scales and other exercises, look as little as possible. This will help you be more comfortable not looking. You will actually learn faster if you don’t look, as you then rely on other senses.
      Lastly, try looking just at the back and side of the guitar neck as you remain comfortably upright. Your fingers can deduce where to land with this lesser information.

      At first, it seems scary to not be looking at the neck, but in quick order, it becomes less so.

      Good luck!

  13. Kendra November 12, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    I wear dresses. How does one practice this correct posture when trying to stay modest? Oh and Ialso use a footstool?

    • Allen November 12, 2015 at 11:03 am #

      Hi Kendra,
      I would suggest watching some youtube videos of Xuefei Yang or Ana Vidovic. They both perform in dresses with a footstool. Perhaps the dresses are cut long and roomy? I’m not exactly sure.

      Please let us know what you figure out!


      • Kendra November 12, 2015 at 11:15 am #

        Thanks for your quick response. I will check that out.

  14. Dennis October 31, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Regarding chairs… What are your thoughts on using a piano bench or drum throne? (Most are adjustable.)

    • Allen November 1, 2015 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Dennis, Great to hear from you!
      I like piano benches. I practiced on a Roc-N-Soc drum throne for years, but if they’re too cushy you could find yourself slumping a bit without noticing. Adjustability is a nice feature, because you can find that sweet spot for your height and the angle of your knees.

  15. Susan Wood August 31, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    Great article with very useful tip, Allen, thanks!!!
    Another guitar support worth considering is the Tenuto Lite. It was developed with input from the Calgary Classical Guitar Society (Canada). In form and size, it’s very much like a Gitano, but with three improvements that make it a lot more comfortable and stable: 1. it has four suction cups instead of two, and they provide a cling film that you can put on to prevent damage to a fine finish; 2. it has an adjustable strap so that it can be set to different angles; and 3. it has an added pivot that allows you to angle the guitar more toward your body. I love mine! The price is reasonable, too, at around $39 Canadian.

  16. James Messick August 15, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    The reviews of the options are nice. I can see having a Dynarette cushion for playing at home but I agree that it’s a little bulky to travel with. Currently I just fold up my footstool and put it in a bag with my music notebook. The one option that wasn’t reviewed is a strap. I know one local instructor who normally plays with a strap attached by suction cups to his $10,000 guitar.

    • Allen August 16, 2015 at 11:59 am #

      Hi James,
      I used to travel with a footstool as well. I mentioned the strap, but didn’t review it.

  17. Allen August 15, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Thanks Linda!
    I’m glad you like the De Oro. I love the size, but honestly haven’t spent enough time with it fall in love with it overall.

    With the versatility, I meant that others are more able to fine tune the height and angle of the guitar.

    About the frowning and such (it’s excess tension), I just found this great blog that talks a lot about freeing things up to play better: http://www.artoffreedom.me/blog/


  18. Linda Shepherd August 15, 2015 at 3:56 am #

    Absolutely brilliant Allen!

    I have the DeOro guitar support, and I love it. As you say it stays on the guitar, and fits in the case, so I am always ready to play. What is more the guitar is always at the right angle whatever chair or stool I am sitting on. This matters a lot to me because I perform regularly in our local bar and because there is no stage, I like to sit on a high stool so people can see me. The support enables me to do this very comfortably. I am hoping I shall have my own high stool for my birthday next week, so I should be able to get everything set up perfectly.

    You mention lack of versatility. I think this may depend on the support you choose. I bought the general purpose support as opposed to the classical guitar support, and I find it very versatile indeed. If I want to play folk, I simply shift it to my right thigh, rather than the left thigh.
    I haven’t had a problem with the suction cups. These are large and I find very stable.

    Using the support has meant hello good position ( well better than before) and good bye back ache! All I need to do now is to try and play by touch, rather than looking… and may be then I can stop frowning and sxcrewing up my face looking miserable when I play, when infact I am not at all, just concentrating! Ah well you can’t do it all in one day. I do endorse your recommendation to video oneself from time to time too.

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