Holding the Guitar, and Understanding Written Music

Holding the Guitar, and Understanding Written Music


NOW THAT YOU’VE GOT THE RIGHT GUITAR, and know how to take care of it, there are just two more things to learn before getting to the fun part (playing it!). One is the correct way to hold the guitar and strum it, either with your fingertips or a pick. The other thing to become familiar with in this chapter is how music is written for the guitar

The Right Position: Sitting and Standing

Before you start playing, you need to be able to comfortably cradle the guitar so that you’re relaxed when you play. There are a number of ways of doing this. Let’s begin with sitting. The traditional position for playing classical guitar is to raise the neck of the guitar to about 45 degrees from the vertical; in this way, the head of the instrument is about level with your shoulder, while the “waist” of the guitar rests on your left thigh. Placing your left foot on an adjustable footstool can help maintain this position. By holding the neck at this angle, you get the maximum positioning of your left hand on the fretboard and your right hand over the strings. The hands do not support the neck in this position

The more informal seated position is to rest the waist of the guitar on your right thigh, while the inside of your right arm holds the body of the instrument in place, and your left hand gives slight support to the neck. If you decide to play standing up, make sure you buy a good strap that will comfortably support the weight of the guitar and not cut into your shoulder at the same time.

The guitar should hang comfortably against your body leaving both your arms free. If the strap is adjusted properly the neck of the guitar should be at about a 45-degree angle. The bridge should be about level with your waist, and the head about level with your shoulder.

Left-Hand Position

The best way to fret a note cleanly is to exert maximum pressure using your fingertips. To do this, you need to develop a good left-hand technique. First, let the edge of the neck of the guitar rest in the palm of your left hand. You’ll notice that your thumb and fingers automatically fall to either side of the neck. Now place the left-hand thumb in the middle of the back of the neck so that there is a nice space between the neck and your palm. You should be able to pivot your whole hand on the ball of your thumb without banging into the neck

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