Everyone has their own style, and that is completely okay! But there are methods that are generally accepted as “correct” when it comes to starting your foray into electric guitar. Let’s take a look at the most widely-used methods of how to hold an electric guitar.
While it may seem like a no-brainer, how you hold your guitar actually affects tons of different aspects of your playing. Picture it as holding your body in a certain posture. If you are slumped over all the time or hunch your shoulders, you get sore.
The Correct Way To Hold A Guitar
The same thing can be said for how you hold your guitar. You want to find the perfect balance for yourself, without causing any long-lasting bad habits. Unfortunately, there are a metric ton of bad habits you can pick up when it comes to playing guitar. especially how you hold the instrument.
There are generally three different preferred methods when it comes to holding an electric guitar, as follows:
- Sitting/ Parallel to the body
- Classical Position
- Standing with a strap
Now it should be said that different guitar body shapes can definitely render different methods. Such as a Flying V or Explorer style guitar. If you have ever held either of these, you’ll know that they have an odd shape that is not balanced. The Flying V, in particular, is best for playing while standing up.
Whichever you ultimately choose, there are some easily learned bad habits that you will want to avoid. We are going to check these potential habits out, and show you how to avoid them!
How To Hold An Electric Guitar: The Importance of A Guitar Strap…
At first, you may think that learning how to hold a guitar only involves a guitar strap when you are standing up. This is true to an extent, but always wearing a strap is a good habit to get into. Even when sitting down!
Electric guitars by nature are designed to be played standing up, when it comes to ergonomics. If you are practicing to eventually play onstage, then getting used to the guitar balancing with the weight on your shoulder is important.
Using a strap with help you adjust your posture, and the weight of the guitar will not be solely on your knee. While this is great for getting used to the feeling of the guitar while standing up, I personally think it is a good practice all around.
I always wear a strap while sitting down. It just feels more balanced all around. The other advantage is that the guitar will not shift in your lap, or on your knee. This is important when we are talking about positions.
Many formal guitar teachers will teach you to sit with a strap in beginner’s lessons. I know mine did! Later in this article, we will discuss actually standing with the guitar strap, and if you have practiced with it sitting down, it will feel more natural.
How To Hold An Electric Guitar: Standard Sitting Position
This is how you see most people sitting with a guitar. This method usually feels very natural and if you have played guitar for any amount of time then you are probably already pretty familiar with this.
Your knee acts as a balancing beam for the lower half of the guitar. This works well for Stratocasters and Les Pauls. This is because the guitars are well-balanced and ergonomic in most situations. You should have no problem getting used to holding your electric guitar this way.
Earlier we talked about how important a guitar strap is when it comes to sitting and practicing. This position is where it comes into play. The goal being to take some of that pressure of balancing the guitar off of your knee. Using a strap will also improve your playing posture!
Posture is absolutely key to holding your guitar properly. You can injure yourself with bad posture. Your fretting hand should never be curled at the wrist when holding the guitar neck. This can cause serious issues long-term! If you are curling your wrist to reach the frets, adjust your position.
Likewise, your picking hand/arm should be relaxed and have a slight bend at the elbow. This will also save you from any complications with your wrist while picking, and save energy in your arm’s muscles.
You do not want to be hunched over the guitar! Keep your back straight, and the guitar balanced. This will save you from all kinds of future problems. Your bad posture can also cause hand cramps, back pain, and even neck pain.
How To Hold An Electric Guitar: The Classical Position
This position has a lot of advantages, even for a new player! While this method has it’s roots in the acoustic guitar, it can also be used with an electric. Many guitar teachers will also show you this method when you are starting out.
If you are an intermediate level guitarist, this position can feel almost alien at first if you have been using the first position we talked about for a while. Getting used to it as a beginner is a great idea!
Classical Position can be used in a myriad of different situations. Holding your guitar this way gives you easier access to the higher frets, while at the same time allowing you to form chords easier up and down the neck! But it takes a little practice to get used to…
In this position, your knee needs to be elevated by a foot rest. Now you can use just about any household item, like a small stool. Many companies also make special, fully adjustable rests to elevate the knee, as seen below.
So is Classical Position for you? Well, you really won’t know until you try it! Experimenting is an essential exercise when learning to play guitar. You may surprise yourself later on, and use the Classical Position to play a guitar part you were originally struggling with.
How To Hold An Electric Guitar: Standing Up
Standing up with your electric guitar is the “final form” when it comes to learning how to hold your electric guitar. If you plan on taking the stage one day, this will be your default position.
There is a misnomer about where to set your strap height when you are standing up. Particularly in Metal, you will see guitars slung very low, below the belt buckle. This may work for James Hetfield, but it probably isn’t the greatest practice for a beginner.
Remember when we were discussing posture while sitting down earlier and the importance of using a strap? This is where all of that comes full circle!
You want to adjust your strap to where the guitar sits in the same place as when you are sitting down. In fact, if you adjusted your strap properly while sitting down, balancing the guitar between your knee…you should be set!
This may seem a little high at first glance. However, there are dangers to wearing your guitar too low. You can damage your wrist on your fretting hand, causing tendonitis. Your wrist should not have to curl around the neck of the guitar when playing.
Your picking hand and elbow should not be fully extended either. Just like when you are sitting down, you should have a slight bend. This not only makes your picking hand more accurate, but it will also save you from muscle strain.
For some people, learning how to play standing up is very difficult the first few times they try it. Don’t get discouraged! Find the balance between sitting down and standing up, and it will get easier each time you try it!
How To Hold An Electric Guitar: Good Habits Prevent Future Issues!
Holding your electric guitar seems like such an simple thing when you think about it. But bad habits can easily rear their ugly heads, especially in the beginning! If you start with the proper posture and position, you ensure your future of playing guitar will be much more satisfying.
This comes from hard-learned personal experience. I never took any lessons in the beginning of my guitar journey. So I just “winged it” when it came to guitar posture. It was more than a decade before I learned the proper ways to hold an electric guitar.
This actually resulted in mild tendonitis in my wrists! Luckily, I have managed to prevent any permanent damage.
Your skill level is totally irrelevant when it comes to proper posture. If you are a beginner, then I hope this helps you start off on the right foot…so to speak. If have experience, then maybe this information can help you correct any bad habits, and ensure your longevity of playing!