Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
Cao Nguyen

Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Cao Nguyen » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:48 am

I never feel really comfortable with the standard position. I believe it's good for the right and left hand techniques, but not for the body. Now I'm more comfortable with the position than before, but it's "adapting the body to the guitar", not the other way around. Recently I feel that my right hand fingers lack strength and independence, while my left hand fingers are much better. I think what's good for the left hand must be good for the right hand and start to practice playing left-handedly. Suddenly I feel all the awkwardness and strains over the back and the shoulders again. No matter how I try to copy the right-handed position, they still persist. My body apparently hasn't adapted to the new posture.

I personally prefer a sitting position with the guitar on the right thigh, and the right leg on the footstool, or a position similar to that of Ricardo Gallen. However, the guitar is less stable, the right hand can't move as freely and playing past the 12th fret is hard. So what do you think?

iouhp
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by iouhp » Thu Nov 26, 2015 2:03 am

Cao,

Have u tried using tools like Ergoplay?
It's very relieving for e back
Regards,
HP

Cao Nguyen

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Cao Nguyen » Thu Nov 26, 2015 2:27 am

Hi iouhp,

I will try when I have a chance, I'm sort of broke right now. I'm aware of the various ergonomic tools available but that's not what I wanted to ask. Personally I feel like I still prefer the footstool - it will never slip or fall off the guitar during playing. Considering many players having problems with the standard posture, is it just because they haven't found the optimal adjustment or is the posture not good overall? Many players seem to play really comfortably in the standard position, but are there hidden stresses that the body has learned to adapt to and will affect our health after many years of playing? I ask because I can sit relatively okay with the guitar on the left leg, but when I try to mirror the position on the right leg, I feel wrong, as if I'm a total beginner again.

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Thu Nov 26, 2015 2:46 am

Any position with the guitar is a compromise -- it's just an unfortunate truth to our instrument. The standard "classical" positioning allows for ease of navigating the fretboard. In addition, with the proper neck angle, it allows for the player position the right hand without deviating from a straight wrist.

Using a footstool (if that's what you are using) does have it's disadvantages. The biggest is that it offsets our balance and compresses the lower back on the left side. This can create back issues. For myself, since going back to a footstool, I've found that using a low hair with a low footstool height allows me to ease the compression of my lower back. If I'm in a higher chair and need to use a taller footstool, I push it out to decrease the angle of my leg compared to my back.

Finally, something that I don't think is mentioned much is the over-head view of the guitar. A very common issue is that players will twist their spin as they hold the guitar in the standard position. This is because they bring the neck of the instrument close to them (their face). By doing this, you push the lower bout of the guitar away from the body, therefore creating the need to twist the body to position the right hand. This twisting will place unneeded stress on the back as well. To alleviate this, the neck of the guitar should be away from your body, and you should tuck the body of the guitar into the right side of your own body. This allows the the shoulders to remain straight (from an overhead angle) and thus not need to twist the back. This is a common issue with many guitars, and in fact electric guitars have "body contours" to deal with this issue. They thin out the part of the guitar which the right forearm makes contact, thus not needing the shoulder to be awkwardly placed or twisting of the body. This allows the guitar to fit to the body easier. Because as classical guitarist we are playing a "giant box", we need to place the guitar in a way where we can minimize the impact of the instrument's size on our posture.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by guit-box » Thu Nov 26, 2015 4:38 am

I have problems with a standard footstool on the left leg as well. I can do it, but my low back and leg go numb because I have low back problems. I sometimes try the old-school flamenco position that Scott Tennant and Odair Assad are now using, but it only works for me if I'm wearing a sleeve that is tacky--like a leather jacket. Then the guitar feels stable for me, otherwise my arm slips too easily. I like the feeling of my bicep on the guitar, but it's a compromise for how my arm will travel across the strings. I also have an ergo-play and it's okay. I might try a strap. Maybe a cello chair would help.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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Blondie
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Blondie » Thu Nov 26, 2015 9:21 am

Cao Nguyen wrote: I personally prefer a sitting position with the guitar on the right thigh, and the right leg on the footstool, or a position similar to that of Ricardo Gallen. However, the guitar is less stable, the right hand can't move as freely and playing past the 12th fret is hard. So what do you think?
I like the guitar over the right leg too.I played for a while with the guitar on the right thigh, right leg on footstool. I also found it to lack stability. I now use a De Oro guitar support on the right thigh & the guitar is much more stable, my right hand can move freely. I have owned several guitar supports but I found the De Oro to be more adjustable and flexible plus the suction cups are more powerful.

Agree with the point above about position being a compromise, there is no perfect position.

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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Thu Nov 26, 2015 5:27 pm

I often will use the "Flamenco" positioning (IE - Scott Tennant) when I am not "officially" playing. IE - quick demonstrations in lessons, or just messing around on my guitar. It is quite comfortable. However, the lack of support on the neck side of the instrument doesn't do it for me. It's the main reason why I'm not going back to a guitar support either.

When I used a guitar support, to keep the neck stable enough for me I had to use a system of suction cups and old guitar strings. Aside from the fact that all the supports I've tried doesn't place the guitar where I want it, I don't feel like having contraptions to hold my guitar in place.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

ronjazz
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by ronjazz » Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:08 pm

A simple strap creates an almost perfect position, even better than the footstool position as far as technique is concerned, and allows one to sit or stand while maintaining the same angles of approach. Definitely worth trying for long practice sessions, even if one returns to the footstool for performances.
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Annette » Sat Nov 28, 2015 1:21 pm

I also prefer playing the guitar on the right leg while sitting on a very low stool, its height is about 23 cm, that means I'm sitting nearly on the floor...
I hold the guitar not parallel to my body, there is about a 45 degree angle with the neck of the guitar pointing forward.
Playing in this position the guitar feels absolutely stable, because it is held by my right thigh which is directed upward in this low seating position, and my right hand can change its position without any problems.
Bringing my left leg out of the way by resting my left foot on its left side or letting fall my left knee a bit downward I get a very comfortable access for my left hand all over the neck.
For me this is the perfect position for practicing because the actions of right and left hand happen in front of my body and so I avoid any unhealthy rotation in my back and neck.

Yours Annette

Cao Nguyen

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Cao Nguyen » Sat Nov 28, 2015 2:18 pm

It seems not only for me that the Flamenco position is more comfortable. One plus of the position is the guitar edge not applying pressure on the right forearm, which hinders the movement of the fingers. Especially when the left hand puts more pressure on the neck like doing a barre, the guitar acts like a lever rotating around its waist and puts the pressure back on the right arm. Scott Tennant talked about this in an interview after recovering from his hand injury.

Occasionally I sit on my bed. The waist of the guitar rests on my right leg, which can be crossed over the left leg or not, and placed on a footstool. The lower bout of the guitar is stabilized by the mattress, unlike when sitting on a chair. The neck is pointed slightly upward. It's very stable and comfortable. A sofa can work just as well.

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sat Nov 28, 2015 4:12 pm

Cao Nguyen wrote:One plus of the position is the guitar edge not applying pressure on the right forearm, which hinders the movement of the fingers.
To me that's an issue of your arm succumbing to gravity. Going limp and allowing the right arm to be "heavy" on the instrument will apply unneeded pressure on the right forearm. Most of the time people do this because they are insecure with holding the instrument and are afraid the guitar will fall out of their laps. I use non-slip shelf lining (in black) for this very reason. I'm able to put little to no pressure on the edge of the guitar and it stays in my lap and doesn't move.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

Cao Nguyen

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Cao Nguyen » Sat Nov 28, 2015 6:40 pm

The pressure I talked about is light, not hard at all, but it's there. I don't completely "rest" my RH on the guitar but pull it into my body to counterbalance the pressure from the left hand. When the LH fingers push on the neck, whether downward (using the weight of the arm) or into the body, the body of the guitar will try to move in the opposite direction. A little pressure from the right arm is needed to keep it stable. Douglas Niedt specifically talks about this kind of pressure on his website, especially when doing a barre.

AndreiKrylov

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sat Nov 28, 2015 9:13 pm

ronjazz wrote:A simple strap creates an almost perfect position, even better than the footstool position as far as technique is concerned, and allows one to sit or stand while maintaining the same angles of approach. Definitely worth trying for long practice sessions, even if one returns to the footstool for performances.
Totally agreed.
Yet we still could read here that it is better for right hand or left hand to sit in "standard position" ...
it is not true - there is no difference for your hands in ergonomical way sitting or standing (in first 20 minutes of playing, but after 4-5-6 hours of playing standing would have huge advantages for one's hands :) ) ... but certainly a lot depends from one's convictions. Sometimes beliefs or convictions could be stronger than any practical reality...
But the fact that this theme was started here is encouraging. Maybe (classical) guitar on strap and standing with it eventually would be accepted as normal (and even more ergonomic) together with all other possible positions, especially with footstool .
For me standing with guitar helped to made enormous amount of work (compositions and recordings) with it, if I have to sit with guitar I would be probably 30% as productive as while I was standing, because I had no pain from hours and hours of work.

Cao Nguyen

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by Cao Nguyen » Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:30 pm

Hi Andrei,

I've been seeing you in every thread about posture with your support of the standing style and I knew you'd jump in here as well :D. Good for you, but maybe I'm just lazy. Whenever I do experiments in chemistry labs I always prefer sitting to standing :lol: . Sometimes I have to stand for a long time and it's exhaustive to me. Definitely I will consider a strap though. Can you show me where to attach it to the guitar?

AndreiKrylov

Re: Standard sitting posture - good for techniques but not for the body??

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:40 pm

Cao Nguyen wrote:Hi Andrei,

I've been seeing you in every thread about posture with your support of the standing style and I knew you'd jump in here as well :D. Good for you, but maybe I'm just lazy. Whenever I do experiments in chemistry labs I always prefer sitting to standing :lol: . Sometimes I have to stand for a long time and it's exhaustive to me. Definitely I will consider a strap though. Can you show me where to attach it to the guitar?
I usually do not stand still - I move a little almost walk.
To stand still for hours would be exhausting for me too.
If I do small precise work with something - I would prefer to sit and to do work on stable table too.
because I usually need my eyes for precise work too.
But when I play guitar I do not look not at my guitar nor to my hands. If I play something by memory - I prefer to play with my eyes closed - this way I could concentrate on sound more, because hearing and touch are only two senses I use at the time and because I do not use vision - and I suspect that my brain could process hearing (sound) and touch more efficiently rather than together with vision. I use my eyes for reading a score, but never look on my hands while doing it anyway.
I think it could be probably necessary to control your hands by vision at the beginner level, but later it is becoming counterproductive and bad habit.
Controlling hand'/finger movement by looking at your hands is
1. bringing more brain power and attention to visual aspect of Music, but Music is about sound, not picture.
2. ergonomically it makes your neck bent all the time when you play and could bring and eventually will bring pain and physical problems.

video which shows how to play in standing position and attach strap is here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCDT0wvpkKM
Good luck!

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