parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

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

parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by Nemo » Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:41 pm

[I apparently posted this in the wrong place the first time, so I'm re-posting it here.]

I am considering learning classical-style playing. I have some limited knowledge of regular acoustic playing, but want to learn finger-style playing, so I thought getting introduced to classical technique would be a better place to start than taking more "regular" guitar lessons (i.e., mainly just chords and pentatonic scales, in my experience).

I am considering investing in a classical/nylon guitar, and want to get a pretty good one, but don't have a lot of money. I really like the La Patrie Motif, but one reviewer on amazon said that the smallness of the upper bout (which is about 9 inches wide) makes it difficult to position the guitar in the traditional upright position used for classical playing (he/she said that the neck ends up hanging lower than is typical). However, someone else suggested that this problem could be remedied by using a pillow instead of a footstool to prop up the instrument.

I only have experience with steel-stringed guitars, and for those I find parlor-sized ones more comfortable to play than traditional-sized ones, but when playing a steel-stringed guitar I don't position it on my left leg with the head tilted upwards, as seems to be the norm for classical-style playing. Does anyone have any views regarding the appropriateness of a parlor-sized instrument for someone new to classical guitar? I want to get something that is comfortable to play, but I also don't want to get something that will cause me to develop poor playing technique/posture.

Thank you for your time.

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Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by RobMacKillop » Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:48 pm

Parlor guitars are very similar in size to 19th-century classical guitars, and that period saw the publication of many of the great studies and exercises classical guitarists still play today - the foundation of our technique. Those guys generally used a footstool, though some used a strap, though that is unusual (but not unknown) in classical circles today.

In short, I see nothing wrong with you getting to know the early 19th-century repertoire of Sor, Giuliani, Carulli, Carcassi, et al, on a Parlor-sized guitar. Just make sure it has nylon strings, not steel!

If you ever transition to a modern classical guitar, the left hand stretches might seem enormous to you, as the Parlor instruments have a much narrower neck. The string spacing will also be wider. All this can be overcome with a good degree of patience. Good luck!

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Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sat Oct 10, 2015 11:57 pm

I have played a very nice parlor size guitar, and it was fine for classical. I have small hands though

Closely spaced strings do need a bit more precision, (its easier to accidentally damp a neighbouring string.)

And sure, try a guitar cushion or strap to hold it if that seems right. But dont rule out a footstool - you might well get to like the stability it gives.


Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by Nemo » Sun Oct 11, 2015 5:14 am

Dear RobMacKillop and Tonyyyy,

Thank you for this very helpful feedback. I'm glad to hear that it should be okay, and I will of course give the footstool a try. I think the one that I am looking at does have a full-scale neck and pretty wide nut-width, despite the smaller body size.

Thank you again. Have a good day!

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Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by Mogenson » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:15 am

The La Patrie Motif is an extremely good guitar for the price. I own 2 and installed strap buttons on them. They are really comfortable to play standing up with a strap. You can see a video of me playing one in concert here: (audio isn't great). If you position the guitar properly it also shouldn't be a problem to play it in the traditional way with the footstool. When I sit down with mine, I use a very low footstool and adapt the posture depicted in those old illustrations of M. Carcassi. I've tried using the dynarette cushion and other supports but nothing compares to the stability of using the footstool.

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Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by Emil Krasich » Wed Oct 14, 2015 3:53 am

You could also use various guitar supports to get the guitar to the angle and height that you want. The most stable that I've found is the clamp on Murata and you can get different height shafts for it. All suggestions above are great though. Also, another alternative to parlor guitars are modern built classical guitars with shorter string lengths and narrower nut widths.

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Re: parlor-sized classical guitar & - proper playing position?

Post by simonm » Wed Oct 14, 2015 6:25 am

Nemo wrote: ...
I only have experience with steel-stringed guitars, ...
If you have been using a strap on these then using a strap on a classical makes a lot of sense. There are quite a few threads here about straps. I think some of the bias against straps is simply that people with expensive classical guitars think drilling a hole or two in their guitars will destroy the value of the instrument, added to the fact that most classical teachers are used to footstools.
I don't know the correct name for these but you can also get a strap, a bit like what brass players use, which just supports the guitar at the sound hole. No drilling required. I think you might see mexican groups using them too. An Irish folk singer who had lived in Spain for a while as a young man also used that kind of strap for half a century or more (Ronny Drew of the The Dubliners).

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