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Old 01-10-2022, 05:13 PM
Stonehauler Stonehauler is offline
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Default playing position question

Hey all, I've been taking lessons for about 2 years now, focusing mostly on acoustic, but I have an electric (Epi Sheraton II, 335ish type) that I also practice with, but I always take my acoustic to lessons.

Now that I am progressing a bit further, my teaches has me playing more songs with more barre chords and also starting on power chords.

Over the past month or two, I've noticed that I seemed to have a lot more difficulty playing barre and power chords on my acoustic than on my electric, and today it finally hit me why.

Note: I have a bad rotator cuff on me left shoulder, this might be important, or maybe not...

I play my acoustic running across my body. Lower bout on the right, neck to the left, pretty much in the plane of my chest.

When I play my electric, the body is more to my right side with the neck further away from me.

This allows my upper arm and elbow to remain closer to my chest, while when I play my acoustic, my arm and elbow are angled out at about a 30 degree angle (30 deg away from the chest) and my arm is also angled about 15-25 degrees back from the stright down position.

I think the size of the bout prevents me from moving the guitar more to my side (bigger belly), but maybe someone has some advice on how to adjust my playing position to put be at a more advantageous angle? I am going to approach my teacher this weekend on this subject, but wanted to get some opinions here as well, possibly even before I go.

Oh, and for those wondering, I practice at home on an office chair that I have removed the arms from, and at lessons on a folding metal chair you might see at a school function (or, at least one back in the 80s)

Thanks for your time and advice in advance
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Old 01-10-2022, 05:20 PM
DBW DBW is offline
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I play electric for my lessons (my instructor has 35 electric guitars and two acoustics) and have found that it is much easier to play barre chords on electric versus acoustic. It's much easier to play barre chords on an acoustic when it's set up for a lower action, however. Still not as easy as with an electric though. Maybe try going to a shallower acoustic body (000 or OM) or try a classical positioning. Or adjust your strap to make the guitar sit higher (I don't wear a strap when seated but some do).
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Old 01-10-2022, 05:35 PM
Stonehauler Stonehauler is offline
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Originally Posted by DBW View Post
I play electric for my lessons (my instructor has 35 electric guitars and two acoustics) and have found that it is much easier to play barre chords on electric versus acoustic. It's much easier to play barre chords on an acoustic when it's set up for a lower action, however. Still not as easy as with an electric though. Maybe try going to a shallower acoustic body (000 or OM) or try a classical positioning. Or adjust your strap to make the guitar sit higher (I don't wear a strap when seated but some do).
It's not really the action that's bothering me, it's the ability to get my hand in the right position when playing the acoustic. I've had my acoustic given a good setup and it plays sweetly with a low action and no buzz, but contorting my hand while playing the acoustic is much more difficult than it is when I am playing the electric...

That said, thank you for your advice and I will certainly look at the classical positioning. I don't use a strap, but maybe I need to. My acoustics are Grand Auditorium and dreadnaught sized.
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Old 01-10-2022, 05:40 PM
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If you are having difficulty getting your left hand around the neck, maybe try a guitar with a different neck profile. My Larrivee has a much thinner/shallower neck than the others with the same 1.75 nut width. If it's your right hand that you are having trouble width, maybe try a shallower body shape. Good luck.
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Old 01-10-2022, 06:01 PM
Stonehauler Stonehauler is offline
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If you are having difficulty getting your left hand around the neck, maybe try a guitar with a different neck profile. My Larrivee has a much thinner/shallower neck than the others with the same 1.75 nut width. If it's your right hand that you are having trouble width, maybe try a shallower body shape. Good luck.
it's getting my hand to stretch out to 3-4 frets of coverage when my wrist is curled up vs more aligned to the forearm, but twisted...hard to explain
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Old 01-10-2022, 06:28 PM
DBW DBW is offline
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it's getting my hand to stretch out to 3-4 frets of coverage when my wrist is curled up vs more aligned to the forearm, but twisted...hard to explain
Yeah- it's hard to cover that span, especially in the cowboy chord positions on the top of the neck. It's easier to cover the span the further down the neck you go. I heard that people used to cut the webbing between their fingers but I would NOT recommend doing that. Haha. Try getting the cowboy chords down that only span one or two frets (D, E, G, A) then try the 3 fretters (F, C). Also, placing your left thumb on the back of the neck helps with curling the wrist and fingers. Hope that helps.
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Old 01-10-2022, 07:00 PM
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It's possible you might need a smaller guitar down the road, but I suspect you can find a comfortable playing position.

I would start by putting on the strap and experimenting with the length of the strap and the angle of the neck (both up and down and close/away from the body). My guess is that a neck that is angled up considerably more would help. If you find a position that works see if you can duplicate it while seated (with the strap). A fair number of people find that comfort with a neck-up add on.

Right shoulder would be a bigger problem in my mind. I'd get experimenting.
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Old 01-10-2022, 07:03 PM
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It's possible you might need a smaller guitar down the road, but I suspect you can find a comfortable playing position.

I would start by putting on the strap and experimenting with the length of the strap and the angle of the neck (both up and down and close/away from the body). My guess is that a neck that is angled up considerably more would help. If you find a position that works see if you can duplicate it while seated (with the strap). A fair number of people find that comfort with a neck-up add on.

Right shoulder would be a bigger problem in my mind. I'd get experimenting.
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Old 01-10-2022, 07:44 PM
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I play with the guitar at an angle, pretty much like I play a Les Paul electric and it ends up allowing better ability to play up the neck:





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Old 01-10-2022, 08:25 PM
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As has been mentioned AND illustrated, try angling the neck up. Some people go for more than 45 degree angle, but it can help the left hand a lot.

I used to wear a strap only for electric work. Since getting back into active performance, I now wear a strap with acoustic as well.

Nice thing about a strap is that the relationship of your body to the guitar stays constant, whether sitting, standing or laying on your back
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Old 01-11-2022, 07:01 AM
Stonehauler Stonehauler is offline
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Thanks everyone. I appreciate all the advice.
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Old 01-11-2022, 08:11 AM
Ash69 Ash69 is offline
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When I play sitting down, without a strap, which is what I do most of the time I tend to hold the guitar pretty level (neck horizontal) but push the neck forward so my left elbow is about 90 degrees. The guitar is resting on my right leg. If I want to very, I sometimes place the guitar on the left leg and then typically point the neck upward.

I think you also have to remember that regardless of position and action, playing barre on an acoustic IS much harder then on an electric. It takes a lot more strength to hold a barre chord compared to your typical cowboy chord and it takes time to get down. As mentioned above, make sure you have your thumb in the correct place.
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Old 01-11-2022, 10:06 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonehauler View Post
Hey all, I've been taking lessons for about 2 years now, focusing mostly on acoustic, but I have an electric (Epi Sheraton II, 335ish type) that I also practice with, but I always take my acoustic to lessons.

Now that I am progressing a bit further, my teaches has me playing more songs with more barre chords and also starting on power chords.

Over the past month or two, I've noticed that I seemed to have a lot more difficulty playing barre and power chords on my acoustic than on my electric, and today it finally hit me why.

Note: I have a bad rotator cuff on me left shoulder, this might be important, or maybe not...

I play my acoustic running across my body. Lower bout on the right, neck to the left, pretty much in the plane of my chest.

When I play my electric, the body is more to my right side with the neck further away from me.

This allows my upper arm and elbow to remain closer to my chest, while when I play my acoustic, my arm and elbow are angled out at about a 30 degree angle (30 deg away from the chest) and my arm is also angled about 15-25 degrees back from the stright down position.

I think the size of the bout prevents me from moving the guitar more to my side (bigger belly), but maybe someone has some advice on how to adjust my playing position to put be at a more advantageous angle? I am going to approach my teacher this weekend on this subject, but wanted to get some opinions here as well, possibly even before I go.

Oh, and for those wondering, I practice at home on an office chair that I have removed the arms from, and at lessons on a folding metal chair you might see at a school function (or, at least one back in the 80s)

Thanks for your time and advice in advance
I'd really need to see a picture to make sense of what you're saying. E.g.:

"I play my acoustic running across my body. Lower bout on the right, neck to the left, pretty much in the plane of my chest."

But which leg is it on? Right or left? If right, that seems like an ideal position. With the waist of the guitar body sitting flat on your right thigh?

"When I play my electric, the body is more to my right side with the neck further away from me. This allows my upper arm and elbow to remain closer to my chest"

That's the one I can't make sense of. Is the guitar body (its waist) still sitting on your right thigh? If so, how is the neck further away from you? Especially as you say your upper arm and elbow is closer to your chest. I can't picture that at all.

But here's some basic guide lines:

If you play acoustic with the body on your right leg, make sure its waist is flat on your thigh, the back of the guitar tucked back against your torso (soundhole pointing forwards).
Your thigh should be roughly horizontal, but angled up (knee higher than hip) is good if you can organise that (footstool etc). Personally I like to cross my right leg over my left, which raises the guitar to a good height on a normal chair. There is also the "neck up" device (recommended above) which sits on your thigh to raise the guitar, and a strap is the other option.

The neck of the guitar should be almost horizontal, angled up just slightly. Not pointing forward - having the guitar "across your body" sounds right.

The ideal position of your fretting arm is as follows:
Upper arm relaxed and vertical - not tucked in tight against your chest, but not held out sideways either; just hanging relaxed;
The elbow should be at 90 degrees or less. The forearm is at right angles to the guitar neck when your fret hand is around frets 5-7. So when you barre the 5th fret, your index is pointing right at your eye (less than a foot away). This is actually a good guide to the position of the guitar in general. I.e., if you can place the guitar in such a way that your fretting hand gets into that position comfortably, the guitar position is probably just right in every other way.

With electric guitar, the body is smaller, so raising it up in some way is going to be more important. (Again, I find crossing my legs works fine, for playing my Strat.) But the angle of the neck and your left arm angle and position should be the same.

The action of barring involves a combination of thumb support on the back of the neck and a slight pull back on the neck (the guitar being naturally braced against your body by your right arm).
The position of the index is critical, of course. It needs to be dead straight, parallel to the fret, and as close up behind the fret as you can get it.
The thumb on the back may not be directly opposite the index, but can be opposite the fret above, so supporting all the fingers. Like the index, your thumb should be pointing up towards your face, and fairly straight. It's a gentle pinching action between index and the pad of the thumb. (The pulling back action may not be conscious - it's generally intuitive, and should definitely not be strong enough to bend the neck!) On a well-set up guitar, very little pressure at all is required, but it does take a while to train your hand into the optimum shape and distribution of pressure. The hand really does seem to learn this by itself, so that what seems impossibly tough as a beginner grows to feeling very light and easy.

OTOH, if you play classical-style - waist of guitar resting on left thigh - the neck will obviously be angled up a lot more, normally around 45 degrees. This is an awkward position for large body steel-strings, but I know some prefer it. The height of the guitar - angle of the left leg - is more critical in this case, and a footstool (or neckup) may be more necessary. You sit with your torso angled towards the direction of your left leg, the right leg tucked away sideways. The back of the guitar is still back against your torso, and you should find that your left arm is at the same angle. I.e. upper arm relaxed, elbow at 90 or less, index barre on fret 5 pointing at your eye. In this case, the left elbow may be out a little from the body (or a little further back), but the upper arm is still relaxed.
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Last edited by JonPR; 01-11-2022 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 01-11-2022, 12:01 PM
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Hi Stone-hauler…

A lot of players just wear their strap when playing.

An important thought after you balance the guitar evenly for weight is elevating the neck to chin/nose high. This will bring the neck closer to your body and make playing barres (and all other fretting) easier. It also takes pressure off the fretting arm shoulder.

I taught fingerstyle for 40 years, and don't recommend footstools (those focus put pressure on the lower back). A simple lift (like a NeckUP) can also accomplish the same thing as wearing a strap.

Trying to lay the guitar out flat keeps pushing the shoulder away, and makes it harder to see-the-neck/fret-the-instrument.

Google images of Joe Bonamassa, Eddie VanHalen, Larry Carlton, BB King etc while they are playing and the necks/headstocks are by-n-large pointing upward. It's because the fretting mechanics are easier that way.

If you are 6' feet 10" and have massive hands you can get away with the neck lower. If you are average, it's easier just to learn to elevate the headstock/neck, and a strap can do that even when sitting.





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Old 01-13-2022, 06:03 AM
Bushleague Bushleague is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonehauler View Post
It's not really the action that's bothering me, it's the ability to get my hand in the right position when playing the acoustic. I've had my acoustic given a good setup and it plays sweetly with a low action and no buzz, but contorting my hand while playing the acoustic is much more difficult than it is when I am playing the electric...

That said, thank you for your advice and I will certainly look at the classical positioning. I don't use a strap, but maybe I need to. My acoustics are Grand Auditorium and dreadnaught sized.
I think if you stand up and use a strap your guitar will pretty much just hang to your right side... the way you describe your electric guitar's position. If you really dont want to stand, I'd try using a higher seat, like a bar stool, as well as a strap. Once you get your guitar hanging on the strap rather than sitting on your lap I think it will just naturally position itself in the manner you describe.
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