The Mindful Guitarist

4 ways to enjoy playing guitar without pain

What I would like to share with you in this blog are 4 ways to enjoy playing guitar without pain. You can subscribe to my free 10-part eCourse below below:


If you are currently suffering from pain, or you are just thinking about preventing it in the future – this is a blog post for you.

11. Improve your posture

‘Bad posture’ is one of the main reasons why guitarists have pain. It creates pressure on muscles and joints, and this pressure may result in tension that can become chronic and lead to pain.

‘Sit up straight’ – this is a typical advice for posture improvement. Try to do it now and see how long you can maintain it for. Did you enjoy it? I didn’t.

Let me be brutally honest with you. It’s not only useless to try to sit up straight, it can be harmful. This is not how our posture can be improved. It simply doesn’t work this way.

The way I would recommend you to go about it is by starting to release unnecessary tensions.

One simple and safe exercise I would suggest you start doing is an Alexander Technique procedure sometimes known as semi-supine lay down, or constructive rest. It’s basically about lying on the floor and doing as little as possible! (I’m sure some of you will love it)

Before you can release into more natural poise, you need to let go of what is holding you back, and this exercise is perfect for this.

I created some basic guidelines to help you get started here.

Practice your constructive rest regularly to enjoy more ease and comfort in your body. Your posture should start improving by itself and you will enjoy more ease in playing. Do it regularly to reap its full benefits. It’s worth it, but don’t take my word for it. Test it for yourself.

2. Understand your body design

Your beliefs and ideas about how your body works will affect how you move and feel in your body.

If those ideas are accurate, then good for you. Your mind and body will cooperate. But if your ideas are not accurate – you will most likely feel discomfort and pain.

Let me give you an example. Try this experiment:

  • First imagine that your arm has 3 joints: shoulder, elbow and wrist. Imagine that your arm starts at your shoulder joint. Then move your arm around. Explore different movements.
  • Now imagine that your arm has an extra joint. It’s between your collar bone and chest bone (just below the throat) Imagine that your arms starts there. Explore moving your arm with this awareness?

What did you notice? Did you notice a difference? I bet you did. And I bet that the second exploration was more easy and free. It is so because what you thought corresponded to anatomical truths about human body.

In order to help your body you need to update your understanding of how it is designed to work. It’s like downloading the software update for your ‘how to use my body’ app!

Fortunately this information doesn’t have to be very detailed. What you need to know is simple. If I can get it, you can get it – trust me.

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about:

The number 1 fact you need to know to improve your guitar playing comfort

3. Focus on the process

There is nothing wrong with having goals and wanting to achieve them. What does matter is how you go about achieve your goals.

It is so easy to forget about what we are doing when we are striving to achieve our goals. And what we usually do is actually straining and putting pressure on our bodies. I already explained how ongoing pressure may result in pain.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People Stephen Covey advises us to begin with the end goal in mind. That’s a great piece of advice.

But once you know what your goal is, you then focus on the process.

  • How am I going to go about achieving my goal?
  • What’s my plan/strategy?

You need to have a clear plan of how are you going to get there. And while you’re getting there, you need to stay in touch with yourself, environment and the process.

  • Am I present here and now?
  • Am I in touch with myself?
  • Am I using appropriate effort for achieving this goal?
  • Am I using appropriate strategy/tool for achieving this goal?

And so on…

4. Apply guitar ergonomics

What looks cool is not always what is best for your body.

E.g. if your guitar is too low, you may have to strain your wrist and twist your shoulder in order to be able to reach the fretboard. If this is your default guitar position, then doing it regularly will put constant pressure on your muscles and joints. Ouch!

The secret is to bring the instrument to you, not the other way round.

Start with finding a comfortable posture without the guitar, and then bring your instrument to your body. Put it in such a place that you can easily and comfortably reach the strings and the fretboard.

* * *

I wrote more tips for this article, but I didn’t want it to be overwhelming, so I just shared 4 of them. You can get them all for FREE by subscribing to my list:


Here’s the list of all parts in the series.

10 ways to enjoy playing guitar without pain

  1. Use less effort
  2. Relax your body
  3. Improve your posture
  4. Practise body awareness
  5. Understand your body design
  6. Improve your head-spine coordination
  7. Focus on the process
  8. Introduce positive practice habits
  9. Apply guitar ergonomics
  10. Practice wide attention

 

button(2)arrow-down


Image courtesy of jiggoja at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Constructive Practice Rest – Basic Guidelines

In this brief blog I’m going to focus on how to do Constructive Rest. I’m assuming that you already know that it’s something worth putting into practice.

Arranging

  • Find a quiet and comfortable floor space.
  • Switch your phone off. Make sure you can rest without being disturbed.
  • Place some soft books under your head. You want to choose the height of this support in such a way, that your head neither pulls back (too few books) nor it pushes your chin towards your chest (too many) The amount of books will depend on the shape of your back, so don’t compare yourself to other people.
  • Place your feet on the floor in such a way, that your knees are pointing up. Experiment with different positions of the feet. The aim is to have a best possible support for your legs.
  • Allow your hands to rest on your abdomen, chest or at your sides. Choose whatever is comfortable.

Semi SupineBringing your awareness into Here and Now

  • Notice your surroundings. Bring your awareness into the space around you.
  • Notice what you can see. Your eyes are lively.
  • Notice what you can hear. Hear different layers of sounds.
  • Notice the contact of your body with the surface you are lying on.
  • Notice what’s happening inside your body. What messages are you receiving from your body? Don’t judge what you notice. Don’t try to improve it. Just be gently interested in yourself.
  • Accept whatever you notice as you would accept your best friend.

Constructive thoughts

Just lying down in this position will be very beneficial for your spine and back.

It can be useful however to also experiment with having some specific, gentle thoughts. Here are some of my favourite ones you can play with:

  • I am not trying to improve anything
  • I am not trying to achieve anything
  • I have time
  • I am supported by the floor
  • I can trust gravity
  • My back, arm, wrists and hands don’t have to do any work
  • I give myself permission to do nothing
  • I give myself permission to rest.

Do this for 10 minutes between your guitar practice sessions, or for 10-20 minutes on its own.

You can read about how I use this exercise to look after myself when practicing here.

* * *

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider joining the Effortless Guitar Playing mailing list. You’ll receive blog updates, as well as tips, advance notice of upcoming classes and workshops AND my FREE GIFT for all new subscribers – an eBook with my best tips to play with more ease and improve your guitar technique.

Join my list by signing up here:


Image: courtesy of Tim Soar

How to deal with frustration?

guitarHere’s the question I’ve been recently asked in my online survey.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to deal with frustration? The latest task for me is trying to pick up fingerstyle, but my hand coordination is quite poor and I often make mistakes.

This is such a great question! There’s so much in it that I could write few blogs about it.

I don’t know what the level of your ability is, but the sense of frustration can come from setting yourself unrealistic goals. Setting such goals will actually set you up for failure.

Here are some possible reasons why your goals might not be serving you well (I don’t know the details of your personal situation, so these are just educated guesses)

You chose a song / a picking pattern that is too difficult for you at this stage of your learning.
I know that if I was aiming to learn a piece that is far beyond my capacity, I would be setting myself for failure. You may be ready for it in few weeks, or months, but perhaps at this stage you need to work on something more basic? Set yourself for success and choose a piece, or a picking pattern that doesn’t stretch you too much. Stretch is good, but not too much at a time. Begin with a goal that is feasible.

You might be expecting too quick results.
This creates pressure on you. How much time did you give yourself to learn this piece, or a pattern? Many of our problems can be self-imposed. How about saying to yourself that you’ll work on it for 3 weeks (or more) and during that time you’ll be patient with yourself? After all making mistakes and ‘getting this wrong’ is a very important part of the learning process. Set yourself for success and choose a reasonable period of time to work towards your goal.

You might not have a clear understanding what you need to improve.
I used to be self-taught in my early days, and there were some basic areas of playing guitar that needed improvement, but I wasn’t aware of them! Are you also self-taught? Ask a friend who plays guitar better than you for help. By the way, I am no longer self-taught. I got some help from great guitar teachers in the past, so I am much clearer about what basic guitar techniques. Are you?

It’s important to have goals to achieve, but it’s not a good idea to try to achieve unrealistic goals in unrealistic periods of time. You asked:

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to deal with frustration?

Patrick Macdonald (Alexander Technique teacher) once wrote:

When at first you don’t succeed, do not try the same thing again.

There’s some useful information in that one sentence, but let me put it more positively:

When at first you don’t succeed, experiment with a different approach.

If something is not working in your playing, then it might be beneficial to explore what you’re doing and how you’re doing it (this in itself is a whole series of blogs). Very often the question how is more important than what. Addressing how we do things is one of the key aspects of Alexander Technique.

You don’t have to do anything about the frustration. Do something about the reason you’re being frustrated.

Once you notice the frustration kicking in, stop what you’re doing, and attempt to practice your piece, or finger pattern differently. Change something. I.e.:

  • Practice more slowly (how)
  • Just focus on one transition or one short section (what)
  • Focus on improving that one tricky chord (what)
  • Explore how much effort you’re putting into playing with your right hand. Could you do less (how)

This might be interesting area for you to explore. Experiment and let me know how it goes.

More soon…

Good luck!
Jacek

* * *

Sign up here to get my free ebook


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why do I offer online Alexander Technique guitar coaching?

1A useful piece of feedback
I recently offered an Alexander Technique (AT) based guitar skype coaching trial to people on my mailing list, and got one very valuable and useful piece of feedback:

“… to be completely honest, I gotta tell you it didn’t sound very appealing to me. Maybe because of my experience w/ the AT so far, and because of the way I see the both AT and guitar instruction, I find that touching plays a very major role in the process. It is a sine qua non condition to me when I think about AT lessons.”

This a valid point of view and I totally respect and empathize with it. I think it pretty much sums up the opinion of majority of people regarding learning the AT on Skype.

My take on this however is different these days and I would like to share with you my thoughts on this whole issue and why I believe that despite the limitations of skype learning it still has a great value. I am a teacher of Alexander’s discoveries, so I see myself primarily as an educator. I see it as my job to clarify any misconceptions about the AT and to offer a wider perspective on the issue of AT distance learning.

Has F.M.Alexander ever had any hands-on lessons?
Not all people may be aware of this, but F.M. Alexander (FMA), the originator of this work, has never received any hands on guidance himself! He managed to apply the principles he discovered to solving his problems ON HIS OWN. The later development of skilful touch is a methodology, not the principle itself. Some people think that if there’s no touch, there is no Alexander Technique. This in quite common misconception based on not appreciating the distinction between FMA’s discoveries and technique.

Alexander Technique – discoveries vs. methods of teaching
Frank Pierce Jones points out in Freedom to Change (chapter On Teaching):

In discussing the Technique … it is essential to keep in mind the distinction between what Alexander discovered and the method he used for imparting his discovery to others.

There is indeed a distinction between FMA’s discoveries and technique. AT teachers often use touch applied to getting in and out of the chair & lying on a table. This is one example of technique used for conveying the principles of AT. Principles are ‘formless’ and they are not limited by touch.

Learning AT on Skype is definitely not the same as having one to one lesson where the teacher’s touch is employed. These are no doubts qualitatively different experiences, and both of them I believe have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s not all black and white.

What do I do if there’s no AT teacher around?
I would recommend everyone to have in person AT lesson if that option is possible. It’s important however to remember that not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a local teacher. What should I do if the nearest teacher lives too far away from me?

If I am determined and open minded person I will gather the information by reading books and blogs (you can subscribe to my free pdf with AT tips on the bottom of this page), listening to podcasts, asking questions on FB pages and groups, emailing people and then I will attempt to apply the AT principles to my life as best as I can, based on my capacity, knowledge and understanding. I will most likely get some benefits from it. I know this, because I know few people who learned something valuable from the books, and they appreciated what they learned. These benefits may not be as profound when compared to someone who had direct lessons with a teacher, but they still count and matter – their lives have been enriched and improved by studying on their own.

If it’s is possible to benefit from this work by studying and exploring it on one’s own, why should it then not be possible to learn it from a qualified teacher on Skype? If my options for learning AT was having Skype sessions and all the sources I already mentioned, would it not be wise to pursue the first option as well? Touch is great, but you can convey some powerful transformative ideas through words only. If that wasn’t the case, we couldn’t for example learn how to meditate without being touched. Let’s hear from F.P.Jones again:

These or similar procedures would be very much more successful if you had the help of a competent teacher to give you a direct experience of inhibition and to assist you in your experiments until you could proceed with confidence by yourself. But since the AT is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behaviour, there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available.

[Read more about my Effortless Guitar Playing Skype Coaching here]

The power of objective feedback
Another benefit of distance learning sessions is the ability of getting feedback based on what can be observed by looking. Say I am a guitar player (well, I am) and when I play I poke my head forward (fortunately I don’t). I’m however not aware of this. I am confused because I have a lot of tension in my neck and upper back area, but I don’t know why. This pattern could be identified during the Skype session with the AT teacher. I could be assisted and instructed in how to work with this particular habit to improve my comfort of playing. Such discoveries and changes can make a big difference, and I believe that often no touch is needed to implement those changes. The whole aspect of mindful action can be conveyed without touch – that’s what Mindfulness instructors do, and they pretty good job in helping other people!

Educational vs. therapeutic benefits of AT
You will often hear AT teachers insisting that their work is educational, but those who tried it know that it also has powerful therapeutic effects. These effects are associated with the use of touch during the lesson. It can be very easy to get hooked on the tactile aspects of the lesson and want to do the work to feel better. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. It’s as good reason as any to have AT lessons. What I’m trying to say here is that if you are interested in educational approach and how to apply this work to your daily life and activities you are passionate about, being too dependent on teacher’s touch can actually work against you.

I know people who after having 10 lessons based on touch felt much better, got rid of pain (all good) but didn’t know how to apply the work in their lives. Was it a therapy or education, a treatment or a lesson? (nothing wrong with any of them) You can become too dependent on the guidance of teacher’s hands. You may feel better, more relaxed and poised after the lesson, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you learned how to use the constructive awareness and apply it on your own.

I believe that Skype sessions avoid that pitfall. You have to work independently from the very beginning. It’s empowering and it helps to learn how to engage in the mental aspect of the work. Yes, it’s not easy work, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it can be productive, beneficial and rewarding.

Effortless Guitar Playing online coaching
I believe that a distance learning can be very beneficial for guitar players and it is one of the reasons why I decided to offer this option to people who don’t have access to a local AT teacher but would like to benefit from this work. I’m not suggesting that people should stop going to teachers for lessons and start having Skype sessions instead – on the contrary. What I’m aware of though, is that there is a big number of people who are not able to come to my London workshops and private lessons and they don’t have an AT teacher living nearby – I want these people to be able to learn about this amazing work in whatever format it is possible for them.

Any teaching device is legitimate if it speeds learning and does not become an end in itself.

Some teachers claim ‘people won’t get it’ on Skype. Claiming that people can’t learn or benefit without touch is an insult to students’ intelligence. It may be more difficult, I appreciate that, but I have a lot of respect and confidence in the ability of other people to learn, including my students – provided they are willing to be open minded and to experiment. I know that many of you are actually more smart and intelligent than me. Why should I assume that they you won’t benefit from this work without touch? My job as a teacher is to adapt to any possible teaching opportunity and not to be a judge. That’s what this work is about.

I decided to train as an AT teacher to be able to make positive contribution to other people’s lives and I’m here to help to solve their problems and to serve. Doing it online is only one way of doing it, but I believe it is a valid and valuable approach.

Book your EGP Skype Coaching session with me by clicking on the Paypal button.

btn_paynow_LGor ask me more about it here.

Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Effortless Guitar Playing – Free Tips

Effortless Guitar Playing Tips – Improve your playing comfort and supercharge your technique

I have been playing guitar since 1995. I had a few years break in my early 20’s because I was too tense and all over the place. I found it too uncomfortable and I simply stopped enjoying it. Thanks to discoveries of F.M. Alexander I was able to find a new way of approaching my instrument again – without pain and with increased comfort. I actually enjoyed the Alexander Technique so much that I decided to train to become a qualified teacher. I invested over £15,000 and 3 years of full time study to learn more about this work and to be able to share it with other people. I am now a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and it is my mission to help you to also play effortlessly and without pain.

JK (2)I prepared a free ebook with the tips than can help you to improve your playing comfort and supercharge your technique. Here’s the feedback I got from someone in Brazil:

‘… Just wanna say thank you very much for your brilliant work! Very nice indeed… some of the tips you’ve given simply transformed my practice right on the spot, especially the one about imagining that i have wings… WOW! I was struggling with my left arm/hand posture so bad and for such a long time! …’

You can get my free ebook by signing up here (I promise not to send you any spam)


A pain in the (guitarist’s) neck and what causes it…

Here’s something for those of you who suffer from chronic neck pain.

It’s been known for many years by people familiar with the Alexander Technique, that it is very efficient for long-term relief of chronic neck pain. And finally, for those of you who are more scientifically minded and need proofs of such claims (fair enough!) here’s a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine that confirms it:

Acupuncture and Alexander Technique ease chronic neck pain better than usual care

Here’s a brief quote from the above article:

In a randomized, controlled trial, both acupuncture and the Alexander Technique led to long-term significant reductions in neck pain and associated disability compared with usual care alone.

A question worth asking is where does this pain actually come from? What’s the root of it?

I believe that one of the main reasons for having neck pain among guitar players is what they do to their heads while playing guitar. I see it over and over again. Here’s an example from my ebook*

I remember my first lesson I taught to a (superb) professional bass guitar player. I noticed that in order to look at the fretboard while he was playing, he was bending his neck and spine forward much more than it was needed.

 

Now, I don’t question the necessity of having to look at what our hands are doing, but did he really have to bend his neck and spine so much? And how much is enough?

 

Did you know that the average human head weighs about 4.5 kg? Imagine that the more you lean your head forward in front of your spine, the more pressure you put on your neck and spine, because it has to bear more weight. Can you see how it can lead to tension and other problems?

Does it sound familiar?

Now, some of you may not be ready to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway: we are the main source of our aches and problems. It is something we do to ourselves while playing guitar that causes our pains.

There you have it. I said it.

The good news is that you can take responsibility for your well-being and comfort as a musician. It will take time and work on your part, but it is definitely possible.

So, if you’re suffering from neck pain, here’s one highly recommended, scientifically proven and efficient course of action: find an Alexander Technique teacher and work towards pain-free guitar playing and pain-free life.

* * *

You can get my free ebook with free Effortless Guitar Playing tips by signing up here:


An important principle in ergonomic guitar playing (and how I applied it today…)

I had a very revealing practice today. While working on the right hand technique I carefully observed what was happening to my right shoulder. I took nothing for granted and approached it almost as if I did it for the first time.

I soon realized that there’s something I’m doing to my shoulder while playing, but this doing was more of a subtler kind. It felt limiting and uncomfortable, so I decided to address it.

I applied one of my favourite tips:

Find a comfortable position without the guitar first, and
then let the guitar come to meet you.

What guitarists usually do is they place their guitar in certain positions and then
move their body to reach their instruments. This often results in putting themselves
in awkward and uncomfortable positions that don’t support comfort and efficient
technique.

Reaching out to your instrument by pulling yourself out of shape sometimes can’t
be avoided, but we can at least minimize it.

Find a comfortable sitting posture first, and then bring your instrument as
close to your body as possible. Only then reach out with your arms, if necessary.

This is one of my favourite principles. There’s nothing mysterious about it – a pure common sense applied to guitar playing.

What I was doing with my right arm was a mini version of what I described in that tip, but it still affected my comfort and the right hand technique. I experimented with shifting the angle of my guitar so it fits under my arm more comfortably. After stopping few times and then bringing my right arm to the guitar without making any compromises to its comfort (playing the Ovation helps) I started to experience very enjoyable sense of lightness and freedom in my whole arm, but particularly in the neck and shoulder area.

It was very interesting to see what a difference such a mini adjustment can make. I have no doubts that it helped me to play with more comfort and precision. Moments like this are very inspiring for me to keep going.

* * *

You can find the other 16 Effortless Guitar Playing tips in my ebook.
Get it for free by signing up here:


A simple strategy I use for looking after myself when practicing guitar

I had a very good practice session today. I only practiced for 1 hour, but it was a quality practice. It was worth 4 hours of distracted and messy work I used to do in the past.

I had a clear plan for this session, which was about waking my hands up. I began with 25 minutes of work on the right hand, then I put my guitar away and I had a 10 minutes rest on the floor. I then proceeded with the left hand work for the remaining 25 minutes.

I loved it! I had a feeling of satisfaction from making a very good use of that hour. Do you know that feeling you have after doing some good practice?

Anyway, you are probably wondering what was that rest about?

This exercise is sometimes called Constructive Rest and it’s basically about lying down on a firm surface with the support under your head and your  knees so the soles of the feet are flat on the floor. You then take a conscious break from activity and give yourself opportunity to let go of any unnecessary tensions in your mind and body that you built up during your practice. It’s also great for giving your spine a break, because lying like this allows it to rejuvenate and lengthen.

I strongly recommend having such a practice break to anyone who is experiencing discomfort while playing. Fortunately I don’t often experience pain anymore, but I have this simple way of looking after my back and spine and preventing discomfort and pain.

I also do it  because I can see how it allows me to practice more efficiently.

Peter Buckoke (a professor of double bass and the Alexander Technique teacher at the Royal College of Music in London) advises his students to incorporate the constructive rest into their practice regime.

His recommendation is to practice for 20 minutes, have a 10 minutes break, practice for another 20 minutes, and so on…. One morning during his classes at RCOM I heard one viola player reporting that thanks to Constructive Rest he was able to practice for 4 hours without pain. This was such a revelation to him!

I recommend you experiment with introducing breaks into your practice time. For now, just lie down comfortably with some books under your head and feet flat on the floor. Set the timer for 10 minutes, let go, enjoy resting without having anything to do, and then continue with your practice…

Here are some Constructive Practice Rest guidelines I put together for your benefit.

Good luck with it!

* * *

You can find my 16 other Effortless Guitar Playing tips in my ebook. Get it for free by signing up here:


 

 

What is the right posture for playing guitar?

Posture is one of those words that need careful unpacking. What do we really mean by it?

We often say: ‘I have a bad posture’ or ‘I should have a better posture’, but what does it really mean to have a good posture? Is there actually such a thing as bad or good posture?

Think about it. And there’s no right or wrong answer here, because, in a way the answers can be both yes and no. It depends on how you look at it. That’s why it will sometimes appear as if I contradict myself. Let me explain.

I think it’s better to start with answering no: there is no such thing as a good/bad posture, because this can allow us to see all the preconceived ideas and misconceptions we bring into trying to attain the right posture.

If I think of good posture as something to be attained, as something that I have to get right, then what will I do once I finally get my idea of right posture right? I’ll most likely want to keep it, and this act of keeping is achieved by holding, stiffening and becoming rigid. No good. I’m sure you’ll agree.

And what can be even worse – what if my idea of what is right is inherently damaging to my body. What if I’m fixing something that is bad for me?

It can be healthy and liberating to think that there’s no such a thing as right posture. Why should I try to impose any idea of how I should be on myself anyway? Is it going to lead me to a bigger freedom in playing? Is it going to make me feel more comfortable in my body?

I don’t want you to think that there is a right or wrong posture for
playing guitar. Sometimes we play walking, standing, sitting (chair,
couch, bench, floor) so there are obviously different positions we
assume when playing guitar. It is always possible to increase
the comfort and ease of playing in each of these situations.*

It’s really good to let go of any ideas of how you should be sitting while playing guitar, to stop to try to get it right.

When you are free from the constricting ideas about the right posture you are in a better position to consider what is known as a position of mechanical advantage. There is actually a certain way that our body parts can relate to each other that is most optimal and advantageous to your guitar playing comfort and technique, but now you’re free to consider these options without them becoming a burden and something that is artificially imposed.

You don’t have to get them right. You’re free to play with them.

What I’m sharing here may sound theoretical, or perhaps not so clear. I’m still working on articulating those thoughts in the most simple and straightforward manner. I can assure you of one thing though – I’m writing from my hard earned experience. I fell into a trap of ‘postural’ thinking myself and it didn’t serve me well. What I’m attempting here is putting a warning sign for you, so you don’t have to fall into a trap of ‘there’s a correct posture I always have to adopt’ kind of thinking.

Think about it…

To be continued…

* * *

*The above snippet is from my free ebook with 16 tips for guitar players. Get it for free by signing up here:


 

What’s the most important joint in the body for a guitar player?

I know. This is a pretty weird question to ask. It’s really important that we are able to answer this question though. It does matter, because the optimal functioning of this joint will improve your playing comfort and guitar technique.

Think about it now. How would you answer this question?

If you answered the head-spine (also known as atlanto-occipital) joint, then congratulations. You already understand something very important about guitar playing.

The most important joint for a guitar player is the atlanto-occipital joint. It connects the top vertebra with the skull.

In my last blog post (you can read it here ) I wrote about the importance of having a clear and accurate idea of where our spine meets the skull. There are not many anatomical facts we need to know, but this one is essential.*

There’s something very important about that head-spine connection. When the head is pulling down on the spine, or when the relationship between the head and the spine is rigid, it affects how well the whole body is able to do what we want it to do, i.e. play guitar.

Let me put it more simply in a relevant context: if you stiffen your neck it will affect how well you can play guitar.

I’ve got bad news for you. The tension you bring into that neck area spreads across you body like a wave. It affects your spine, back, shoulders, arms and hands. But guess what? It also works the other way too. If I begin with freeing up the head-spine relationship, it will have a beneficial effect on the whole body. That’s the good news. There’s more to it, but I’ll keep it simple for now.

The relationship between the head and neck will affect how good our coordination is. I’m going to paraphrase what I once heard Peter Buckoke saying:

“If you want to find out how good guitar player you can be, you
need to find your best possible coordination”

I love this quote. It points out to something more fundamental than my instrumental technique. It points out to the most important instrument there is – myself.

So, if how I move, how I coordinate myself when playing guitar matters, then the next question is what can I do about it?

I begin with learning more about what is a natural coordination and how do I interfere with it. One way of interfering is having an inaccurate idea of my body design. I wrote about it in my previous blog.

To come back to the example of that head-spine connection. Once I have clarity about it, I can think:

I’m allowing my neck to be free.**

And here’s another way of approaching it:

Can I imagine space inside my neck? Can I imagine the spine inside that head-spine joint?

Play with it, experiment, and see what happens.

* * *

** I take this idea further in my Effortless Guitar Playing Tips ebook. Get it for free by signing up here: