My Column     Learn Guitar      

Playing Two Songs At Once

Playing Fast Runs, Easy

Learn To Read Music

 Jim's Concerts



Real Life Guitar, vol. 1

"Playing Guitar Should Not Hurt"

Every guitar player needs this -


 - Summery below -

"99% of all guitar players hurt themselves by holding their instrument incorrectly, even classical players." Jim Greeninger 

Each volume of this new column will deal with real life problems and solutions for guitarists. Most information will pertain to each and every style of music. Just because I am holding a certain type of guitar does not mean that I am referring to a "style" of music. It is my belief that we must always be as practical as possible, get to the facts, get rid of bad habits and "get 'er done."

So many people give up playing because they can't get past the problems of their hands and even body hurting. The older we get, the more we hurt. They often think that developing strong calluses is the answer. This is simply not true.

A few rules should be followed to correct bad habits or problems we have learned from others.

The first thing ALL guitar players need to do, whether they are new, intermediate or advanced, is to get their guitar in a proper holding position so it will make playing easier. Standing or sitting; the position should be the same.

NOTE: Many players will hold their guitar correctly when they are standing, but when they sit down they shift it to the right leg and cause tension in so many ways. Our goal is to get the tension out and make playing easier.


Holding your guitar with a strap is the easiest way to get your guitar in a correct position -


1. The lower strap button placement is almost always on the sides at the center of the tail block

Picture # 1  


2.Strap button, upper bout - placement is often placed in one of these three locations:


                                A.  Position #1: on the side above the heal. This is the most common:

Picture # 2   


  B.  Position #2: on the heal cap back of the guitar on the heal (not pictured) or


C.  Position #3:  Lower part of the heal at an angle.

Picture # 3    Picture # 4


3. However, position #3 is my favorite location as pictured in above two pictures.


Here are my reasons for this: 

A. When holding your guitar you should tilt the head up to about a 56 degree angle (note full holding pictures 6 through 8, and/or chapter four of the DVD Easy Guitar Now.) Now your nose is directly above the neck/body joint. If you have the strap button in this position, it will be a straight pull on the strap and it will be secure. However, in other positions, especially position number one (the most popular position), the strap will pull off of the button and you can drop your guitar. This is especially true when the strap becomes old. The hole loosens, and the strap can slip off the button easily.

B. Guitars are often head-heavy and will balance off to the left, or head side. This is annoying and can be distracting when playing and practicing. (1) When the guitar is head heavy you are both holding the weight of the neck and trying to play with your left hand. This puts you at a tremendous disadvantage. (2) Position #3 puts the mass and weight of the heal off to the body side to better balance the guitar. (3) Putting the strap button in this position shifts the guitar a full two inches to the right, or body side, which puts the weight more toward that side and helps to balance the weight evenly.


The picture below shows an incorrect strap position and how the guitar is head-heavy and unbalanced -

Picture # 5 

C. When you are holding your guitar correctly, your left hand, or fretting hand will naturally come straight up to the center working part of the fingerboard (at about the fifth or sixth fret). Position #3 makes this a natural action. Position #1 places the guitar too far to the left which puts your hand on the fingerboard at about the seventh or eighth fret, not the center working part of the fingerboard.


The pictures below show the strap button in the correct position and how the guitar is balanced and easier to play.

 Pictures # 3 & # 5   Picture # 6  

Picture # 7   Picture # 8



NOTE: You will know that your guitar strap is adjusted to the correct height when your left hand is in the center working part of the fingerboard and your hand is straight with your arm with no tension or twisting. Please remember to pull your left hand and fingerboard back enough to see your fingers on the fingerboard. When you sit down you need to sit on the edge of your seat and place the guitar between you legs. Your guitar will lightly press against your leg and push the bottom out making it easier to see the fingerboard and where you are placing your fingers.

Remember, sitting or standing your guitar should be in the same position.

 Picture # 9


Summery -

  1. Getting your left, or fingering hand in a low-tension position facilitates easier and longer playing

  2. Balance your guitar with the strap button in the best possible position, or foot stool if you wish to hold the guitar that way. Another way is a high stool with rungs.

  3. You also need a guitar that will permit this strap position to best function (See: Lessons, #2 Click Here)

  4. Sitting or standing your holding position should be the same.

  5. Getting your face closer to your left or fingering hand usually places your left hand in a good position.

  6. Sit on the edge of you chair with your guitar between your legs. This makes your fingering hand easier to see.

  7. Every point has been designed to create a low stress position and better posture for playing.

  8. If you don't correct your holding and fingering hand position, you can expect physical problems later.

  9. If you do play with a good and correct holding and fingering hand position, you will be able to reach chords and positions you never could before, you will also be greatly encouraged in your playing and practicing.

  10. Less tension means less pain and trouble.

How to play super fast fingerstyle runs: FAST RUNS

Next column - Creating a low tension left hand position