Newbie musicians should never rush with buying their own instruments to learn. Sometimes their experience can turn into a negative one, making them give up this beautiful hobby altogether. Playing the guitar should be a fun and pleasant experience, and if you are experiencing back and hand pain (apart from string blisters), something is not right. Maybe it’s the wrong fit. Maybe the guitar is too big for you?
There is no uniform measure for all. Guitars come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on the type, the number of strings, and the length of the neck, guitars may be a right or wrong fit. Getting a smaller size guitar if it feels more comfortable will result in better music control and overall performance.
Two main things rookies need to know about is that body posture and guitar size are important.
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Body Posture for Playing the Guitar
Learning any new skill takes practice and time. A guitar is no different, and it requires building up a habit for the body and finger positions. A proper posture will help you play well, and be able to concentrate on tone and string coordination. You probably won’t be able to shake the guitar while playing immediately, but that can be easily taught after you learn the basics.
Two Guitar Playing Postures
There are two most common types of playing postures: classical and rock.
The classical posture is used for playing a classical guitar. It means that you will put the guitar on the same leg as your fretting hand.
The rock posture is more common, or ‘normal’. It places the guitar on the leg of the strumming hand (right-hand player – right leg, lefties the other way).
Try out both positions and see which suits you better. You are not obliged to play the classical works if you are using the classical posture, but some musicians may find it strange, or rather intriguing.
Feet Position While Sitting Down and Playing
Depending on the type of guitar and personal preference, people either lift or cross their legs. Some find it easier to keep an electric guitar snug if the right leg is lifted a little.
The right knee is lifted a bit, and usually supported by the toes on the floor, instead of the heel. Try to get a chair with lower frames for the heel to rest on it. It is not obligatory, but quite common.
The crossed leg alternative means that the player crosses the right leg over the left. This creates a nook near the hip that helps with holding the guitar safely.
Guitar Strap Positioning
Standing up is much easier if you don’t need to worry about dropping your guitar on the floor. Use the straps, and place them so that the guitar hands approximately in the same place it sits when you are in a chair. Some guitars come with strap buttons to help you with the placement.
This will make your sensation accustomed to a certain position. If for whatever reason you dislike how it feels or looks, you can set the strap low. Keep in mind that this will require more practice while standing up (which is not recommended).
Keep the Guitar Neck Still
Your neck requires movement as you need to be able to look at what you are doing. But keeping the neck of the guitar still and stable when playing is really important. A wobbly neck will take a toll on time and patience during practicing.
The Mirror Hack
Plus-size people or those who have a good beer belly may want to consider getting a mirror. It should be positioned so you are able to see the fingerboard.
Another option is to use a large one in front of you as it will allow you to keep track of both hands, pace, and posture, all at the same time.
Relax the Shoulders
Before you start seeing the strain a guitar can have on the body, you will keep your shoulders stiff. On the bright side, if you are able to control this, do it from the get go! Stay relaxed and imagine that your fretting hand is nailed to the neck. It cannot follow, and it will allow you to relax the entire shoulder and elbow.
Stretch out before you start and take a break from time to time. This will help you to have relaxed fingers as well, and you will always have a better reach.
Proper Finger on the String
People always struggle because they use the wrong part of the finger to press the string down. It is hard to think about so much information at once, we get it.
Starting out may be hard, which is why we recommend you to choose a corner for practicing and always be in the same space. Arrange it with post-its, or other types of reminders for the position of your fingers and body, until you integrate that into your muscle memory.
In most cases using the inner tip of the finger is the most appropriate, but sometimes you may use the middle or the very top of the fingertip. In any circumstances don’t use the part closest to your nail. If you are more of a visual person, take a finger up in front of your eyes, with the nail facing outward. The first part of the rounded tip is where you want to land the string on.
Fretting Finger Position
This is probably the most important thing for newbie players. You should play as close to the frets, as you can, without touching them. Learning the right amount of pressure will take time, and your finger will hurt.
Try pressing as lightly as you can near the fret and make a clear note. Afterward, move your finger away from the fret and notice how much more pressure you need to apply to get a good sound.
As a beginner keep the thumb behind the neck during practice to develop muscles. Over time you will probably bring it over the neck to be able to play particular chords, bass notes, etc.
Keep the Nails Short on the Fretting Hand
Keep your nails short on the fretting hand. Otherwise, the nails can dig into the wood of the fingerboard and make them too flat. Use the tips of the fingers to play notes when you start. Over time the pressure might be flatter, but for beginners always use the tips first.
Skill takes time, and your age as well. It does not mean younger or older is better to learn a guitar, but it can impact the quality of your learning process if you have a smaller or bigger guitar than it actually suits you.
Guitar Size Guide
The most appropriate size is determined by the player’s height and age. Depending on the type of music that interests you, you should choose the type of guitar. Rock music and its versions are more suited to the electric guitar, while folk is best played on a steel-string acoustic. There are also a few other things to keep in mind about different guitars.
If you have the opportunity to try out the guitar, always try out the largest model on which the child ( or student) can play the G chord without any problems without touching the open strings with his left hand. It is important that the beginner sees where he puts his left hand without having to tilt the guitar. If you can’t try different guitar sizes maybe this will help.
If the child is 4-6 years old and up to 120 cm tall, he needs 1/4 the size of a guitar. If the child is 7 to 8 years old and 120 to 163 cm tall, then he needs half. For ages 9 to 11, a child needs a 3/4 size guitar, and for those over 12, a 4/4 guitar is chosen.
Classical, Acoustic, and Electric Guitars
The classical guitar has nylon strings and a wider neck which helps the player to play with fingers. As a rule, they do not have a belt holder and pickguard (protection) under the speaker, which is usually decorated with graphics. Classical guitars are used to play classical music, flamenco, or folk music. They have a warm sound. It is not recommended to put metal strings on a classical guitar because it does not have a rod in the neck, so tension could cause the neck to twist.
An acoustic guitar has metal strings and a narrower neck than a classical guitar. They typically have a strap holder built into the guitar and protection from under the resonant hole and give a cleaner and brighter sound than classical guitars. They are used to play country, folk, rock, and other types of music. There are also electro-acoustic guitars that have a built-in pickup that amplifies the sound then amplifiers for the acoustic guitar.
Electric guitars have a hollow body or a solid wood body and come in a variety of shapes and styles. They need an amplifier to transmit sound. They come with a belt holder on both sides of the body. They also have separate volume control and tone control as well as other controls such as a pickup switch. For electric guitars, there are a bunch of options as well as effects to get a varied sound.
In the End, Can Guitars Be Too Big for You?
Some people that are shorter, with smaller hands may be more comfortable with guitar sizes that are recommended for children. It is important not to weigh in on the prejudice and let people be the most comfortable as they can. But before making any final purchase, find a music studio or go to a music store and ask if you can try out how each guitar feels (if you have some experience). If not, contact a school or professor and get some experience and knowledge about how to hold the guitar, strung the strings, etc.