December 12, 2023

Getting the grip

We’ve been teaching aspiring guitarist to play the guitar online for about 7 years or so, and one of the questions we often receive is about how to stay relaxed when playing the guitar.

A lot of users have mentioned that they don’t feel comfortable or they don’t seem to be able to relax when they play the guitar, especially when pressing down some chords … Do we have a solution to this?

More than being a solution or a simple yes or no type of answer, it is more about being aware of a few things.

Relaxation can really improve or affect your learning. Not only in terms of speed but also with how you hold the guitar and more importantly, how you ‘hold’ the chords.

When we start playing the guitar, we always push to get a clear and bright sound out of our chords. But most of the time we forget about other important things, such as staying relaxed. Not only do we need to keep our strumming hand loose (think shaking water of your hand) but we also need to keep our fretting hand relaxed..

Being not relaxed has two major downsides:

1. Sounding out of tune:

It is very common for us to receive an email from players who want to know why they sound out of tune, even after they’ve checked their guitar’s tuning and intonation – the answer to this question is often another question: How hard are you holding the strings down?

When you hold a string down toward the fretboard it comes in contact with the desired fret. If you then apply too much pressure to the string, you essentially stretch the string over the fret causing the note to go sharp. How sharp the notes goes depends entirely on the height of the frets on your particular guitar. Higher frets will cause the note to be sharper than lower frets. Scalloped fretboard will also have more of a detuning effect. So ease up on the pressure a little. Experiment with finger position within the fret to see where you can get a clean sound while staying relaxed.

2. Fretting hand slow speed:

Many players feel like they cannot achieve the necessary speed to play the music they want to play. Again, the culprit is “how hard you hold the strings down”. When you are holding the strings to the fretboard too hard it is much more difficult to move your fingers quickly and smoothly. This can often be the cause of cramping in the hand and forearm.

Furthermore using too much force is going to cause fatigue in your fingers, wrist and forearm muscles causing you to slow down even more. If you learn to have a lighter touch you will have much more success in achieving speed and you will be able to play longer and more relaxed.

Are you experiencing any of these two things with your playing? Now you know what it can be!

So keep this in mind and be conscious when practicing and playing the guitar.

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