Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
kirkmc
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Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by kirkmc » Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:58 pm

I've just started playing classical guitar, though I've been playing steel string guitar off and on for the past 40 years. One problem I have with most musical instruments is back pain; I have a slight scoliosis, so twisting my spine tends to be painful.

I bought an Ergoplay, because the foot-on-stool position is definitely not conducive to a pain-free life. I got it today, and stuck it on my guitar, and it's quite interesting. What's more interesting, however, is using it to place the guitar on my right thigh rather than my left (I'm right handed). In this position, my back twists less, and my left hand is perfectly perpendicular to the next. My right arm is a bit high, but that hand too is in a good position compared to the strings.

Is there anything objectively wrong in playing the guitar in this position?

An aside: I'd love to have an upright guitar, like Paul Galbraith uses. That makes so much sense. I've played viola da gamba in the past, and that position is very comfortable.
Newbie with a cheap guitar. 40 years off and on playing steel string, I've recently started trying to play classical guitar.

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pima1234
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by pima1234 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:11 pm

I would love to be able to play in the Galbraith position.

I've been using the Aria (Murata) GR2 support for over 20 years. It is my back saver. Along with The Original Guitar Chair, I have a fairly ergonomic solution.
What can this strange device be?
When I touch it, it gives forth a sound
It's got wires that vibrate and give music
What can this thing be that I found?

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:58 pm

kirkmc wrote:I've just started playing classical guitar, though I've been playing steel string guitar off and on for the past 40 years. One problem I have with most musical instruments is back pain; I have a slight scoliosis, so twisting my spine tends to be painful.

I bought an Ergoplay, because the foot-on-stool position is definitely not conducive to a pain-free life. I got it today, and stuck it on my guitar, and it's quite interesting. What's more interesting, however, is using it to place the guitar on my right thigh rather than my left (I'm right handed). In this position, my back twists less, and my left hand is perfectly perpendicular to the next. My right arm is a bit high, but that hand too is in a good position compared to the strings.

Is there anything objectively wrong in playing the guitar in this position?

An aside: I'd love to have an upright guitar, like Paul Galbraith uses. That makes so much sense. I've played viola da gamba in the past, and that position is very comfortable.
How did you play your acoustic guitar - did you use strap? sitting or standing? You could try to use strap with classical guitar and play standing too... :) Good luck!
I'd better speak by music...Please listen my guitar on most popular music streaming services on WWW. Thanks!

Nitsuga Uriarte
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Nitsuga Uriarte » Sat Aug 06, 2016 6:56 pm

There is no wrong or right way to play. Just what works for you. If you produce good tone, can play comfortably, and accurately execute your pieces then that's fine.
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guitarseller345645
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by guitarseller345645 » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:19 am

Nitsuga Uriarte wrote:There is no wrong or right way to play. Just what works for you. If you produce good tone, can play comfortably, and accurately execute your pieces then that's fine.
Agreed.
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Philosopherguy
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Philosopherguy » Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:15 am

I get some back pain too and my only solution so far is to switch frequently between my Dynarette cusion and my footstool quite frequently. I keep the body guessing on what I will do next!

That being said, I don't think there is any real wrong way to play. However, the guitar has to be properly supported so that you have free movement with your fretting hand, plus you have to be able to move fairly freely with your plucking hand/arm in order to access the strings and provide dynamics in different positions along the strings. As long as your posture can accommodate all of these, then everything is ok. The thing is that the traditional classical position has always been the best at providing this posture (however now with modern supports and cushions.. others can work too). With the guitar cradled in the legs, our hands and arms have the freedom to move around quite a bit without the guitar collapsing.

Good luck! As long as things feel good for you and you can play the guitar in your position, it's all good!

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Todd Tipton
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Todd Tipton » Wed Sep 07, 2016 11:15 am

Hello,

I recommend a few things:

1. Study Aaron Shearer's "The Five Ways of Moving the Guitar" from Learning the Classic Guitar, Part One. When I first read this material decades ago, it was a revelation to me. I thought I fully understood positioning prior to reading this material. In spite of some of his writing overall being a bit dogmatic, this material helped me better understand how a default position is unique to each individual with various body shapes. It helped me better understand how positioning is a compromise between the hands both as a general default position, and as a specific position dictated by the particular physical demands.

2. In spite of the great information Shearer provides, he says very little about overall body posture. The chain is only as good as the weakest link. While Shearer assumes good posture, he doesn't provide the details that so many of us need as we recover from the habits of modern society. I learned a great deal from studying Alexander Technique, and I learned it in a very short amount of time. No doubt, this can be learned from other disciplines such as yoga, martial arts, etc. Speaking from experience, good posture is important. A very simple test: if you can not maintain good posture AND feel most comfortable while maintaining it, then you need some assistance discovering better posture. Without being able to find good comfortable posture while simply drinking a cup of tea, no guitar position, device, or special chair will fully solve the problem.

3. Use the knowledge gained from above to continue working with the Ergoplay, straps, and other various devises that eliminate the need for the elevated left leg.

4. Most importantly in my opinion, elevate the back legs of your chair. This will take a tremendous amount of pressure off of your back. As an experiment, you can have a friend stand behind your chair while you are playing. Have them raise the back of the chair off of the floor maybe 2 to 5 centimeters. Maintain that position for a short while. Then, have your friend return the chair to the floor. You will then feel the tremendous pressure on your back that you have been dealing with every time you are in a practice chair. I know that at least some orchestras use chairs specially designed with legs that are longer in the back. I've heard the phrase "cello chair" thrown around. In my studio, I simply use discarded hardback books for the task. I'm sure a wooden board would also work.

Happy Practicing!
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA

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Tom Poore
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Tom Poore » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:28 pm

kirkmc wrote:I've just started playing classical guitar, though I've been playing steel string guitar off and on for the past 40 years. One problem I have with most musical instruments is back pain; I have a slight scoliosis, so twisting my spine tends to be painful.

I bought an Ergoplay, because the foot-on-stool position is definitely not conducive to a pain-free life. I got it today, and stuck it on my guitar, and it's quite interesting. What's more interesting, however, is using it to place the guitar on my right thigh rather than my left (I'm right handed). In this position, my back twists less, and my left hand is perfectly perpendicular to the next. My right arm is a bit high, but that hand too is in a good position compared to the strings.

Is there anything objectively wrong in playing the guitar in this position?
People with medical conditions must adjust to their problem. If the solution you describe allows you to play comfortably without pain, then it’s a good solution—for you.

I have an adult student who has limited range of movement in his neck and back. He too uses a guitar support, and like you holds his guitar on his right leg rather than his left. His resulting position is ergonomically good for both hands, and enables him to play without discomfort. I’ve no problem with his solution.

Regarding Paul Galbraith, I’ve occasionally seen people who claim his unorthodox position proves that guitar teachers don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to holding the guitar. The truth is that any competent teacher can look at Galbraith’s position and find nothing to criticize. Perhaps there are a few hidebound teachers who airily dismiss his position. I’m not one of them. In fact, there’s no ergonomic reason to do so. It’s not a position I’d teach, but it’s not something that would frost my pumpkin. And as you point out, cellists use this position and they play very well, thank you.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA

Luis_Br
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Sep 28, 2016 11:24 pm

I don't think the position itself is the most important. Inner body dynamics and attitude may change everything. We may have a perfect straight back, but if it is stuck and tense, we will have lots of problems. Standing up is good because it generates more dynamics. Good deep breathing with constant expansion and contraction of all vertebrae is another way to do it.
I've learnt Galbraith's position from my last teacher, who played with Paul in the BGQ, but my teacher never forces his students to any posture. His orientation is developing overall body knowledge and most of his students use a traditional posture.
Tom Poore wrote:And as you point out, cellists use this position and they play very well, thank you.
I would take care with those assumptions. It is not that easy. Once I talked about posture with a conductor who traveled around and performed with several orchestras. He said me in his experience with musicians from an orchestra, the cellists are usually those with more health problems. I don't play cello, but it seems to me it demands more body effort than playing the guitar. Also the great orchestras are very demanding and several musicians have health problems. He pointed me that nowadays several orchestras include in their routine lessons with physiotherapists or Alexander Technique taechers or other body therapists, trying to prevent the regular health issues.

Howie
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Re: Back pain, and guitar position with an Ergoplay

Post by Howie » Sat Oct 01, 2016 1:58 pm

I have had lower back pain for a number of years and this was aggravated when I started playing guitar. Personally I have found keeping my back straight, i e not using foot stool, but some form guitar rest to be essential. The biggest difference, however, was when I switched from sitting on a chair to a piano stool, with no back support. I've no idea why this position is more comfortable for me but when I practice at home this is my preferred comfortable sitting position.

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