Disadvantages of neck not up

Ergonomics and Posture for Classical Guitarists, Aches and Pains, Injuries, etc...
omlove
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Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by omlove » Wed Nov 02, 2016 6:20 pm

Before investigating into all kinds of foot stool, guitar support and such, I'd like to ask your opinion about the advantage of traditional way of holding classical guitar, with neck about 45 degrees up in the air.

I play both steel string and classical guitar with right leg across on top of left leg (I'm right handed). Therefore the guitar is slighted elevated so I don't have to hunch over and can keep a straight back. Also I lower the lower bout a bit and up the neck a bit so the neck is about 10 degrees up, not parallel to the floor. I found that useful because I don't have to lower my wrist too much.

I use my guitar case as a temporary foot stool to try the classical posture. What I found is the guitar is now more secure so my left hand can be completely free. My right hand still needs to have forearm rest on the edge of low bout because I need some guidance of where the right hand is.

But in terms of playing, I really don't notice any significant difference or things that I cannot do with my cross-leg posture. I'm an "experienced amateur", so to speak, by that I mean I definitely can play guitar. But the classical posture is a new discovery to me, so is nylon string guitar. Also worth mentioning is with the left hand always up to the eye level, than relaxing alongside the belly level, left hand actually feels a bit more tiring in the classical position.

Thank you in advance.

astro64
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by astro64 » Wed Nov 02, 2016 7:38 pm

I am so used to the classical position that I quickly get pain in the right shoulder when trying to play with the guitar on the right leg. But it can be done, obviously. Most flamenco players use that position. Of the classical players Ricardo Gallen is perhaps the best known one to adopt it. Check out some of his videos on Youtube. Things to watch out for: it seems a less flexible position, more tense and limiting in right hand reach. The left wrist may have to bend more much of the time which can be an issue.

omlove
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by omlove » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:15 pm

Thank you for the advice. The way shown in the video below of Ricardo Gallen - and many other videos of his - is exactly how I play guitar, whether classical or steel string. I'll watch carefully to see if there's anything I can notice from his playing that seems to be facilitated/prohibited from this posture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVPRZTDGOvk

In my own experimenting, I found with guitar firmly seated between two legs in the classical posture, both hands can be completely free. While in cross-leg posture there are some unconscious effort either from left hand or right elbow to secure the guitar while playing.

Also in higher finger positions - around the neck joint, cross-leg posture require left hand wrist to lower/bend a bit more but that's kind of minor issue.

One more thing is the sound hole is in different location. At least to me in classical posture my right ear seems to be closer to the sound hole and hear the guitar much differently.

Bill B
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Bill B » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:39 pm

When Im lazy, or forgot to bring my footstool, I will sometimes practice like that, but for classical guitar performance I use a footstool. Baroque, romantic, steel string, electric, I use a strap. Hey, whatever works for you. I find the footstool to be the most stable and yet not rigid method posture I have tried. With the neck as low as in the video, my left hand does not feel as free as with the footstool. When I use a star for my other guitars, it is short enough to keep the neck at about the same angle as with the footstool. Of course the video you shared showed someone for whom this posture seems to work just fine.
The only other point I have is that I encourage my young students to use the footstool for the above reason, and also so that when they apply to music school later on and are expected to hold the guitar in the traditional way there is less friction. I know this might not sound like the best reason, but I am up front with them that the footstool or another support option that places the neck in the same position is the norm, and if they develop abnormal postures and techniques they might find themselves in the unfortunate position where the guitar prof they are auditioning for ranks them lower than he might if they played in the traditional way. But that being said, I would not rank an auditioning student lower for an uncommon posture if it was working for them and they were where they should be musically.
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hesson11
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by hesson11 » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:21 pm

Mr. Gallen's guitar certainly looks stable. One advantage to that posture would seem to be keeping the left hand close to the body so you don't have to reach out and up to the neck. I imagine this might help prevent shoulder problems while also reducing the angle at which you sometimes have to bend your left wrist to play. Not sure about what deleterious effects holding the right shoulder out and up might have, though.

One question: How long can you sit like that? When I try it, my right leg starts to hurt fairly quickly. It also tends to "go to sleep."
-Bob

omlove
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by omlove » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:39 pm

hesson11 wrote:Mr. Gallen's guitar certainly looks stable. One advantage to that posture would seem to be keeping the left hand close to the body so you don't have to reach out and up to the neck. I imagine this might help prevent shoulder problems while also reducing the angle at which you sometimes have to bend your left wrist to play. Not sure about what deleterious effects holding the right shoulder out and up might have, though.

One question: How long can you sit like that? When I try it, my right leg starts to hurt fairly quickly. It also tends to "go to sleep."
-Bob
Bob, as you mentioned, Gallen's posture keeps left hand down at belly level rather than high at eye/shoulder level. I actually found it less tiring than having the left hand up there all the time. You may do a test: lift your left hand up to where you eye level is and keep it here for 2 minute. Quickly the arm exhausts. That's what happens to me in the classical posture.

But that's about all the disadvantage I found about classical posture. With cross-leg posture, I can play for 20 or 30 minutes without any problem. But I can't concentrate on anything more than 20 minutes, ADD? :mrgreen: So I need to take a break from practice and walk around very often. The posture works for me in that it has not caused any shoulder, leg, back problem... so far. But I don't practice 8 hours a day and I work out regularly.

I'm also not into gadgets. Like when I'm running, only thing I have is my keys (of course clothes and shoes). It probably will drive me nuts if I not only need to carry a heavy case but also a capo, a few picks, a tuner, a foot stool, a music stand, etc etc. I'm good enough to play in Eb without using a capo on 3rd fret and play in C :D

omlove
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by omlove » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:49 pm

Bill, you may bring up a good point that in classical guitar world, there are lots of conventional opinions and traditions. Good players can play even lying on the couch but when they perform in concerts, they use the foot stool. It's better to get used to it sooner or later.

Here's another video from professional Ana Vidovic using the cross-leg posture:

Youtube
Last edited by omlove on Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:56 am, edited 3 times in total.

omlove
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by omlove » Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:14 am

Another thing I need to point out is in "neck low" position - I've played steel string for 10 years like that, left arm naturally reaches forward. While I first tried classical "neck up" position, left arm reaches backwards - which is uncomfortable. I found two images to illustrate this idea:

Image
Image

Bill B
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Bill B » Thu Nov 03, 2016 2:42 am

The "left elbow resting on the knee" posture that the steel string player above is using is a bit too far even for an open minded guy like me :)
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ronjazz
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by ronjazz » Fri Nov 04, 2016 1:23 pm

Holding the left arm up is hardly a chore: look at all the other string players, especially cellists and bassists.
Lester Devoe Flamenco Negra
Lester Devoe Flamenco Blanca
Aparicio Flamenco Blanca with RMC pickup
Bartolex 7-string with RMC pickup
Giannini 7-string with Shadow pickup
Sal Pace 7-string archtop

Cincy2
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Cincy2 » Fri Nov 04, 2016 3:54 pm

astro64 wrote:I am so used to the classical position that I quickly get pain in the right shoulder when trying to play with the guitar on the right leg.
Same here. I play both steel and nylon instruments with a guitar support resting on my left leg in the "classical" position. At age 64 nothing else is possible without pain of some type.

Cincy
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Noctivagant
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Noctivagant » Sat Nov 05, 2016 7:19 pm

I'll get in a groove sometimes where sitting down in my chair, arranging the music stand and getting the footstool set up just sounds too formal, for lack of a better word. Those times, I'll sit on the edge of the futon with my legs in a wide stance with the guitar still on my left leg and run through scales and improvise arpeggios and runs. Maybe I'll drag the music stand over after a bit and turn off the TV. A lot of times, this will evolve into a full practice session and I'll migrate to the footstool and chair, especially if I notice my wrist drooping or tense from the slightly different angle playing while on the futon necessitates.

Before starting classical guitar, I played electric. My main guitar was a Jackson Rhoads, which as a "V" sat quite nicely with the intersection on my right leg and closely approximated the neck angle I'd get sitting in standard classical position. I'd guess it's just habit from my early teens, those dark, pre-classical years.

Best,

Dutch

Luis_Br
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Luis_Br » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:55 pm

The most important point of the traditional "classical" posture with guitar on left leg is not about spine nor guitar neck up. It is about guitar stabilization and allowing freer RH movement to vary tone color and dynamics. Even guitarists from old times looked for accessories to stabilize the guitar, like Sor with a table or Aguado with his Tripod. Sor also defends the symmetry of his position, which certainly helps with ergonomical issues.
When guitar over right leg you need the right arm weigth or left hand to hold the guitar, which is a big constraint for both hands movements. If you keep RH more or less still and don't use color variation, then you can just use right arm weight to hold the guitar, and guitar over right leg is fine. Maybe with some modern accessory you can stabilize the guitar with no need of right arm weight.
omlove wrote:Another thing I need to point out is in "neck low" position - I've played steel string for 10 years like that, left arm naturally reaches forward. While I first tried classical "neck up" position, left arm reaches backwards - which is uncomfortable. I found two images to illustrate this idea:
I recommend you check Carlevaro's ideas on posture and you will see what's wrong with the positioning of the lower picture, and maybe find out the solution to your problem. Search youtube for Alfredo Escande's channel and his videos on posture from the Carlevaro's school.

Djibzs
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Djibzs » Sun Nov 20, 2016 12:33 am

When we see people like Ricardo Gallen, it's imppossible to say that there is a really bad position.
According to my teacher (i think he is right on this point), the real problem is the perception of internal movements, and the consequence of useless tensions in the lumbar area, etc etc.
About the arms, consider that you can use different types of muscles to move your everything. Not only what seem to be obvious. It can be physically economic and give you unexpected moves. (take a look at a book wrote by Blandine Calais-Germain, "Anatomy for the movement").
I think it's interessant to consider the posture not from the guitare, but from the "deepest" parts of your muscles.
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Luis_Br
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Re: Disadvantages of neck not up

Post by Luis_Br » Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:09 pm

Djibzs wrote:When we see people like Ricardo Gallen, it's imppossible to say that there is a really bad position.
According to my teacher (i think he is right on this point), the real problem is the perception of internal movements, and the consequence of useless tensions in the lumbar area, etc etc.
About the arms, consider that you can use different types of muscles to move your everything. Not only what seem to be obvious. It can be physically economic and give you unexpected moves. (take a look at a book wrote by Blandine Calais-Germain, "Anatomy for the movement").
I think it's interessant to consider the posture not from the guitare, but from the "deepest" parts of your muscles.
I agree on the internal movements and so on. But we also should becareful on considering posture by young talents. Gallen is ceratinly a great musician and guitarist. He also seems to do a lot of body workout, you can find a course by him on guitar and physiotherapy over the internet. Certainly a good body preparation is recquired to keep his posture for long periods. Let's see if he can keep playing like this at older age.

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