I have been working extremely hard on trying to find a posture that allows me to have good left and right hand position. I have watched several videos on posture (limiting myself to those who themselves have proper posture) and have been experimenting with every aspect, all to no avail. I feel like I get close, only to be “assigned” a lesson (I am taking the online lessons starting at levels 1 and 2 consecutively with the express goal of replacing bad habits from being self-taught with good technique) that proves that I have not yet found a solution (in that it is impossible to play cleanly without introducing tension and pain).
My problem I am certain stems from my scoliosis (curvature of the spine). I figure without the scoliosis I would be about 2 to 4 inches taller (I am only 6’ tall, but leg wise I have great difficulty finding a car that fits comfortably as most seats simply don’t go back far enough). One potential issue then is the fact that my arms are long relative to my upper body, suggesting perhaps that my guitar should be held more vertical than the normal 45 degrees recommended. A bigger issue is that “curvature” of the spine is a misleading description, for as it curves it also twists…in my case by about 90 degrees. Other bones and muscles compensate somewhat so it is not as if I have a totally gimped physique, though it is immediately obvious to some, but my right scapula is heavily pronated. Among other things this shoulder is subject to getting very painful, and I am currently experiencing increasing back pain which I attribute to my guitar playing. Strengthening the back muscles should help so yesterday I purchased a Bowflex which I intend on using intermittently with my guitar practice routine.
Regarding finding the perfect posture, a bit of advice I found most logical is to sit down on the edge of a chair of appropriate height, check for a straight back and level shoulders, then raise both arms to the appropriate playing position on one’s imaginary guitar. Yes…that makes perfect sense because it will tell me how I should position my actual guitar and now all that is left is to find a way to cradle it in that position. I am glad I did this because it finally put to rest any illusion that such a position was even possible for me. For example, I can find a position where the fingers on my left hand are parallel to the imaginary frets at the first position (once I get to the third position I have no real issues), but it involves raising my elbow which is both uncomfortable and introduces tension and fatigue. When I drop my shoulder in a relaxed position my fingers go to a slanted position and any attempt to bring them back to parallel without raising the elbow again introduces pain and tension. That is not quite true though. If I move my arm (and shoulder) back the fingers relax into the recommended position, but if I then try to hold the guitar in that position the bottom is way too far forward, making my right wrist contact the top edge of the guitar instead of the arm and of course necessitating significant arching of the wrist in order for the fingers to reach the strings. In other words, if I get my right hand right it puts my left hand wrong and vice versa.
A guitar support allowing me to keep my feet flat on the floor might help I suppose, but given that I cannot hold an air guitar in proper form no matter the chair height or how I place my feet and legs I cannot see it solving my underlying problems. I am slowly coming to the conclusion I will be forced to simply choose which compromises I should make to minimize how my scoliosis disadvantages me.
1) Are there any other players out there with scoliosis and if so can you offer any words of wisdom?
2) Assuming I must indeed make compromises in posture and hand positions, what compromises are least likely to hinder my progress? My personal guess at present is to let the left hand fingers slant in first and second position.
"We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve." — Bill Gates
"The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement." — unknown