Photo by Pixabay/Public Domain Article by Kathy Dickson
If you ask amateur guitarists whether they sit or stand when they play, it's a safe bet that most would say they almost exclusively sit. It's more comfortable to sit and play. You can see the fretboard. Besides, playing with the guitar hanging from the neck feels awkward and it's too difficult to finger notes. Standing and playing is too much like learning to play all over again, and who wants to do that? There's certainly nothing wrong with sitting when you play. Many brilliant musicians play their gigs while seated. Classical and flamenco guitarists both play from a seated position, and a lot of folk guitarists do as well. Many times a musician who stands when playing an electric guitar will pull up a stool and sit when they switch to playing an acoustic Some acoustic guitars can be clumsy to play standing because the body is so thick compared to that of the typical solid body electric. Electric guitars tend to be ergonomically engineered to be more comfortable hanging from a strap while standing. Guitar size then is one factor that needs to be considered when deciding whether to sit or stand when playing. Guitars not only vary in sound, but they vary greatly in weight and shape as well, which will affect how you hold it.
Sometimes it's a matter of comfort that dictates whether you sit or stand. Then there are your goals. If you'd rather kick back and play for your own enjoyment, then you probably have no desire to stand and play. But if you aspire to take your playing to a more professional level at some point, if you want to join or start a band, then you really need to start getting used to playing on your feet for a more dynamic performance. Expect a shift in perspective when changing your playing position from sitting to standing. It's not as easy to see the fretboard, and you can't tilt the guitar toward you when it's hanging from your shoulders like you can when seated. This means you need to have a command of the fretboard so you can locate your notes when standing. In most cases playing while standing will put less strain on your back than sitting does. Not many of us maintain perfect posture when sitting around playing the guitar. Often times your back is hunched over the instrument while you watch your hands, or you slouch when you play. This is hard on the spine. When standing, however, your spine is more aligned. It's actually difficult to slouch or hunch over your guitar when standing, so you're forced to stand up straight. Standing to play is more likely to put strain on your hands, wrists and arms due to the different demands put upon them when standing versus sitting. Though just like everything you've mastered on the guitar, you will adapt and develop the extra strength and suppleness over time that you need to play effectively while standing. Now let's talk strap length. You've no doubt seen guitarists who wear their instrument way low on the body, like Slash does. You've likewise seen players who prefer to wear their guitars higher up, like John Lennon did. There is no right or wrong way to wear your instrument. Where you hang your guitar is determined more by your arm length and style of playing than anything else. The length of your strap will affect your angle of picking as well as your fretting wrist and finger reach. If your guitar is hanging too low, you'll have to bend your wrists at awkward angles to play. This can make playing fast passages more difficult and can lead to injury. Adjust the height of the guitar until you can reach the fretboard and strings comfortably. To do this, sit down and hold your guitar like you would normally when you're playing seated. Now stand up without moving the guitar. You should adjust your strap so that the guitar hangs to that same point on your body. This will position your guitar so that it feels most like it does when you're sitting down and playing.
If coolness is a factor and you want to go lower, first get comfortable playing with the guitar strapped in the original position. When you can play smoothly, adjust your strap so the guitar is about an inch lower. Continue this until you're happy where your guitar is positioned and you're playing comfortably. Don't sacrifice skill for image. A final word on straps: Think comfort. A wide strap tends to spread out the pressure over a wider area on your shoulder, which increases comfort as will a soft leather strap, which tends to grip the shoulder so you're not constantly trying to keep it from slipping. It also helps to shift the position of the strap on your shoulder from time to time to change the pressure point. One last factor to consider when standing to play is boredom. Some people get bored standing in one place for too long, especially if they're not anchored to a spot by a microphone. If this is you, try moving around a little while you're playing. It may feel a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time, but think of the many players who not only walk while playing, but duck walk and get some serious air, all without dropping a note. Again, if your desire is to play live, you will have to get used to standing, so persevere. Although it may be a bit of a hassle initially, spend a few minutes of each practice session standing up and then go back to sitting down. You don't have to stand all the time, just try 10-15 minutes a day until you get used to it, then go for a half hour and build from there. Before you know it, playing on your feet and not just your can will become the new normal. For more beginner guitar lessons check out GuitarTricks.com.