Guitar Technique

"What's the best way to learn guitar technique?"

If finding GOOD guitar lessons in the sea of information we live in nowadays seems hard, you are not alone. Make sure you understand some basic points before you enrol for a course, or buy a method. Save yourself years of pain, and your hard-earned pennies!

Every musical style that can be played on the guitar has its own specific techniques that are unique to it. Even so, there are basic principles that you can apply to all your guitar playing. Identify them, and you will save yourself years of sweat.

The most general concept I'd like to introduce is is integration. It encompasses everything else we will talk about in the guitar technique section of Guitar Theory in Depth.

So how do we integrate all the body parts involved in playing the guitar (the whole body, really) into a single unit —a single unit where all the elements complement each other to perfection, towards the same goal?

First of all, you need to understand some basic facts about our muscular system.

Our muscles can do only two things, really:

  • contract

  • relax

  • Nothing more!

    And all our muscles work in complementary pairs: when either side is active, the other remains passive. This means, for instance, that one group of muscles is responsible for stretching your forearm, while its complementary muscle pair flexes it.

    Having said this, it should be clear that complete relaxation is an empty ideal. Impossible. If both parts of a muscular unit are totally relaxed, you are asleep or dead! (Actually, complete relaxation doesn't even happen during sleep...)

    What is dangerous, and I mean dangerous is to tense a muscle, or a muscle group, and then not relax it when we should. This is called stress... familiar, anyone?

    Stress is enemy number 1 when it comes to guitar technique, or anything body-related. Tension, on the other hand, when coupled with its true counterpart, relaxation, is natural and necessary. So tension is not the same as stress.

    So when someone says "your playing should be completely relaxed", put your BS filter on stringent mode. We need both sides to operate: contraction and relaxation. When either part of a complementary muscle system is either too tense or too relaxed, this will affect the whole. This is not integration!

    In the long run, this causes a state called lactic acidosis (which can be pretty nasty) on one side, and flaccidity, or weakness on the other.

    So, what we want, what you want, first of all, is a guitar technique system that will exercise each part of the complementary muscle pairs involved, equally. And one that does so without producing stress or injury. Finding a competent guitar teacher (can be hard to find, believe me) who can teach you such a system is perhaps the best way. Having someone to correct you is essential in the first stages.

    Additionally, having the right tools to achieve deeper relaxation, both before and after studying or playing, is a real plus. Call it self-massage, or yoga, or whatever suits you...

    Take good care of yourself and your guitar technique will soar to the skies!

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