#1
I just started learning how to play the guitar (I'm about 6 months in), self learning with UG and I was recently reading all these articles and lessons on relaxing while playing...

I've tried, but I don't understand how people can be so "loose". When I pick, my right arm tenses up so I can control which string I hit and to make sure I can a nice strong sound, and my left arm (wrist, mainly) tenses so I can press down the strings hard enough to get a nice chord... My pinky is normally stiff too when I pick (either a billion inches above the board or curled up underneath it)

I'm eager to get better and a lot of articles keep saying you must relax and loosen up, but I can't get a clear sound or pick right when I do... ARGH!!

Help??
#2
You have about the same guitar experience as I do, 6 months. I can`t get very relaxed because I simply don`t know to play, and a lot of hard work is ahead of me so practicing isn`t such a good time. But I`m sure that the better you are at it the better you can loosed up.
#4
I haven't been playing long either (about a year) and I've had to work on that problem from the start. I have found that the best way is to start slow. Play things slow and it will be easier to stay loose. It takes a lot more focus than you might think, but if you start out slow and learn the right way, you can build up speed and stay loose with enough practice. Staying relaxed is something you have to do conciously at first, and if you do it the right way long enough, it will begin to come more naturally.
#5
Yeah, practice is important, but just being aware of the physics involved will help you to be a more relaxed and comfortable player. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your wrist isn't used to hold down chords, it's a combination of your fingers and your thumb and the main problem is that the fretting thumb is usually weak from not using it in that way. A lot of people don't like to do guitar exercises but they are essential to becoming more comfortable with your instrument. Also, the picking hand should be a wrist motion, and not a full arm motion. Work on your "outside" picking primarily and learn to incorporate it into your playing as you go. There is tons of information on the technique. good luck!
#7
Quote by bloppyblue

When I pick, my right arm tenses up so I can control which string I hit and to make sure I can a nice strong sound, and my left arm (wrist, mainly) tenses so I can press down the strings hard enough to get a nice chord...


You're tensing up now because you haven't yet developed the right muscles for guitar playing. Simple as that.

You're not really "pressing down hard" to fret notes or chords, it just feels that way because those muscles will be weak without exercise. btw If the string is touching the wood of the neck, it's likely that that's too hard!

Concentrate on developing good technique and practice exercises- to build up the muscles involved. Often it's more important "how" you do things, rather than "with how much force" you do them.
#8
Wow guys, thanks. I guess I'm trying to force myself to play comfortably when I'm not there yet.

Took some stress off me, thanks again everyone
#10
Just keep practicing, it'll come slowly, sooner or later you could do insane shredding and you could be asleep while doing it.
Quote by jibran
I go to the pit only to just look at your creepy perverted username.


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#13
I was in your place very recently, but every person I talked to who knows how to play told me I played too uptight. I began playing songs I know well very slowly, focusing on nothing except keeping both my hands (but ESPECIALLY my picking hand) as relaxed and loose as possible. As it turns out, it makes you 200x better at guitar. You'll pick MUCH more accurately, smoothly, quickly, and cleanly once you figure it out. Honestly, I'm five months in and it's the best single thing I ever did for my playing. Also, especially if you're playing electric, don't worry about playing loudly. You can always turn your amp up . Have fun man!
#14
One thing that I caught myself doing was pushing on the strings really hard. You only need to press down hard enough on the strings to get a sound out of it without fret buzz. I was really tense because of this, and once I started pushing down just hard enough to get a note without fret buzz then my whole body relaxed a bit. Just take it slow and relax. It will start becoming easier and you'll be more relaxed as time goes by. Just try to have fun with it. If you have a "fun" attitude then you'll be more relaxed as opposed to someone who thinks "I have to be able to play this song in a week."

Just keep practicing and remember to relax and soon it will come naturally.

WHERE IS MY PICK?
Last edited by DemonicTurtle66 at Jul 9, 2010,
#15
I've found that when I sit down to play, my arm usually tenses up to keep the guitar upright, the best way to loosen up and play comfortably is to actually play standing up, cause then the strap will hold the guitar, and all you have to do is play, and it's very important to find a comfortable height on the guitar so that you feel comfortable playing.

Tis why most people like playing there guitar low, it's not cause it looks cool, it's cause it's most comfortable, since they don't have to hang their arm off the neck and bend their arms, which can be uncomfortable, instead, your arms are just hanging down, and your letting you fingers do the work.

I'd try it, what the worst that could happen?
#16
Quote by ethan_hanus
I've found that when I sit down to play, my arm usually tenses up to keep the guitar upright, the best way to loosen up and play comfortably is to actually play standing up, cause then the strap will hold the guitar, and all you have to do is play, and it's very important to find a comfortable height on the guitar so that you feel comfortable playing.

Tis why most people like playing there guitar low, it's not cause it looks cool, it's cause it's most comfortable, since they don't have to hang their arm off the neck and bend their arms, which can be uncomfortable, instead, your arms are just hanging down, and your letting you fingers do the work.

I'd try it, what the worst that could happen?


I agree when I'm having a hard time with a part of a song if I'm sitting down, I'll try standing to get a better angle on it. Same applies the other way, if I'm having trouble with a lick standing up I'll sit down to play it to get used to it if it's easier. I've been playing off and on for about 2.5 years just casually so I'm probably around a year of real playing if you want to consider it like that.

Another thing lots of people forget is that you need to have good posture while playing in order to have less tension. The better your posture is, the more your fingers will just fall into place without you having to move them into place purposely.
Last edited by Exodus04 at Jul 9, 2010,
#17
ive been playing for years, and alot in those years. It takes 2 things, u have to have good technique and good skill just pracice it will come
If its to loud your to old!
#18
The way i get my students to relax is to get them more into the rhythm. Try and feel the music and be less concerned about clean notes and chords.

What happens is that you are 'anticipating a difficult chord change....a set of melody notes or whatever...this will swirl about in your head instead of the 'now' of the beat. Inside your head is a voice saying :"Oh.no...after this C chord, it's is the dreaded 'F' chord!!!!". Your head isn't in th groove of the moment but stressed out over a few bars of music coming up.

Just skip a chord if it's interfering with the rhythm...or skip a few notes....strum a few open strings...but keep the beat going.

It's like when you were young and learning to driver. During the driver's test you might have almost drove through a stop sign because your brain is dwelling on having to parallel park in a few minutes. Music is the same. You can't play well if your brain isn't focused on the beat of the moment. The chords, etc. will eventually come but they will come a lot easier if you realize that they aren't a big deal compared to rhythm.
#20
Quote by filthylittleboy
Yeah, practice is important, but just being aware of the physics involved will help you to be a more relaxed and comfortable player. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your wrist isn't used to hold down chords, it's a combination of your fingers and your thumb and the main problem is that the fretting thumb is usually weak from not using it in that way. A lot of people don't like to do guitar exercises but they are essential to becoming more comfortable with your instrument. Also, the picking hand should be a wrist motion, and not a full arm motion. Work on your "outside" picking primarily and learn to incorporate it into your playing as you go. There is tons of information on the technique. good luck!


"The picking hand should be a wrist motion, and not a full arm motion."

It depends. There are different schools. Check out the jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno, he's floating his hand, but first and foremost he's picking from the elbow, and so do I nowadays. As long as you're totally relaxed, there is no problem using this approach, and in fact it leads to a more consistent movement. But everyone is different, so it may not suit all people. Personally I get tense if I anchor my wrist on the bridge or something like that. To each his/her own.
#21
Quote by matsp888
"The picking hand should be a wrist motion, and not a full arm motion."

It depends. There are different schools. Check out the jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno, he's floating his hand, but first and foremost he's picking from the elbow, and so do I nowadays. As long as you're totally relaxed, there is no problem using this approach, and in fact it leads to a more consistent movement. But everyone is different, so it may not suit all people. Personally I get tense if I anchor my wrist on the bridge or something like that. To each his/her own.


I should add that the wrist isn't stiff, there's still some movement, but it's because of the resistance of the strings, not an active motion.
#22
BloppyBlue ... try this:

Fret some note (doesn't matter where) as you would normally, and play it as you would normally. Now keep applying less and less pressure until the note no longer sounds out cleanly. Then apply back that tiny bit of pressure to get it clear again. You will find that very little pressure is required (but your string gauge, and action will obviously impact this ... the heavier the string, and the higher above the fret, clearly there's more work involved).

Most beginners / newbies fret much too hard, and make all movements much to exaggerated.

Obviously your arm is involved, in as much as keeping your hand at theguitar neck, but you should not feel anything going on in your fretting hand bicep, shoulder, neck, or in your jaw. You shouldn't be holding your breath ... all of these are nervous responses in anticipation of difficulty that actually doesn't exist. So you need to watch very closely what actions you're attempting that cause these tensions ... for that you need to make the movements very slowly, so you have time to observe.

Either watch yourself in a mirror, or video yourself, if you can ... to help track down the above. The good news is, as a beginner, these issues aren';t deeply ingrained habits, and can be fixed pretty quickly. Ideally you need a good teacher to pick up on your problems, and point them out to you, and how to fix them,

Economy of motion really helps (depending on style) ... and all of that comes from what I've said above.

Good luck.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Dec 17, 2015,
#23
I find that it comes naturally after you've been playing for a while, its hard to relax when you're thinking about what you're doing and if you're thinking about relaxing you're not thinking about playing and vice versa. Once you've worked enough to play guitar well and naturally, you will be able to relax.

This may sound strange, but I was so happy the first time that I dropped my plectrum because I know I was playing loosely, and it came naturally after playing for a around a year and a bit.

I also play drums for 15 years now and it makes me laugh when people laugh at drummers when they drop their sticks, but not many people understand that its not a bad thing, it means you're relaxed and loosened up. and I feel the same goes for guitarists too, dropping a plectrum is not a bad thing its because you're relaxed, so when you drop your plectrum I think that's a good sign that you are relaxing
#24
Quote by bloppyblue
I just started learning how to play the guitar (I'm about 6 months in), self learning with UG and I was recently reading all these articles and lessons on relaxing while playing...

I've tried, but I don't understand how people can be so "loose". When I pick, my right arm tenses up so I can control which string I hit and to make sure I can a nice strong sound, and my left arm (wrist, mainly) tenses so I can press down the strings hard enough to get a nice chord... My pinky is normally stiff too when I pick (either a billion inches above the board or curled up underneath it)

I'm eager to get better and a lot of articles keep saying you must relax and loosen up, but I can't get a clear sound or pick right when I do... ARGH!!

Help??


You have to practice enough so that everything is really easy. Then you can relax. At your level, I wouldn't worry about it, because probably most things are still quite difficult.
#25
What really helped me to feel more relaxed while playing was to spend some time - up to an hour every day playing with my eyes closed. What a huge difference that made. My confidence level and ability to quickly go from one chord change or fret to the next increased exponentially. Give it a try.
#26
Quote by Rick_Lamoreaux
What really helped me to feel more relaxed while playing was to spend some time - up to an hour every day playing with my eyes closed. What a huge difference that made. My confidence level and ability to quickly go from one chord change or fret to the next increased exponentially. Give it a try.


+1
#27
when playing certain patterns on the neck like 4-3-1 or 4-2-1 and reversed, instead of pushing the back of the neck with the pad of your thumb, wrap your whole thumb around the neck. there are places where u cant do this all the time, but try to wrap the thumb around the neck. It will significantly remove tension and increase stamina
#28
I would advise against wrapping the thumb when it's not actually necessary (ie, large bends or playing above the 15th fret). Positioning the thumb differently doesn't necessary reduce tension, it just puts the pressure somewhere else. Forcing the wrist to stay bent by wrapping the thumb over puts unnecessary stress on all those little bones and tendons, and they hurt like hell when they get inflamed.

It's better to practice with the thumb making only slight contact, and without holding it stiff. The idea is to avoid the squeezing motion altogether. The hand should be almost hanging off of the neck. Wrist flat across the back is the ideal "neutral" hand position.

And remember that tension goes all the way up and down the arm. Tension in the shoulder causes technique problems in the hand. Poor posture, too.

You'll get more concrete advice if you can post a video of your playing. Beginners tend to have a lot of goofy tension in the hands, and if that's happening it should be addressed first.
Last edited by cdgraves at Dec 20, 2015,
#29
Quote by cdgraves
I would advise against wrapping the thumb when it's not actually necessary (ie, large bends or playing above the 15th fret). Positioning the thumb differently doesn't necessary reduce tension, it just puts the pressure somewhere else. Forcing the wrist to stay bent by wrapping the thumb over puts unnecessary stress on all those little bones and tendons, and they hurt like hell when they get inflamed.

It's better to practice with the thumb making only slight contact, and without holding it stiff. The idea is to avoid the squeezing motion altogether. The hand should be almost hanging off of the neck. Wrist flat across the back is the ideal "neutral" hand position.

And remember that tension goes all the way up and down the arm. Tension in the shoulder causes technique problems in the hand. Poor posture, too.

You'll get more concrete advice if you can post a video of your playing. Beginners tend to have a lot of goofy tension in the hands, and if that's happening it should be addressed first.


I see what you mean, but in the end its a subjective preference. Im pushing myself to play at high speeds (16ths at 200bpm). I can partially do it now, but before i was putting a lot of unneeded tension on my wrist by bending it just to make contact with the pad of my thumb, which made it hurt after i was doing my speed drills.

I have small hands too, and high speed alternate picking poses some challenges when on certain parts of the neck. The fingertips on my hands (moreso on left hand) can bend at around 70 degrees in the other direction (compared to when you curl them into a fist) which is wierd, but it makes me not have to worry about putting stress on the bones and tendons. Ill post a demo video to see what i mean
#31
Quote by sourcegamer101
I see what you mean, but in the end its a subjective preference. Im pushing myself to play at high speeds (16ths at 200bpm). I can partially do it now, but before i was putting a lot of unneeded tension on my wrist by bending it just to make contact with the pad of my thumb, which made it hurt after i was doing my speed drills.

I have small hands too, and high speed alternate picking poses some challenges when on certain parts of the neck. The fingertips on my hands (moreso on left hand) can bend at around 70 degrees in the other direction (compared to when you curl them into a fist) which is wierd, but it makes me not have to worry about putting stress on the bones and tendons. Ill post a demo video to see what i mean


If you wrap your thumb around your neck, you'll be fine going fast for pentatonics, and 3 finger stuff, but you're gonna have a rough time getting up to speed for scale shapes that require the pinky, like box patterns, and 3nps.

Quote by cdgraves
Your last knuckle shouldn't be "collapsed". The fingers should be rounded, like a piano player's, touching the string with the tip of the finger rather than the pad.


I think he is talking about the thumb, which is something that can vary greatly from person to person. My thumb will bend backwards at the joint almost 90 degrees, and that just feels to me like putting my thumb straight, and this position I think is very useful for guitar, as compared to other people that have just a straight thumb. If I recall, the population is pretty split down the middle here.

I have a number of techniques and positions for my fretting hand, one of them is to keep my index almost always barred. So, that finger, when it frets a note, is not only flat knuckled, but flat across all the strings as well. This position also results in the rest of my fingers having a more flat angle of attack to the fretboard. But I also have positions where the angle of attack is much more vertical.

The same is true for piano as well. Sometimes I have more of a rounded angle of attack, and sometimes I have very straight fingers as well. It depends on what I'm doing.

For piano and also guitar, the only real way to every be able to play fully relaxed is for everything to be so easy.

It's like that with everything. If it was your first day walking, or swimming, or snowboarding, or skating, or whatever, you'd find all your muscles are tense and working over time, and it would be very difficult to have easy flowing motion.

But once it becomes easy you can stroll easily, and casually glide around, or whatever.


If you can do something effortlessly on guitar, then your technique is perfectly fine whatever it is, for that thing.

Where technique comes really big into play, for me, is for that thing 2 years from now that you'll be doing later. Other wise, if you can do it, the technique is fine. But that doesn't mean it might not be a bad idea to look ahead and practice something that will come in handy later on, instead of unlearning stuff.

That said, most of the time, those things I had to "unlearn" still came in handy for certain situations.



The answer to this question is basic. Practice. It was like that for me on piano and guitar. The beginning for a lot of stuff used a lot of muscle and strain to accomplish, and still now when I push my limits, it's that way. But as you push ahead like that, previous things become so easy, effortless, so you stroll around on the fret board, as easily as speaking.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Dec 20, 2015,