#1
I'm returning to the guitar after a lay-off, and want to do it properly technique-wise this time.

I used to be really tense when playing and i'm trying to stay as relaxed as is humanly possible whilst still having control of the instrument.

I am struggling on things like barre chords or where i have to strum chords regularly for 5 mins + and i feel the tension creeping in. It's usually a problem with my shoulders hunching which in turn makes my arms tense a bit.

I'm trying to practice at like 40bpm one note per click and it's helping but i feel it could be going better.

Any advice on how you guys stay relaxed at all times whilst practicing?
#2
Good posture. Meaning straight back, relaxed shoulders, foot stool, straight arm/wrist. Some good warm ups before practicing is to roll your shoulders (forwards and backwards), roll your wrists, close your hands in a fist and then expanding your fingers as far as you can.

Good fretting hand technique. Rest the thumb gently on the back of the neck, don't press into the neck. Experiment with how much pressure you need to use with your fingers to get notes out. (Spoiler, much less than you think. I have been decreasing pressure for years, and i still find after a few months that i can go with an even softer touch).

Good right hand technique. Rest your hand lightly on the bridge of your guitar, don't press into the guitar. Let the movement comes from your wrist, very fluent and relaxed motions. Experiment with how hard you need to hold your pick. (Same as with pressure on the fretboard, i still work every now and then to hold my pick with less pressure. As time goes on, i can hold it with less and less pressure without it falling out of my hands)

Good Habits. Habits is what makes and breaks us guitar players, and musicians in general. If you make it a habit to use all these things and do it for a long period of time, you will end up replacing old bad habits with these new good ones. Practicing at slow tempos as you mentioned is a very good idea. Even though i can what many players in general would consider fast playing, i always start at the bottom when i am practicing. My schedule is based on topics for the coming three months. So whenever i start these topics, i start with playing everything in quarter notes at 60bpm, and wait 3-4 weeks before moving up from there. (I usually go by the method "lay the foundation - build the house - furnish the house, meaning the first month of my three month plan i lay the foundation, playing at a slow tempo and creating the habit of playing everything perfectly, relaxed and musically. The second month i push the boundaries and go up in tempo and complexity with the topics i have studied. And the third month i apply it all to things i already know aswell as the other material i have practiced during that period, making it all as musical as possible.)

Make yourself aware of these things and make it a habit everytime you practice to make playing effortless, even if it is at an extremely slow tempo. Within about a month it will start feeling natural.

Hope that was what you were looking for.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#3
I think being relaxed of mind is important, but for me, aside from warming up, I find just being better helps a whole lot.

When stuff is difficult, you can get tense from trying to accomplish it. When you get really strong, so that you can do intricate things with good control and power effortlessly, then you can play more casually.

I still practice tense if I'm practicing dexterity/strength/speed. But I play casual.

To me, guitar is part just expression and art, part hard work; converting that which which is physically difficult into that which is effortless, and part learning where the sounds are on the instrument. The latter 2 give me more power to fulfill the first one.

If it is not effortless, I can't properly convey what I want. I am always limited. The hard work is to increase that which is effortless, and raise the limit of creative freedom.
#4
The mind has a huge amount to do with this. Once you've developed a belief that something is going to be hard, it will be, until you counteract that belief. Unfortunately, with a poorly setup instrument, or no-one observing and advising on poor technique (especially tension-inducing), this can rapidly become habit.

It's very good that you are becoming aware of when you're tense ... and breathing helps here too. Listen to your body. Where you notice tension, think how you can release it in that (those) muscles etc. It's usually pretty obvious once you are watching out for it.

The advice above is good, and if applied, you'll notice things changing, and this then replaces bad habit by good habit.

I'm surprised you find strumming hard ... is that in your fretting hand or your strumming hand, or both? Have you get very heavy strings? What gauge pick you using.

cheers, Jerry
#5
Quote by jerrykramskoy
The mind has a huge amount to do with this. Once you've developed a belief that something is going to be hard, it will be, until you counteract that belief. Unfortunately, with a poorly setup instrument, or no-one observing and advising on poor technique (especially tension-inducing), this can rapidly become habit.

It's very good that you are becoming aware of when you're tense ... and breathing helps here too. Listen to your body. Where you notice tension, think how you can release it in that (those) muscles etc. It's usually pretty obvious once you are watching out for it.

The advice above is good, and if applied, you'll notice things changing, and this then replaces bad habit by good habit.

I'm surprised you find strumming hard ... is that in your fretting hand or your strumming hand, or both? Have you get very heavy strings? What gauge pick you using.

cheers, Jerry

Oh when i said strumming i actually meant in the fretting hand. So say i have to hold a chord for ages....for an example if i was just holding and strumming a power chord for a few minutes my left hand would become tense.

I struggle on barre chords because for some of them (E 'shape' dominant 7th barre for example) you have to make sure you're exerting the correct amount of pressure obviously, and i find it hard to stay relaxed in the shoulder whilst also needing to apply pressure with the hand.

My set up is decent, the action is very comfortable and nice and low for me and i use yellow Dunlop Tortex picks.

Thanks for the advice all.
#6
Quote by vidarrt
Oh when i said strumming i actually meant in the fretting hand. So say i have to hold a chord for ages....for an example if i was just holding and strumming a power chord for a few minutes my left hand would become tense.

I struggle on barre chords because for some of them (E 'shape' dominant 7th barre for example) you have to make sure you're exerting the correct amount of pressure obviously, and i find it hard to stay relaxed in the shoulder whilst also needing to apply pressure with the hand.

My set up is decent, the action is very comfortable and nice and low for me and i use yellow Dunlop Tortex picks.

Thanks for the advice all.


You may be getting tense in your barre chords because you're thinking more pincer squeeze power, and less use your arm to pull your barre into the neck power. It also might just be that you haven't gotten used to it yet. You could try inventing a small 3 chord tune that only uses dom7 chords of that shape to practice it, knowing you can always chromatically enter your progression chords. i.e if you have A7 you can do G7->G#7->A7 or A#7->A7. Just mess around with it to get a little better at it. It's another difficulty to form the shap quickly from another position, so that's always soimething one should practice also. Idk, if that's an issue for you.
#7
Playing relaxed is one of the ways I know I am up to speed on a new song. I often muscle my way through difficult or unfamiliar stuff until the tension eases and I can play it freely and fluidly. It might take a few minutes, a few hours, or a few weeks depending on how far I am stretching beyond my comfort zone. I know by keeping at it, I will get there eventually. My wife always suffers through the early stages.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#8
Quote by vidarrt
I'm returning to the guitar after a lay-off, and want to do it properly technique-wise this time.

I used to be really tense when playing and i'm trying to stay as relaxed as is humanly possible whilst still having control of the instrument.

I am struggling on things like barre chords or where i have to strum chords regularly for 5 mins + and i feel the tension creeping in. It's usually a problem with my shoulders hunching which in turn makes my arms tense a bit.

I'm trying to practice at like 40bpm one note per click and it's helping but i feel it could be going better.

Any advice on how you guys stay relaxed at all times whilst practicing?


I focus on some things:
- mouth open, no tension in the jaw. This may seems stupid but keep your mouth shout thight is a sign that you are not relaxed yet.
- loose my shoulders
- breathe slowly and deeply
- imagine you be able to play effortless

Also, i play acoustic guitar to strenghten my fingers. When i take back the electric guitar is much more easier to play chord with the left hand.
If you don't have one, i recommend you to strenght your pinky and your FIRST finger, doing hammer on (usally the first finger never does hammer on).
Hope that helps.

cheers