Help me be a standup guy ... with a guitar.
November 19, 2009 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Help me be a standup guy ... with a guitar.

Okay, so it's been a little over two years since I started to learn to play guitar. It's going great. I'm progressing. I still love it. As a matter of fact, it's going well enough that my teacher asked me to play with her at a restaurant where she regularly gigs. Cool. I'm up for that. I was a standup comedian for a while so stages are not a frightening place for me.

Here's the rub: I just realized I've never played standing up. Yep, in two years of practing and even jamming with friends, I've done the whole thing sitting down. This week I threw a strap on the guitar, stood up and whoa, the whole thing was different. I had real trouble.

So ... help. Any tips to make this transition swift and painless? Or do I just have to play standing up a lot? Anyone else encounter this? How did you overcome it?
posted by lpsguy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't you just get a stool?
posted by past at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2009

Yeah, you just have to do it. From now until the gig don't sit down while playing. You may need to lean over to look at the fretboard a bit more than when your sitting. If your fretboard has position markers on the side of the neck that might help you find your way around since it's harder to see the fretboard when you're standing.

I don't know that it's any harder to play standing up, it's just that your muscles are used to the position your arm is in when you're sitting and you'll have to re-learn to play in the new position. The good news is it should come very quickly.

Also, I don't know if you play acoustic or electric but a lot of popular guitarists (especially electric) wear the guitar a lot lower than is actually comfortable for most of us. I think it just looks cooler to wear the guitar lower. Ignore them and wear it higher up if it's easier or more comfortable.

Good luck.
posted by bondcliff at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2009

Whenever you play, do it standing up. It shouldn't take you long at all to get used to it. Like bondcliff said, play with the strap length to find the most comfortable height and that should help.

I can't imagine it'll take you very long to get used to it.
posted by PFL at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2009

Best answer: There is no shortcut: practice standing up. I went through the same thing myself and yes, the first half-dozen times I played bass while standing, it felt odd, but I was quickly past it.

I was a standup comedian for a while so stages are not a frightening place for me.

As a side note, I would point out that stage fright can be curiously situation-specific. A good friend of mine acted onstage for twenty years and although he was also a musician all this time, he had never played onstage. When he finally started performing musically as well, he found he had rubbery knees and butterflies in his stomach at his first few gigs. I don't aim to undermine your confidence, just to say be wary that it might not be the same experience.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:51 AM on November 19, 2009

do I just have to play standing up a lot?

posted by Jaltcoh at 7:55 AM on November 19, 2009

Best answer: Yes, you just have to practice, but also - adjust your strap and try it different ways. There's really a lot of variety in where people like to position the guitar - ridiculously low-slung ala badass rocker, or ridiculously high-slung like the Kingston Trio, and everything in between. There's going to be a sweet spot where you don't feel like a contortionist and don't look doofy. Experiment with that.

I play acoustic, and a lot of the time that means I have the option of sitting on a stool, especially for solo shows. So some of this depends on what kind of guitar style you're playing. Leo Kottke, for instance, sits down all the time.
posted by Miko at 8:07 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have the exact opposite problem. I've never played sitting down. I will say the proper strap height thing mentioned above is probably key. For years (about 6 years) I wore my guitar at "cool" height, belt buckle or lower, and I think that contributes greatly to my inability to play sitting down, my wrist wants to bend at the same crazy angle. I've been slowly transitioning by playing standing up while wearing the guitar higher.
posted by syntheticfaith at 8:25 AM on November 19, 2009

Practice. Spread your legs a bit and adjust the strap to get it to a comfortable level. Practice more.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:58 AM on November 19, 2009

Shorten the strap. It might look a little square to wear the guitar high up on your chest, but it'll also be easier for you to play. As you get used to playing while standing up, you can lower it progressively until you're playing at an appropriately badass height (or lack thereof).
posted by sinfony at 10:24 AM on November 19, 2009

Try to adjust the strap so the guitar is at more or less the same height whether you're sitting or standing. Don't worry about how it looks - it's probably not going to be something many folks will notice anyway.
posted by davey_darling at 10:51 AM on November 19, 2009

Don't worry about how it looks - it's probably not going to be something many folks will notice anyway.

If it's too high, they'll notice. But be comfortable and you'll be fine.
posted by The World Famous at 11:05 AM on November 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, gang. For the record, it's an acoustic guitar. And somehow I suspect I'll be wearing that sucker up high since I tend to cradle it that way when I sit. I'll just gob a lot of deodorant on the top of it and kill two birds with one stone.
posted by lpsguy at 11:28 AM on November 19, 2009

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