Beginning to Play

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Besides learning the most comfortable and practical way to hold the instrument, this chapterwill introduce us to some basic left-hand techniques. You will learn the simple chords thatare used to accompany many popular songs, and also how to make quick and easy transi-tions between them.

These are the first steps in becoming a guitarist. And, like all steps, we will break it down soyou can’t possibly make a mistake.

Playing Position
Now that you’re ready to play the guitar, it’s important to learn how to hold it in a comfort-able way. As you might expect, the different styles of playing have slightly different ruleswhen it comes to handling the instrument.

A comfortable playing position is important to provide access to all parts of the guitarwithout strain. Classical players place the guitar on the left leg raised by a footstool so thatthe upper part of the leg will support the guitar without it slipping down. The sketch ofAndres Segovia shows the position favored by most professional players. Some performershave both feet flat on the floor and use a special type of cushion to raise and support theguitar, but this is less common.

The classical position

Most non-classical players support the guitar on the right leg. Traditionally flamenco playersposition the guitar at its widest point on the right leg. Most other styles use an informalposition resting the guitar on the right leg. Some players use a cross-legged position,but there are physical disadvantages to this, notably the concomitant decrease in bloodcirculation.

Playing in a standing position, as in stage performance, requires a strap for support. The strapis attached at the bottom of the guitar’s body to a pin and commonly attached at the top bya string tied around the bottom of the headstock, above the nut. Pins can be added to aguitar for this purpose, but this should be done by a professional repair technician.

This sketch ofRamon Montoya,considered thegreatest flamencoplayer of his day,illustrates the tradi-tional flamencoposition.