At no point ever, ever should there be any pain involved in the playing of classical guitar – not when first learning, not when progressing up through your grades, not when performing at the highest level, not ever.
If you experience pain creeping in at any point, either during practice/ playing or immediately following, then this is a sure signal that something aint quite right. The body is a smart thing and the message that pain is giving us is telling us something loud and clear – “you’re not doing this correctly and if you carry on doing this in this way you’re going to bugger me up. Then you’ll be stuffed.” Or something like that anyway.
So, it’s a hackneyed old saying, but you really should listen to your body.
Unlike marathon runners or kickboxers or any sporting person-type analogies we may care to use from time to time when talking about learning and playing guitar, if we experience pain whilst playing this isn’t “weakness leaving the body” (or some other similar macho or “brave in the face of adversity” type saying), we should not push through it and it’s most definitely not about how much more you can take, pushing, pushing and pushing just a little bit more. This is most definitely where the analogy between the pursuit of sporting excellence and classical guitar mastery ends.
Pain, be it muscular, skeletal, tenderness, soreness, sharp or dull, when playing or practicing guitar should never ever be ignored. I can’t stress this enough!
All manner of causes
The cause of a pain could be all manner of things – poor seated posture, habitual and unconscious muscle tension, “trying” too hard and straining muscles, excess pressure, conscious excess muscle tension, poor left and/ or right hand technique, focus on fingers and hands over and above how the whole body is involved in playing, poor physical condition, even psychosomatic responses to feelings of inadequacy and nervousness and so on.
As pain can be the result can be the result of all manner of things, it can also present itself in numerous different ways in different places from one person to the next – we’re all made up slightly differently after all. We may experience pain in that big, fat juicy muscle in our thumbs, our fingers, our hand or wrist – those are common ones where poor posture and excess tension and pressure can combine to cause problems. Then, of course, as guitarists we may also experience pain in the neck, shoulders, jaw, head, upper back, lower back, hips, knees….. the list could probably continue!
So, as you probably may guess I can’t help you cure your specific aches and pains and so on in all these places in the space of 500 word blog (I can help you explore each of these areas in greater detail if of interest though?). What I do invite you to take away from this though is:
If it hurts, stop playing right away!
Believe me – it’s more trouble than it’s worth to continue down the path of pain. Your body is giving you a signal that you need to change something with your posture, technique and/ or approach.
Take a really good hard look at how you’re playing and ask yourself what needs to be done to rectify the situation. Well in fact this may be difficult for you to do, as it may not be obvious to you as to the cause. An objective outsider view may be required – it may be easier to talk in greater detail with your teacher about the issue if you have a teacher. If you don’t have a teacher, this may be a good time to get one. If you have a teacher perhaps seek additional advice too – other teachers, other guitarists, or physical therapists such as Alexander Technique teachers or physiotherapists.
In other news….
In other (if somewhat slightly random) news, a website by the name of Coupon Audit (a new one to me, I’ll admit) has been putting together a series of “Top 100 Blogs” under various topics – gardening, craft, health and so on. The folks there have put together one for guitar and, lo! Classical Guitar n Stuff made it in there, to the lofty heights of number 37! Check out the list here:
Ooh and some other news….
There will be a very exciting announcement headed this way shortly about some plans for the blog coming up in the near future. Watch this space!