This is a choice that you may be faced with in first coming to the guitar, or coming back to it after a while. It may also be something to think about if you’ve been playing for a while.
For years and years and years, throughout my formative playing years through my eighth grade and beyond I always played guitar with my left leg propped up on the trusty, adjustable foot stool. There was no reason to do otherwise – my teachers played in this way, all my “guitar heroes” played in this way (Bream, Williams and so on).
To be honest, for a long time I’d not seen anyone play using any other form of support to raise the guitar up to a height that both allowed playability and was comfortable. That was until I started to see more and more folks – my peers, teachers, players – using these adjustable rest-type contraptions attached to the side of the guitar which rests on the leg propping the guitar up on the left leg.
Interesting, I thought. There must be a reason why I’m seeing more and more players choosing this type of tool to raise and support the guitar over the foot stool, so I tried out a few different styles of rests for myself. And there are a whole host of different styles of rests to choose from (a couple of which I really didn’t get on with), but some which, for me personally, were fantastic. I now use the rest over a foot stool 100% of the time.
Why is this?
Well, my feet are both flat on the floor meaning that there’s no undue strain or twisting on the lower back. This allows for much more comfortable playing for longer periods of time (although of course you should always take regular breaks), and ensures that you’re not going to be storing up trouble for later on.
I also understand that the prolonged use of a foot stool can shorten the hip flexor on the side being raised by the foot stool (as can too much sitting generally). So you could potentially end up with a shortened hip flexor on one side of your body causing an imbalance as well as a weakness. Great…. not!
Having both feet flat on the floor also provides a very stable platform for playing – you feel very grounded and centred, a sensation which I find lacking with the foot stool. And with the type of rest that I have I can change the height at which I have the guitar and the angle – this allows me to receive better feedback from the guitar, both aurally and also in terms of the vibrations felt from the instrument in my body. Being able to fine-tune the height and angle of the guitar also means I can achieve a much more ergonomic (i.e. better, more comfortable and healthy) playing position than can be afforded to me by a foot stool alone.
So in answer to the question, foot stool or rest, I’d say it’s really up to you, but think about what it is you want. If you want something that’s going to allow you to play comfortably for longer periods, and for a longer time overall, with fewer physical issues then I’d say give some serious consideration to a guitar rest.