When you buy your first guitar, wondering whether to learn it sitting down or standing probably isn’t the first question that jumps into your head. In fact, many beginners don’t even realize how important this decision can be. If you learn to play in one position, changing from sitting to standing or vice versa can be a little bit like starting again, this post will help you to work out which position is most appropriate for you.
So, Should You Sit or Stand?
Many acoustic guitarists choose to sit down to play as the size of the guitar body can make it awkward to reach the correct hand positions standing. If you are playing electric guitar, it will be more compact, therefore easier to stand to learn.
Both sitting and standing have their pros and cons, as we explore in more detail below. The impact the positions can have on your body, playing style and even learning style should all be considered.
Sitting to Learn Guitar (Plus Pros and Cons)
Sitting is very popular among people who want to learn acoustic and classical guitar. There is nothing wrong with sitting to learn as long as you take certain things into consideration and take steps to avoid any long term damage or injury.
Using a Strap
The number of times people assume that sitting means that they don’t need a strap is frightening. A strap is still best even if you are sitting. If you don’t use a strap, you can find yourself supporting the guitar’s weight in your hands and this can take away the flexibility you have.
A correctly positioned guitar strap (in a way that you are comfortable and can see the fretboard) can leave both of your hands free and make the learning process far easier. Your hands shouldn’t have to take the strain of the weight of the guitar.
Getting used to wearing a strap can also be a big positive if and when the time comes to start to learn how to play standing as well as sitting. For this reason, many tutors and teachers say that getting used to playing with the guitar in a position which is as close as possible to how it would sit when standing is beneficial.
If you choose to learn guitar sitting then posture probably won’t come to you naturally. So many beginners have a very poor posture. It isn’t intuitive, and sitting properly is something you will have to teach yourself to do. For some learners (and even guitar teachers) this is an afterthought, but it should be prioritized as the right posture makes learning easier and less of a risk to your body.
We have written a helpful post on guitar posture for beginners here which has some excellent illustrated tips for getting posture right.
Pros of Sitting
A simple overview of the pros of sitting, which include:
- No strain on your feet and minimal strain on your shoulders.
- Some argue that you have more accuracy with your fretting as you are far less likely to move around while sitting.
- If you have a heavy guitar, long sessions of practicing are far easier sitting down.
- It may be easier to see the fretboard from a sitting position. For beginners, being able to see what you ae doing and move you hands accordingly can be beneficial.
Cons of Sitting
- You may well have ambitions to stand up when you eventually start to play live. For this reason, learning to play sitting down may be counter-intuitive.
- You are more likely to slouch and play with poor posture if you are sitting down.
- Thumb position may suffer. A parrallel position of the wrist with the thumb overhanging the top of the fretboard is recommended by most guitar teachers. If you are sitting, your hand may become more relaxed and not take this position.
- If you sing as well as playing guitar, this can become more challenging and technique can suffer when sitting.
Standing to Learn Guitar (Plus Pros and Cons)
Most people are in agreement that singing is best when standing up. There’s nothing wrong with practicing your singing while in the car or sitting down elsewhere, but the results probably won’t be as good. Standing allows a full intake of breath and better posture for singing. You should think of your body as an instrument, and standing is its optimum position.
So, if you are a singer as well as a guitarist, think about getting used to playing standing up. Of course, there are always exceptions and incredibly talented singers will still sound amazing sitting down, but for most of us, standing will improve technique.
Practice to Perform
If you want to be a stadium guitarist, and you are learning with ambitions of playing in a band, at practice sessions and ultimately gigs, you will probably want to stand. If you went to see your favorite band playing, you’d probably expect them to be standing. If this is the image you have in your head, it is worth getting used to playing this way.
Though standing and sitting are both acceptable ways of playing, they are very different in some ways. If you spend Monday to Friday practicing while sitting down then plan to stand up for a concert on Saturday, your technique is going to suffer. Naturally, your hand position will be different, you may have a different view of the guitar and ultimately you will have to adjust.
Strap it Up!
We recommend using a strap whether you prefer to play sitting down or standing up. It is best practice to have one on your guitar and get used to your body taking the weight of your instrument rather than your hands having to.
If you have grown up watching Slash, for example, you may think it is normal for your guitar to be incredibly low. Slung around your waist is not the optimum position for playing guitar, whether you are a seasoned pro or whether you are brand new to the hobby.
Though it isn’t necessarily ‘incorrect’ to wear an instrument really low down, and other factors such as your height and the length of your arms will come into play, it is not likely that having a guitar too low (or too high) will be helpful. It makes your wrists have to bend and can make it tough to reach certain scales or finger for certain chords. A top tip is that you should always be able to play a D Major comfortably from your strap position. If you can finger correctly for a D Major, it is likely that the rest of the chords will be simple enough.
The vast majority of straps are adjustable. Testing the strap should involve adjusting to a position where you can reach fretboard and strings with ease. Even if it doesn’t look the coolest, it is more important to play like a boss than to look like one. Comfort is paramount. If you find that you are starting to feel discomfort from the weight of your guitar then consider a wider strap, these spread the weight and stop the guitar digging into your shoulder.
Pros of Standing to Learn:
- You are likely to develop good form and posture more easily if you are standing to play. You won’t slouch and the guitar will probably sit in a more natural position.
- Standing gives performances more dynamism and allows you to move around to talk to bandmates or create more of a stage presence. Adjusting from sitting to practice and then standing to perform is difficult.
- It is better for singers. The projection of your voice is likely to be much better if you are standing as opposed to sitting down.
Cons of Standing to Learn:
- Initially, it may be tough to see if you are standing, you can’t tilt the guitar to see the fretboard like many beginners do when sitting and learning.
- Can put strain on your wrist or fingers, especially if your strap isn’t correctly set up.
Seeing The Fretboard
One of the key considerations for a beginner is whether they can see what they are doing. As you become more experienced, you will know where you are based on feel and intuition, but to start with you will be using your eyes a lot more to see where you are.
If someone says to play something at the fourth fret, for example, you will probably need to look for this if you are brand new to the guitar. Similarly, when you are making the hand shapes for different chords, a visual check will be helpful for ensuring that you are playing a chord correctly (though the sound it makes will probably give you a big clue, too).
If you need to be able to see the fretboard then it is natural that sitting will be the preferred position to start with. As you become more confident and aware of the fretboard then standing will become simpler. Guitars have inlay dots at certain positions on the fretboard to help you to know where you are without having to tilt the guitar.
Ambitions to Perform?
Many people buy guitars because they dream of performing in front of others. Whether you want to get to the stage where you are headlining Coachella, or you just wish to play in local clubs, your performance is likely to be far more dynamic if you are standing. This is especially true if you are performing with others. If you went to see a band and they were all sitting, you might assume a somber performance was on its way.
There are plenty of musicians who have made a career for themselves sitting while playing. Often, these are acoustic solo musicians. Many of these are perfectly capable of doing both. The main decision to make is what type of performer you plan to be. If you would like to be an energetic lead guitarist then getting used to playing standing up might be a good idea.
If you go to see Neil Young perform, for example, you will expect an intimate performance if he is sitting with an acoustic guitar. If he is standing with a band and an electric guitar in his hands, you may assume he’s ready to rock!
Posture and Strain
Speaking very generally, standing up is the best way to learn if you are considering your posture. This may be the opposite of what you assume, as standing means carrying the weight of the guitar, but as long as you have a good quality strap, and the guitar itself isn’t too heavy, this won’t be a problem.
Playing standing up means your back will be in a more upright position, with better posture. Sitting down can be counter-intuitive. It can cause you to slouch and lean forward as you try and see more of what is going on, or lean forward on the guitar to play. This is not good for your back. When your school teachers told you not to slouch, they were saying it for a reason! If you do learn the guitar sitting down then you need to be very careful not to cause back complications through bad posture.
Standing has different concerns. This is why there is always some sort of trade-off. Some people find that their wrists and shoulders may carry more strain if learning guitar standing up, but these problems are likely to be things your body adjusts to over time.
Learning to Play Both Standing and Sitting
Though initially, it will probably be far easier to choose to either sit or to stand, you can eventually graduate to doing both. There are things you can do even in the early stages of your practice sessions to make it easier to eventually transition.
Your guitar should sit in the same position (or at least a similar position) in relation to your body whether you are standing or sitting. Good posture while you are sitting, with your back straight and upright, will mimic the position you will be in if you plan to eventually play standing.
Once you have mastered the basics of playing guitar, changing between sitting and standing positions will be simpler.
The main message we have for you regarding whether to learn the guitar sitting down or standing up is that there is no right or wrong. It is all about what is comfortable for you. Eventually, as you grow into a seasoned and experienced guitarist, you will probably end up being able to play in either position relatively comfortably.
If you take a handful of musicians who play guitar, from John Lennon to Neil Young, from Chuck Berry to Slash, you will notice that they all have their own style. This isn’t just playing style, and the individual decisions of whether to sit and stand, and how high up they have their guitar, will be based on what is comfortable for them.
You will likely want to stand if you plan to perform, and standing can also be best for posture and minimize the chances of back problems.
The key is to experiment a little and find a comfortable position for you, all the while, thinking about your ambitions (whether you want to perform live and whether you want to sit or stand) and ensuring that you don’t develop bad habits such as slouching, which can affect your health as well as your guitar skills.
Should I Be Uncomfortable Playing Guitar?
Not really. There isn’t a reason to be particularly uncomfortable, especially if your guitar is relatively lightweight. If you are experiencing discomfort, adjust the strap height, practice with a different knee position if sitting, or even invest in a specific guitar chair.
Does Acoustic vs Electric Guitar Play a Part?
Only in the size factor. Playing while standing up can feel a little clunky if you have an acoustic guitar with a big body. Electric guitars tend to be easier to play standing up, plus the idea of sitting down to play electric guitar may take some of its charm away. If you want to learn to play on an electric, you probably have ambitions of playing standing up eventually.