Learning to play electric & acoustic guitar standing up is one of the best investments of your guitar playing time.
Wow! I’m finally in a band, and I’m super excited for this gig!
I know all the songs off by heart, so what on earth could go wrong?
*Audience cheering, 1. 2. 1, 2, 3…
Wait what? Good lord, I can’t play the song anymore!
My fingers just don’t seem able to play anythi-...
Crap! I just tripped and fell into the drum kit!
Stop hitting me with the sticks! I’m not a drum!
That was my favourite pick! Nooooooo…
Those are the scenes that tens of people every year experience when they try playing standing up for the first time.
But luckily for you, by the end of today you’ll know exactly how to play guitar standing up like a pro, so that you can turn up to band practice and ace the set.
So let’s roll.
Why Does Playing Stood Up Feel So Difficult?
As soon as you try to play standing up, it feels like you are playing a new instrument.
Everything somehow becomes 50x harder to play. But why is this?
The first thing you’ll notice is that your guitar is now angled upwards a bit.
This means that suddenly you have to:
- Bend your wrist round more to stretch and reach lower notes
- Curl your picking wrist round more to get the pick parallel to the strings
- Support the guitar whilst you’re doing all that other stuff.
Yowzers. That’s a lot to suddenly get accustomed to.
But it shouldn’t really be as difficult as that. So today I’ll show you how to tackle each one individually.
How to Stop Your Fretting Wrist From Curling
This was my least favourite part of playing guitar stood up in the early days.
After a couple of minutes, my wrist just burned like a spicy curry on the exit out.
The quick and obvious way to combat this is to raise your guitar higher.
And if you’re okay having your guitar on your chest or lower chest, then that’s an easy solution for you.
But for me, I wanted to play metal and look cool!
James Hetfield from Metallica had his guitar practically on his knees. So I figured the lower, the cooler, right?
And for that reason, I could never bring myself to raise my strap, and had to find other ways to combat that bothersome wrist curl…
Stop Wrist Curl Tip #1
My first epic tip is to have your wrist in a bluesy, thumb round the neck position as much as possible.
It should look something like this:
You’ll find that as soon as you do this, all wrist curl pain from having your thumb flat on the underside of the neck ceases like magic.
So practice playing most notes and chords from now on with your thumb in the kind of position shown above.
Everything should feel much easier that way.
But if you’re a classical shred geyser who likes to superglue their thumb to the back of the neck at all times…
Your best option for fighting wrist curl is to just have your guitar a bit higher.
Low-ish guitar + classical grip = nope, never gonna happen.
Stop Wrist Curl Tip #2
My second epic tip is to hold the neck upwards at a 45° angle.
Although having your thumb round the neck all the time is a nice idea, when it comes to bar chords, power chords and larger stretches, it just isn’t possible.
So for those moments, tilting the neck upwards helps to negate a lot of that troublesome wrist curl.
The only problem is that if you tilt your guitar too far, your picking wrist will have to curl a lot.
And while this isn’t a problem for strumming bar chords, it can be annoying when wanting to palm mute some chugga chugga power chords.
Which brings me onto my next tip…
Stop Wrist Curl Tip #3
My third epic tip is to play power chords with your index and pinkie fingers instead of your index and ring fingers.
Yup, you heard me right, people.
We are officially breaking the one finger per fret rule here…
Do not call the cops, I beg! I have a wife and family!
Jk not really, I’m just a loner who spends his days writing
terrible sick content for you guys out there.
Anyway, if you try to use your ring finger instead of the pinkie, you’ve got to bend your wrist a lot more to accommodate that stretch.
Bending wrist → pain → never want to play guitar again.
But if it’s not much of a stretch to begin with, then you don’t even have to tilt your guitar as much, so picking becomes easier too.
If you want to have your guitar middle to low, playing power chords like this is just way more comfortable in every respect.
Especially if you’re playing them often in metal or rock.
How to Combat Picking Hand Curl
The guitar isn’t nice and horizontal any more like we’re used to, so we have to bend our wrist more to get our pick inline with the strings.
And that’s not nice.
So to take as much strain off the wrist as possible, we want to curl our entire arm round more like this:
And by the way, that image above is exactly how I play guitar standing up on a regular basis. Practising, jamming, gigging, that’s how I stand.
Trust me, crook your elbow and your picking wrist will be in love with you forever more.
And who doesn’t want that?
Getting Used to Playing Standing Up
The fact is, playing standing up is just something you’re gonna have to get used to.
I know, I know, no one wants to hear that… But it’s true.
Stuff like supporting the guitar neck and playing with less stability will feel more comfortable with practice.
SIDE NOTE: To help standing a guitar feel more comfortable for long periods of time, I recommend using a padded strap. I’ve personally used this Levy’s strap since time began and would highly recommend it.
But there are certain ways that you can make the transition from sitting to standing much easier…
The first one is to start with your guitar strap relatively high to begin with, and work your way down.
Try to position your guitar initially so that it rests on the same part of your torso as it would when sat down.
That way, the experience of playing sat down and standing up are as similar as possible.
Then lower it gradually each/every other week until you reach a height you are happy with.
And BAM! Just like that, you can play guitar standing up, and it’ll feel easy as 123.
I’ve even created a challenge for you to put this into action…
Wrapping It Up + My 30-Day Challenge To You
If you want to quickly be able to play stood up like a pro, you’re gonna need to start practising it.
How much? I hear you cry.
Well, that brings us unto your challenge…
Your challenge is to practice playing guitar stood up for 15 minutes every single day for a month.
Just for 15 minutes each day, do everything that you would normally do but stood up for a change.
Then after you’ve done the 15 minutes you can sit down again or hover – like me.
By the end of the month, you’ll be laughing back on your previous self who struggled to play guitar standing up like a misshapen carrot.
You’ll then reach the point where playing stood up feels as easy as it does when sat down, even with a relatively low strap.
So accept the challenge or suffer the consequences…
Once I’ve thought of them.
I’ve been Sam Olverson,
Have fun standing up!