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If I let my left arm naturally hang and just reach for the fretboard by bending at the elbow, I find I can access up to the fifth fret. However for access to say the first fret, I need to lift my arm and basically use some shoulder muscle to keep it in the air. If I'm doing practice exclusively in frets 1-4 I find that my arm fatigues quite quickly from holding up with my muscles. What technique adjustments can I do to fix this? I hold my guitar so that the headstock is roughly in line with my eyes.

Edit:

Here's a picture of me in the 'relaxed' position:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/12337149/relaxed.png

Here is me 'tensed' because I have to lift my arm to reach the first fret:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/12337149/tensed.png

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Could you please send us a picture of your playing position ? It will be much easier to advise you. –  Skippy Fastol Aug 22 '12 at 15:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Some things you can check for:

  • Posture: try standing up with a straighter back when playing. Also try very slight turns of your upper body into or away from the guitar, only rotating at your waist (not your shoulders) while keeping the rest of your back straight.

  • Seat height: if sitting down, try a slightly higher chair, or adding a book to your chair to elevate yourself by a couple of inches. This should lead to a different angle for the neck of the guitar, when keeping it at the same height.

  • Length of strap: if using a strap, try having it slightly looser, with the guitar hanging slightly lower, while keeping the same height for the headstock

  • Pull the guitar closer to your body: the guitar may be too far out in front of you. Try having it closer to your belly when playing.

  • Check your wrist: your wrist position may be incorrect, but that's hard to figure out and correct (in general) without seeing you play.

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In addition to @blue's points, try bringing your guitar much further down towards horizontal. When I play electric guitar the headstock is generally between waist and shoulder height, and usually lower rather than higher.

Practice will strengthen your muscles though.

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