One thing that I struggle a lot with whilst practicing the guitar and performing is excessive muscle tension. Many times I simply tense my muscles too much. As a result, my speed goes down and my hands get tired much faster.
It happens when I play an unusually difficult passage, complex chords or simply as a result of stage fright and excitement. Excessive muscle tension not only tires out your hands but also increases the friction between the strings and your fingers. Your lack of progress on the guitar could sometimes be a result of excessive muscle tension. Of course, we need to tense our muscles to some degree in order to get sound from the guitar, but the question is how much is too much?
One thing that really works for me is to rotate my focus. I simply try to think about what I am playing and occasionally I try to notice what is happening to my body. Are my arms too tense? Am I pressingly fingers too strong on to the fretboard? Simply being aware of what is going on with your upper body during practicing and performing, may help you progress on the guitar much faster
The moment I notice that my hands are too tense I try to relax. Almost instantly, I can feel the relief in my fretting hand, at the same time my strumming / picking hand is getting more relaxed. This brings us to a very interesting observation.
Have you ever noticed that our hands are kind of linked together? If you are tensing your strumming hand, it will also affect your fretting hand and vice versa. Complex picking patterns may affect your fretting hand in a great way. Simple awareness about tension may help you develop your guitar skills quicker and in a less painful way.
I have to admit, it is not something that was natural to me. I had to constantly remind myself to relax. I used to write on a piece of paper ’relax your muscles” and I placed it in front of me whilst practicing the guitar. It helped me to remind myself to relax during my practice session.
You may not be aware of the tension in your body, so let me give you an exercise. Whilst sitting with your guitar, try to flex your upper body muscles and then relax them. Can you feel it? Can you feel the difference between being tense and relaxed? You can repeat it a few times and then start practicing the guitar. After about 1 minute of playing, try to observe your body. Are you tensing and flexing your muscles? If yes, relax. Imagine that you are a balloon and want to get rid of the excess air, drop your arms, feel it.
Have fun and RELAX 🙂