To Have And To Cling To
Almost every guitarist has had that moment of realization when they understand that whatever they’re doing with posture, it isn’t working. Maybe you start with a footstool, and after years of back pain and hearing your joints pop every time you stand up, you start looking for a new support system. Perhaps you even start with an ErgoPlay, and after that first suction cup fails to deliver, and you feel your instrument start to tumble out of your hands, you re-evaluate. This is not a new problem; the ideal way to support our instrument has plagued guitarists for years. From Sor’s use of a table to Aguado’s tripod contraption, guitarists have been searching for the ideal solution long before the invention of many modern supports. With new technology and ideas, we have certainly gained significant ground in this department!
As an “itty bitty” guitarist, I started out with the classic footstool option. It’s cheap, so parents don’t feel like they’re investing in a first car for a teenager, and practical to adjust when you have a growth spurt. While these supports can be great short- term solutions, they are absolutely not friendly for your body. Not only does having the left leg elevated put extra strain on the back, but this also makes it necessary for the performer to hunch over their guitar to maintain an ideal playing position. I can even remember trying to find a comfortable compromise with this set up, and after a reasonable amount of tweaking and experimentation, I ended up just feeling like a contorted figure from a Picasso painting. While all of these difficulties were apparent to me, I must say that I was hesitant to transition to using the ErgoPlay at the suggestion of my Professor. Suction cups? It felt like sticking an octopus to the side of my instrument...sacrilege and hideous. However, I was amazed at the tremendous improvement the device made in my playing! I very quickly dropped the adolescent notion of its oddity, and accepted it as my preferential support system.
While the ErgoPlay is a significant ergonomic improvement from the footstool, it still has its drawbacks. The suction cup adherence to the instrument is most definitely one of the largest downsides. They’re usually quite effective for a while, but with the wear and tear of being removed and stuck back on a daily basis, they begin to lose their grip. There has been more than one scenario in which I have been in the middle of a performance and had a suction cup lose its grip. The guitar then moves in my hands and threatens to tumble! I have tried boiling them and keeping up with replacing them on a regular basis, but it still seems to be a major setback to this system. Nonetheless, I still consider it a major improvement from the footstool.
Another more recent option is the Sagework Magnet support. Using magnets inserted on the inside of the instrument, the support adheres to the side of the guitar using the magnetic attraction, thus eliminating the aggravating popping of suction cups. While I’ll admit that this support is not one I have used in my personal performance, it is certainly the option I am heavily considering as my next upgrade.
Until guitar levitation is a universal skill, we’ll have to remain open- minded and curious to new solutions for posture and support...