To Have And To Cling To

April 07, 2019

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...

-Kathryn Lambert


Gerry Saulter

Gerry Saulter said:

Nice blog!
The Sagework (formally Barnett) support is amazing. I have tried every support you can find, and nothing is more stable, manuverable, or more comfortable than that support. It is also the most attractive, (you look marvelous!) as it looks like an extension of the guitar. It has been my belief that many technique issues stem from the posture of the player. A support is the best way to maintain the best posture for playing and overall physical health. Try them all, as your size does matter, but for me, the Sagework rocks!

Werner de Witte

Werner de Witte said:

You should try the Barnett or sageworks support.
It is very good.
I tried lots of supports, gitano, a-frame, ergoplay, and this one is the best (and most expensive ☹)

Philip Conrad

Philip Conrad said:

Although I realize there are several alternatives to using the traditional footstool, after many decades of using them, I discovered so many commercially manufactured ones have a basic design flaw. They slant the foot at an angle, that is, toe end markedly higher than the heel end. A footstool whether it be height adjustable or no, if it allows the foot angle to remain parallel to the floor, it eliminates much of the back discomfort associated with slanted products. I first noticed Segovia using such a footstool supplied by a friend of mine during his Master Class in 1966. Never used a slanted footstool after that.

Richard Palazzolo

Richard Palazzolo said:

The Sageworks Magnetic support is extremely stable. The trick with it is to find the right position of the internal magnets.

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