Back in college, I hurt my hands so badly that I couldn’t play the guitar for several months. I ended having to take my guitar exams the following semester & was fortunate that my professors were understanding.
It was around midnight after a long day of rehearsals, a recording session and many hours of guitar playing when I suddenly had a sharp pain in my right wrist.
Every time I bended my hands it hurt so much.
Later I went to the doctor and found out I had tendinitis. I was prescribed ibuprofen to cope with the pain and was given a wrist guard to keep my hands straight. I used it all the time and at one point even slept with it because I would still feel the pain when I accidentally had my hand in a wrong position.
I learned The Feldenkrais Method from a class at Berklee called “Awareness Training For Musicians” and that helped me a lot over the years. I didn’t see the depth of how important that class was going to be. For most students, it was a feel good class & a relatively easy A.
For me, it shaped how I looked at guitar playing and my body.
Over many years, the tendinitis came back and I resorted to ibuprofen when needed. It was only after many years of really examining how I played & also being more aware about my body that now I can barely remember the last time I had any real pain from playing.
I know this is a long story.
But, this is why I welcomed this book from Adrian Farrell so much. He discusses an important topic that is essential for every serious guitar player. Yet, this is not commonplace.
Guitar technique is often explained by musicians who are guessing how they do something. Many believe in very strict “this is the best way to play guitar” mindset. So many schools of guitar technique exist and many will go to war about someone’s superior approach on guitar forums, Facebook groups and YouTube videos.
The difference with what Adrian is offering is his unique perspective as an Alexander Technique practitioner. His training & experience allows us to gain another perspective.
I love this part from the third chapter, which is a great preview to the book:
Throughout this the most important aspect is your ability to not adjust yourself to the guitar, but to adjust the guitar to you should you need to do so. This may seem simple, trivial even, but if you can’t say no to the desire to compromise yourself in the presence of the guitar you’re committing yourself to forever build undue tension before even playing a note. The added stimulus of actually playing will be built off of that foundation. Don’t let the guitar boss you about. It’s a growing skill and capacity, and a war of attrition.
The first half of the book to be honest discusses things like sitting down, standing, how the body feels, how there is a disconnect between the body and the mind, breathing and how to allow the body to be less tense and freer. Adrian also introduces the concept of Constructive Rest which is useful way to be aware of muscle tension and how to release it.
The second half goes more into guitar exercises and the mechanics of how our fingers work when playing guitar. There’s even a chapter specific for bass players too. Later towards the end of the book we also get to read about various case studies related to this topic.
Overall, this is a really dense book with so many things discussed and introduced. I haven’t seen a book quite like this. It is certainly a valuable addition to the the pedagogy of modern guitar playing. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to play even better guitar & even more relaxed.
In conclusion, if you’re serious about your guitar playing AND if you’ve ever experienced any pain while playing guitar, get this book. I’ve found the book helpful to understand my skills and where the gaps are. If anything, I am definitely rereading this book so that I can digest more of what Adrian is sharing. It’s also worth mentioning that you get streaming access to three video masterclasses (already available now) and a fourth one on “Applications for the Picking Hand” which is coming soon.
Pros: Good book about a topic that is not often discussed in this kind of depth from this specific background (someone who understands the challenges of guitar playing AND is trained as an Alexander Technique practitioner).
Cons: Some parts of the book can be heavy reading & require multiple readings to get more benefit from the explanations. That being said, this is about your body & your health, so it’s probably worth the time to digest this!
TLDR: If you want to understand how to play guitar better with more ease, this book is a worthwhile investment for your music & well-being.
Thank you Luke Lewis & Guitar Vivo for the advance copy of the eBook!
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